Your journey begins in Pueblo, where you will begin to learn the story of life on the frontier in southern Colorado. The culture of descendants of the original settlers blends Western, Native American and Hispanic. Plan to arrive early enough to visit El Pueblo Museum to begin to learn the story of the Byway, take the walking tour of the historic district and stroll the Creative District. In the evening after dinner, stroll the Historic Riverwalk. After spending part of Day Two exploring Pueblo, you will start driving the Byway on your way to Wetmore and Westcliffe, exploring frontier heritage along the way. After a good night’s stay in Westcliffe, enjoy the remainder of the Byway, on your return to Pueblo.
John Thatcher and his brothers came to Southern Colorado in the 1860s intending to make a fortune in the dry goods business. As success mounted, they expanded into banking, mining and cattle ranching. Thatcher’s 1893 37-room Rosemount Mansion completed at the height of their success remained in the family for 75 years. Today, nearly all the furnishings, accessories, decorative arts, paintings, custom woodwork, wall and window treatments are original to the home. The pink volcanic rock on the exterior and the cherry, mahogany, maple and oak, provide an air of opulence. The golden oak entrance hall with a coffered ceiling graced with a large Tiffany chandelier and grand oak staircase leads to an exquisite stained-glass window, Kingdoms of Nature. Uniquely different fireplaces are placed throughout, many of the mansion’s ceilings are hand painted with gold leaf accents, and “second light windows” are placed high up in the interior wall to allow light to pass through the room into the interior space. The third floor houses the Andrew McClelland collection of artifacts, collected by a wealthy magnate as he traveled around the world, who was a family friend.
Pueblo Historic Walking Tour
Beginning at the El Pueblo Museum, The Historic Pueblo Walking Tour Loops
trail through the main part of historic Pueblo on a North Loop and South Loop. The scenic route incorporates the most prestigious Victorian mansions in town along Grand Avenue and 14th and 15th Streets, plus prestigious commercial
buildings from the 1880s: the Thatcher Building, Stockgrowers Building, the
Union Depot and several churches. Many of the historic structures have been
repurposed for use today, yet still manifest their historic architectural
For years city leaders talked
about beautifying the area of the cooling ponds established to eliminate regular flooding in the city. When a conservancy district was established in
the early 1980s, a handful of Pueblo residents envisioned a river park similar to San
Antonio’s Riverwalk. Today, you can enjoy the result of the vision as excursion boats ply the one-mile channel, enhanced with 54 pieces of art.
All Aboard Westcliffe
A Single Small Engine House constructed in 1901 is now All Aboard Westcliffe. Exhibits that tell the story of the railroad and its importance to mining and ranching in the area are combined with a restoration workshop used to refurbish railroad rolling stock. There is also a small railroad museum showcasing steam locomotive transportation where exhibits include a collage of the old Texas Creek/Westcliffe branch of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad that came into the valley in the early 1900’s, and other original railroad memorabilia.
Ranching was very important in the Pueblo area and the Beckwith Ranch, was the largest ranch in Colorado. Two brothers from Maine owned 3,000 acres, 7,000 head of cattle and 200 horses, roughly half of all the cattle in the Wet Mountain Valley at the time. They were instrumental in the United Rocky Mountain Cattlemen’s Association to fight cattle rustling and Elton served one term in the Colorado state senate. When he started a family, the original hewn-log cabin was expanded into the irregular Victorian house that exists today, the roof raised to create two stories, the walls covered with siding and a kitchen wing, pantry, and the striking porte cochere added. In the 1890s they built a bunkhouse, icehouse, garage, cattle barn, horse barn, and servants’ quarters, unifying the complex with white walls and red roofs. The restored home, bunkhouse, outbuildings and corrals have been restored and are open for touring.
Augusta-Keating High Country Homestead District
Between Mile Markers 3-11.5 on Highway 165, you will travel through the Augusta-Keating High Country Homestead District at 9000 feet above sea level in the Wet Mountains. At one time over 225 people lived in this valley punctuated with quaint log farms, eking out a living growing potatoes, timbering and moonshining. In this very remote land, mail was delivered three times a week on horseback. The original Drake Homestead which served as the Augusta and Keating post office still stands on Highway 165, south of McKenzie Junction. Several other original 1880s homesteads are also visible on both sides of the highway.
El Pueblo Museum
Located on the site of the original fort, El Pueblo History Museum replicates an 1840s adobe trading post and plaza. Artifacts excavated on the site are on display and exhibits illustrate the region’s historic and ongoing collection of cultures, ethnicities, landscapes, industries, religions and identities, a fascinating historic panorama in all.
Towards the end of the Frontier Pathway Scenic and Historic Byway, Bishop’s Castle has been under construction by Jim Bishop for more than 60 years. At age 15, he bought 2 ½ acres enclosed by the San Isabel National Forest and he and his dad spent the next ten summers doing groundwork for a family cabin. When he married in 1967 at age 25, Jim began building a cabin in the mountains that started with a one room stone cottage – which is the mammoth castle you see today.
To experience all that the Back to Pioneer Colorado tour has to offer, click below to purchase the complete itinerary! By purchasing this tour itinerary, you'll receive a professionally crafted trip route allowing you to fully experience the incredible story of the byway! Included in your trip planner is a detailed map of the area attractions in geographic order, a suggested day-by-day route plan, as well as traveler-tested recommendations for dining, shopping, and accommodations for each segment of this epic journey. Contact the National Travel Center with any additional questions.