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Fall in Love With Colorado on These Scenic Trips

Colorado is arguably the best place to own a vehicle in the U.S. The state has a whopping 26 Scenic and Historic Byways that criss-cross between welcoming communities and ghost town relics of the past. There's so much to soak up along these epic highways; you could spend months doing Colorado road trips. But we've rounded up some highlights to help you get the show on the road.

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01Look down then up at Black Canyon National Park

Milky Way bjdlzx / Getty Images

South of the I-70, you'll find a place that's short on crowds but long on natural drama. At Black Canyon National Park, there's a gorge so deep; the floor barely gets any light.

Sans light pollution, astronomy enthusiasts can gaze up at the skies in this International Dark Sky Park and contemplate life's great questions.

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02Travel through time on the Trail of the Ancients

Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde National Park MargaretW / Getty Images

This Colorado road trip begins in Mesa Verde National Park and ends in Ute Mountain Tribal Park. One for lovers of history and culture, it winds through 113 miles of striking canyons and plains.

Places of great archaeological import abound. Mesa Verde National Park houses hundreds of captivating Ancestral Puebloan cliff-side dwellings, and you'd do well to book a ranger for the lowdown.

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03Go from forest to desert via Route 160

Great Sand Dunes National Park John Elk III / Getty Images

Between Mesa Verde and Alamosa on Route 160, there's Pagosa Springs. Here, you'll find the world's deepest geothermal hot springs. After you've taken a dip in the revitalizing waters, the next regional milestone is Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.

It's a stark contrast to the lush greenery you'll see elsewhere in Colorado. The dunes are 750 feet tall, perfect for sand activities. Visit them earlier in the day before heading to Medano Creek for a seasonal splash.

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04Go where dinos roamed

Steamboat Rock at the Confluence of the Yampa and Green Rivers in Dinosaur National Monument , Northwest Colorado nadjarider / Getty Images

In the northwest of the Centennial State, there's lots of reptilian fun to be had. The Dinosaur Diamond Scenic Byway connects Colorado to Utah. The Colorado segment is 134 miles long, and it peaks and plateaus its way past fossil quarries, dino-themed stops, and two national monuments.

Be sure to check out Saddlehorn, a memorable campsite within Colorado National Monument.

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05Don't pass on Boreas Pass

Boreas Pass miws16 / Getty Images

Starting in Como near Highway 285, Boreas Pass Road is a 22-mile stretch of sheer autumnal beauty. While fall is a great time to make your way down this spectacular part of Colorado, spring is pretty awesome too.

Wildflower season is in full swing, and you can enjoy the floral display while cracking open a nice cold can of your favorite beverage. The mountains loom large on this high-alpine drive to or from Breckenridge.

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06Pike's Peak takes you to new heights

Street winding down from Pikes Peak summit, Colorado emson / Getty Images

If you're near Colorado Springs, Pike's Peak Highway beginning near U.S. Highway 24 is a must-do. Expect to climb and keep on climbing en route to Pike's Peak, the most-visited mountain in all of North America.

The hiking at Garden of the Gods near Manitou Springs is top-notch, and the surreal reddish rock formations may just haunt your dreams. Hop on board the Pike's Peak Cog Railway for some of the best views on this side of the western hemisphere.

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07Trail Ridge Road gives new meaning to picturesque

Above the clouds along Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park during the fall Dawn Brandt / Getty Images

Curvy, high-altitude Trail Ridge Road is a photographer's delight, but only during summer and fall when it's open. Once a trade path for the Apache and Arapaho, this almost 50-mile portion of U.S. Highway 34 starts in Estes Park and makes its way through Rocky Mountain National Park.

Visitors get glimpses of glaciers and ponds on the way to the gorgeous Grand Lake. There's so much natural splendor you might break out into song.

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08Million Dollar Highway is priceless

Colorado Highway 550. Famous Million Dollars Highway Near Durango, Colorado, United States. San Juan County.

Along the San Juan Skyway betwixt Ouray and Silverton, you'll find Million Dollar Highway. Think of a cartoon character with dollar signs in its eyes. That'll be you when you get a chance to see the richly adorned Red Mountain Pass section of U.S. 550.

The area is rich in history too, with numerous old silver mine towns. But beware, the drive is difficult, so if you're a new driver, you might want to hand over the reins if you have company.

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09Relish your freedom along Independence Pass

Independence Pass snow rocky mountain view and paved road scenic byway in morning sunrise near Aspen, Colorado in green autumn winter krblokhin / Getty Images

Between Twin Lakes and glamorous Aspen, there's an enviable bit of road. Independence Pass is closed in winter. But when it's open, it sure is breathtaking.

Spanning only 27 miles, this sliver of State Highway 82 is well worth the sojourn. You can go fishing or paddle-boarding at Twin Lakes Reservoir, and there's a fascinating blast from the past in the form of Interlaken, a resort constructed in the 19th century.

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10Tell tales on the Highway of Legends

the Spanish Peaks with a small homestead in the foreground on a clear day

How could you possibly resist a road called Highway of Legends?

For one, there are Native American myths aplenty on this route. And it segues through 82 miles of storied prettiness. There's even an app that explains what you see as you drive by, complete with local lore. The future is here, people.

Veering away from Interstate 25, you'll circle the Spanish Peaks. Grab a bite in the towns of Cuchara and La Veta.

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