You’ll start your journey in Grand Junction, where you can witness the awe-inspiring natural beauty of the Colorado National Monument. After exploring Grand Junction for a day, on Day Two, you’ll catch Colorado 141 toward Whitewater, and drive the Byway through the small historic towns of Gateway and Uravan. Just outside of Naturita, you’ll catch Colorado 145 and continue to Placerville, the official end of the Byway. Your journey will end in Telluride, a former mining town turned sophisticated historic town.
Best known for its protected and preserved grand landscape of the West, Colorado National Monument displays colorful sheer-walled canyons and fascinating rock sculptures, the purple-gray Book Cliffs, and the huge flat-topped mountain called Grand Mesa. The White Rocks Rock Art Site, which depicts family life in the area is reached from the trailhead of Gold Star Canyon. The monument’s 23-mile Rim Rock Drive is one of the most spectacular drives in the United States. Redrock canyons, crisp blue skies, and verdant green juniper splash fantastic views along the way. However, the road is challenging, narrow, and steep and special caution should be used on tight corners and hills.
The Museums of Western Colorado are Smithsonian Affiliates known for their high-quality exhibits and great presentations. The Museum of the West features several thousand years of history where you can “ride” in a stagecoach, “fly” on a 1958 Cessna, marvel at ancient Anasazi pottery, venture into a uranium mine, follow a time line of Western history and more. The Lloyd Files Research Library holds a wealth of historical, genealogical and natural history materials.
Now a living history museum, Cross Orchards was the site of the Red Cross Land and Fruit Company’s massive apple growing operation from 1899 to 1923. At its peak, the orchard hosted 22,000 apple trees. Fortunately for visitors, even though the property is now much smaller than its original acreage, the land is still cultivated regularly so you can learn how apple cider is made during harvest celebrations. A workers bunkhouse, blacksmith shop, country store, a period farmhouse, a recreated train depot, a summer house, Uintah Railway equipment with railroad cars, engine and caboose, horse drawn road building equipment and a collection of vintage farm equipment, implements and tools all reveal life in the orchard at the turn of the 20th century. The 1890s barn, packing shed, and the bunkhouse are all designated historic structures.
Southeast of Gateway on Colorado 141, the Hanging Flume is a unique testament to the gold rush that invaded Colorado in the late 1800s and left just as quickly a few years later. Considered an engineering marvel, the flume was built to transfer water to placer gold mines in the area and despite the rusted remnants, the overall structure rests soundly on iron supports dug deep into the mountainside. The wooden structure has been sheltered from the elements by overhangs in the canyon.
Created nearly 60 years ago to preserve the rich history of the region, this small museum features natural history, Native American history, pioneer history and mining history.
After your walking tour, it’s time for a bird’s eye view on the gondola that links Telluride with Mountain Village (where the skiing is). The 13-minute ride is the only public transportation of its kind in America, and one that delivers a front row seat to view the magnificent mountain landscape from 10,500 feet. The gondola runs daily from 6:30 AM to midnight seven days a week, during summer and winter.