Exploring the High Country Near Salida, CO – Part 1

Salida, CO

Leaving Pueblo we headed west on US 50, enjoying the views all around us as the highway meandered along the Arkansas River.

As we approached the town of Salida some of Colorado’s many 14ers came into view. Colorado has 58 mountain peaks exceeding 14,000 feet (known as 14ers locally), the most of any state. Chaffee County, home to Salida, has twelve peaks which rise above 14,000 feet, making the county the one with the greatest number of 14ers in the state.

We continued past Salida for about 10 miles to the Salida KOA, our home during our visit to this area. The KOA is a decent park with great views all around us. Looking out the windshield of the motorhome we had a beautiful view of mountain peaks in the southern Sawatch Mountain Range. We’ll be crossing that range over Monarch Pass in a few days.

Our first adventure in this area was a drive about 60 miles north on US 285 and US 24 to the town of Leadville. This route is known as the Collegiate Peaks Scenic Byway. The byway runs through the Collegiate Peaks wilderness area, named so because of the many nearby 14ers with names of prestigious universities: Mt. Oxford, Mt. Harvard, Mt. Yale, Mt. Princeton, and Mt. Columbia.

At an elevation of 10,152 feet, Leadville has the highest elevation of any city in the United States.

A former silver mining town that lies at the headwaters of the Arkansas River, the Leadville Historic District contains many historic structures and sites from its mining era. In the late 19th century Leadville was the second most populous city in Colorado after Denver.

As we drove around the residential areas of Leadville we were so impressed with the stunning views all around us.

Leaving Leadville we returned south along US 24, stopping to enjoy the view at Twin Lakes, two beautiful reservoirs along Lake Creek.

We then continued south on US 24 to the small community of Granite. There we turned west on County Road 398 (Lost Canyon Road), a maintained dirt road that goes across a flat plain before heading steeply up into the mountains.

The changing leaves of the Aspen trees lit up the road as it went through a series of switchbacks while gaining elevation.

The brown area in the center is our destination.

As we approached the tree line the maintained road ended. We put the Jeep in four-wheel drive and continued up the narrowing path to see what we could find.

Soon our efforts were rewarded as we came to a stunning view of the Twin Lakes far below us.

Remains of an old cabin
Window view of the mountains
No trees up here!
View south
View north
Passing a biker on the way down (good lungs at 12,000′)

We have a couple more adventures to share from our visit to Salida. We’ll show you those in our next post.

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20 Responses to Exploring the High Country Near Salida, CO – Part 1

  1. Sue says:

    Love this area of Colorado, especially in the fall!

  2. WOW–thanks for the tour! Beautiful colors, blue skies–what’s not to like! Not sure Leadville would ever be my choice for winter living!

  3. Jeff Pierce says:

    I’m looking forward to your experiences on Monarch Pass! We took the RV over as a detour to the I-70 closure. It’s a beautiful drive, and you should have more opportunity to stop and enjoy the fall colors.

  4. Wow! Stunning is right! We’ve never visited this area, but it will remain high on the must-see list. The views just go on forever! Love that window photo, by the way. Can you imagine living up there and having that view all to yourself??

    • placestheygo says:

      Laura, you and Kevin definitely need to explore this whole area of Colorado. This is our second visit to the area and both times September was the perfect month for fall foliage and snow on the mountain tops. Glad you enjoyed the old cabin window photo.

  5. Joe Taylor says:

    A beautiful drive for sure! I love it when the jeep goes into 4-wheel driveโ€ฆ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ˜ƒ!

  6. Laurel says:

    Those aspen in their brilliant fall foliage really do light up the landscape. Did you feel the elevation at all in your adventures?

    • placestheygo says:

      Even on a cloudy day the aspens are still very bright. The elevation didn’t really bother us. We kind of moved up to 12,000′ slowly and didn’t do any hiking. I am sure I would have felt it if we had been hiking.

  7. Funny, we went to Leadville but not to the town but to the airport which happens to be the highest elevated airport in the country which made sense. Colorado in Fall is the best place to be to see those gold leaves.

  8. Dolores Tanner says:

    Had breathing issues when we went over Monarch Pass!! AND our water bottles exploded!!! We laughed hysterically for miles!!!! But beautiful area!!!!

    • placestheygo says:

      I’m glad I didn’t know about your water bottles before we crossed the Monarch Pass. I do turn all lotions upside down and have learned to empty spray bottles of water and take the plunger out of the liquid soap. Since we did three passes this trip, it added a little to our packing up.

  9. Such beautiful countryside! The views are amazing! Thanks for showing us some of Colorado…we haven’t had a chance to see that State yet.

  10. Jodee Gravel says:

    We have friends we will likely never visit in Leadville at that elevation. Thanks for giving us a tour of the beautiful area. Those mountains are spectacular. Great shot through the old wood window. Love that Arkansas River area. Fall colors are stunning against those bright blue skies.

    • placestheygo says:

      Thanks, Jodee! Leadville is definitely up there! They do have the views from almost every street. September has been the perfect time for fall colors during both of our visits at elevations over 8,000′.

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