Scenic Byways

Coke ovens outside tiny Cokedale

On Monday, June 17, the Denver Post’s outdoor travel website “The Know Outdoors,” made their selections for the “6 beautiful Colorado highways that are great for summer road trips” and included two routes that bisect Trinidad. Numbers five and six were the Santa Fe Trail and Hwy 350 and the Highway of Legends, state highway 12.

As for the Santa Fe Trail, the publication said, “This lonely, flat but immensely interesting road follows the old trade and traveling artery between Missouri and Santa Fe. The 188-mile route slices off a slab of southeast Colorado between Holly and Raton Pass, and includes the small cities of La Junta and Trinidad. Many a wagon train and traveler passed through this scenery, either trading bison pelts or on their way farther west; you’re following the footsteps of Wild Bill Hickok, Kit Carson and Zebulon Pike.

“For wildlife, plan a hike to the dinosaur bones or the old rock art archaeological sites within Comanche National Grassland and do not miss Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site, a replica of an 1840s trading fort that is considered one of the best restorations in the National Park System.”

The publication describes the Highway of Legends as, “The 82-mile Highway of Legends hooks into the Santa Fe Trail in Trinidad, almost making it just an extension of your trip on the Santa Fe. The difference is that now, you can press play on the TravelStorys Highway of Legends audio tour app. It picks up your location via GPS and teaches about geographic features and historic buildings as you pass them on the highway. ‘In the early 20th century,’ the voice says to you as part of the app’s introduction, ‘yarn-spinning Louis Sporleder … wrote long legends that he claimed to have heard from Native Americans. These were tales of mischievous demons, evil priests, talking panthers and beautiful princesses.’

“The Highway of Legends is a two-hour scenic byway that gets you off Interstate 25 and on a lovely loop around the towering Spanish Peaks and their ancient volcanic fin formations that extend out from their slopes. The road tops out on Cuchara Pass at 9,995 feet and goes through the old coal country west of Trinidad, as well as the towns of Cuchara and Le Veta — both with a few hotels, places to eat and art galleries and workshops.”

Other drives making the list include the San Juan Skyway, Dinosaur Diamond, the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway and Cache la Poudre-North Park.

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