Gunnison, Colorado, nestled in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, offers an abundance of natural …
Note: Before embarking on any road trip, it is important to check the current local regulations and weather conditions, as well as any updates or closures that may affect the routes mentioned in this article.
Are you ready to embark on an unforgettable adventure through the picturesque landscapes of Colorado? Look no further than Eagle County, a hidden gem nestled in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. Eagle County Airport serves as the perfect starting point for your scenic exploration. Rent a car, roll down the windows, and breathe in the crisp mountain air as you set off on these spectacular drives.
1. Eagle River Road
Distance: Approximately 55 miles Duration: 2-3 hours
Begin your journey by heading south from Eagle County Airport on Eby Creek Road. After a short drive, you’ll arrive at the entrance to Eagle River Road. This scenic byway follows the meandering path of the Eagle River and offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains.
As you wind through the valley, keep an eye out for opportunities to stop and capture the moment. The river’s tranquil waters reflect the towering peaks in the distance, creating a picture-perfect scene. You might even spot some wildlife along the way, including majestic bald eagles that give the county its name.
After approximately 25 miles, you’ll reach the charming town of Minturn. Take a break to explore its quaint streets, browse through unique boutiques, and treat yourself to a delicious meal at one of the local eateries. If you’re visiting during winter, make sure to check out nearby ski resorts for some thrilling downhill adventures.
Continuing on Eagle River Road, you’ll eventually reach the historic mining town of Red Cliff. Immerse yourself in its rich history by strolling along the narrow streets and admiring the well-preserved buildings. From here, you can extend your journey to nearby Shrine Pass Road or venture back to Eagle County Airport at your own pace.
2. Independence Pass
Distance: Approximately 80 miles Duration: 3-4 hours
For an exhilarating mountain drive, head east from Eagle County Airport on I-70, then take Exit 171 for US-24. Follow US-24 through the scenic White River National Forest until you reach the town of Minturn. From Minturn, continue south on US-24 until you reach the junction with CO-82 at the town of Twin Lakes.
As you turn onto CO-82, get ready for a breathtaking journey along Independence Pass. This high mountain pass reaches an elevation of over 12,000 feet and offers unparalleled views of the surrounding peaks and valleys. The road is a marvel of engineering, winding its way through rugged terrain and providing access to stunning alpine landscapes.
Take your time as you navigate the switchbacks and take in the awe-inspiring vistas. There are several pull-off points along the route where you can safely park and capture the beauty through your camera lens. During the summer months, wildflowers blanket the hillsides, adding an extra touch of color to the already stunning scenery.
Once you reach the top of Independence Pass, you’ll find yourself in a different world. Explore the hiking trails that lead to alpine lakes and witness the raw beauty of the Rocky Mountains up close. Remember to bring warm clothing, as temperatures are usually cooler at this elevation.
After descending the pass, you can continue on CO-82 to the charming town of Aspen, known for its world-class ski resorts and vibrant arts scene. Alternatively, retrace your route back to Eagle County Airport and enjoy the scenic drive once again from a different perspective.
3. Grand Mesa Scenic Byway
Distance: Approximately 120 miles Duration: 5-6 hours
For a longer but incredibly rewarding road trip, head west from Eagle County Airport on I-70. Take Exit 90 to merge onto CO-65 South, and get ready to explore one of the world’s largest flat-top mountains, the Grand Mesa.
The Grand Mesa Scenic Byway meanders through lush forests, pristine lakes, and vast meadows. Enjoy the serenity of the surroundings as you drive along the rim of the mesa, with views extending as far as the eye can see. The changing landscapes offer plenty of opportunities to stop, stretch your legs, and capture the magic of the moment.
Make sure to visit Windy Point, where you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of the surrounding valleys and distant mountain ranges. Take a short hike to one of the many tranquil lakes dotted along the mesa, or bring a fishing rod and try your luck in the abundant waters teeming with trout.
As you continue on the byway, you’ll encounter the charming town of Cedaredge, known for its delicious locally grown apples. Stock up on some fresh produce at one of the orchards or enjoy a slice of homemade apple pie at a local cafe.
Venturing deeper into the Grand Mesa, you’ll reach Powderhorn Mountain Resort, a hidden winter playground. If you’re visiting during the snow season, consider extending your trip to enjoy some thrilling downhill skiing or snowboarding.
As the day draws to a close, retrace your route back to Eagle County Airport, savoring the memories of the majestic landscapes and vibrant colors that make the Grand Mesa a true gem of Colorado.
Eagle County and its surrounding areas offer a multitude of scenic drives that will leave you captivated by the beauty of Colorado’s mountains and landscapes. Whether you choose to explore the enchanting Eagle River Road, conquer the heights of Independence Pass, or embark on a journey through the expansive Grand Mesa, these road trips starting from Eagle County Airport are sure to create lasting memories.
Remember to pack your camera, comfortable shoes for exploring, and a spirit of adventure. Take your time, embrace the freedom of the open road, and allow yourself to be immersed in the natural wonders that await just beyond the airport’s gates.
Safe travels, and enjoy the journey!