Northwest Colorado Cultural Heritage Tourism Journeys Through Forests and Wilderness
Flat Tops Trail Scenic Byway, linking Yampa and Meeker, showcases the legacy of Routt National Forest’s multiple-use land management. You’ll follow a Ute trail recorded by the Ferdinand Hayden Expedition, 1874–1878, through pristine scenery with excellent wildlife viewing. It is a working byway for ranching, logging, and mining operations. Take time on our Heritage Journeys to explore Trappers Lake, the Ute legacy at the White River Agency, and Thornburgh Battle Monument. Or, follow the West Elk Loop—described by a forest ranger as “the closest you can come to a wilderness experience in a passenger car.”
65 Million Years in 65 Miles Journey:
A self-guided loop through BLM land, which was once a shallow sea, reveals sixty-five million years of geological time—from fossils and coal deposits to hot springs. As you travel the landscape of rugged beauty, you’ll also find historic homesteads, outlaw hangouts, and open vistas for wildlife viewing.
White River Ute Journey:
Northern Utes called the White River “Smoking Earth River” for the clouds of mist rising from the water on cool mornings. In 1879, Indian Agent Nathan C. Meeker’s aggressive campaign to convert the nomadic Northern Ute to farmers ignited conflict, resulting in the killing of Meeker, nine of his men, and the troops of Major Thornburgh. In the aftermath, the Ute lost their ancestral home and were forced onto reservations.
Heritage Ranch Journey:
The loop passes ranches listed on local, state, and national registers of historic places including the Carpenter Ranch.“Old Fred,” the founding stallion of the Quarter Horse breed came from one of these ranches. The routes feature Elkhead Reservoir and State Park as well as the Yampa River.
On this day-long trek you’ll travel through stunning California Park on your way to the small ranching town of Slater—marked only by a post office—and then through to the historic mining areas of Columbine and Hahns Peak.
Cradle of Wilderness Journey:
Located at 9,600 feet in the White River National Forest and accessible by the Flat Tops Scenic Byway, Trappers Lake offers striking views of the Flat Tops Mountains as well as opportunities for fishing, hiking, and camping. Considered by many to be the birthplace of the U.S. Wilderness Area system and the “Cradle of Wilderness,” this lake inspired Arthur Carhart in 1920 to preserve the area in its natural form for all people rather than develop it for private residences. Gore Pass Journey: Tracing the historic stage route south from Steamboat Springs, this scenic detour passes through the historic mining and railroad towns of Oak Creek and Phippsburg. Stop by the Tracks and Trails Museum in Oak Creek for a preview of the area’s coal mining and railroad heritage. Then, visit Yampa for a glimpse of ranch life before leaving the Yampa Valley and climbing to 9,527 feet on Gore Pass over the Gore Range.