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Colorado River Headwaters Byway

69 miles (111 km)
90 minutes to drive or 3-6 hours to enjoy this Byway


The Colorado River brings to mind images of a grand waterway essential to providing water for the Southwestern US, and the carver of the landmark Grand Canyon. While downstream debates ensue about water rights and massive reservoirs draw thousands of visitors to their banks, the Colorado River along the Colorado River Headwaters Byway is like so many other Rocky Mountain streams--a clear brook tumbling across greenish meadows and down cramped redrock gorges.

Visitors find the pristine nature of the Colorado River a paradise for fishing and rafting. The river's banks are unspoiled, allowing travelers a chance for moments of solitary contemplation. Lake Granby and Grand Lake allow visitors to enjoy a day boating, sailing, or swimming while still enjoying the fresh air of the Rocky Mountains. Travelers find the federal lands near the Byway full of diverse opportunities. Whether hiking through high elevations or pitching a tent in one of the several developed or undeveloped sites, the Rocky Mountain National Park and the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests lure visitors with the promise of many outdoor adventures.

History bounds from every nook and cranny along the Byways. The Colorado River attracted many with the prospect of gold, but after the initial find, the payoff was found to be less than rewarding for those involved. Many of the mining settlements were converted into resort towns, and today, these small towns offer visitors a chance to look back into the past with their wooden boardwalks, original "old west" building fronts, and town museums.

There is something for everyone along the Colorado River Headwaters Byway. The nearby national park and national forests ensure visitors the opportunity to embark on outdoor explorations. These adventures combined with its historical and scenic appeal keep visitors captivated and returning for more.

Tourism Resources

Points of Interest

Points of Interest Along The Way

Adams Tunnel and Colorado-Big Thompson Project (CO)

The 13-mile long Adams Tunnel carries water from Grand Lake through the mountains beneath Rocky Mountain National Park to the Big Thompson River on the east side of the Continental Divide. Diverting water from the Colorado River to the eastern plains had long been a dream of planners. The Colorado-Big Thompson (C-BT) Project was started in 1938 and takes water from the west to the east side of the Continental Divide. Water first flowed though the tunnel in June 1947.


In Grand Lake Village go east on West Portal Road for about 2.25 miles until you reach East Inlet parking lot.

Arapaho National Recreation Area (CO)

The Arapaho National Recreation Area is home to five lakes, including Lake Granby, which is the second largest body of water in Colorado. Lake Granby, Monarch Lake, Shadow Mountain Lake, Willow Creek Reservoir, and Meadow Creek Reservoir all provide visitors with an abundance of recreational opportunities. Boating, fishing, canoeing, camping, horseback riding, mountain biking, and ice fishing are all popular activities in this recreation area. Visitors can hike portions of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail within the recreation area. The Arapaho National Recreation Area also is home to many different species of wildlife, such as elk, deer, moose, coyote, bobcat, bear, red fox, badger, beaver, ground and pine squirrels, chipmunks, bald and golden eagles, osprey, five species of trout and kokanee salmon.


near Grand Lake and Granby on the western border of Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest (CO)

The forests encompass 1.5 million acres and extends north to the Wyoming border, south of I-70 to Mount Evans, and west across the Continental divide to the Williams Fork area.

Farr Pumping Plant and Colorado-Big Thompson Project (CO)

The Colorado-Big Thompson Project (C-BT) takes water from Grand Lake to the east side of the Continental Divide. C-BT is the largest trans-mountain diversion project ever built. Completed in 1951, Farr Pumping Plant is the heart of C-BT and the center of the West Slope collection system. The plant pumps water from Lake Granby into Shadow Mountain Reservoir via the Granby Pump Canal and then into Grand Lake, where the water travels to the Eastern Slope via the Adams Tunnel.


Take County Road 64 1 mile to the plant.

Granby (CO)

With Lake Granby, the Colorado River, and the Arapaho National Forest just minutes away, visitors will find plenty to do in Granby. This small town offers visitors a chance to enjoy the beautiful Middle Park area of Colorado. Different people throughout history have also made the best of this area. Early Indians used Middle Park as a summer hunting ground, and many legends still survive concerning the area. It was gold that initially brought more white settlers to the area, and with the introduction of the railroad, Granby was established as a town. Granby became an important railroad center when the Moffat Railroad opened up a railway line to Salt Lake City by laying tracks over the Continental Divide at Rollins Pass. One important development was the introduction of lettuce to the valley in the 1920s, and today lettuce, along with a variety of other crops, is grown in the valley. With a rich history and an abundance of things to do, Granby is a place visitors may enjoy.


Granby, CO

Grand Lake Village (CO)

Three nearby lakes make Grand Lake a popular recreational area. Camping, fishing, hiking, and boating can all be enjoyed in the vicinity of Grand Lake. This mountain resort town provides friendly service and enjoyment for people of all ages. Grand Lake is one of Colorado's oldest resorts. First settled in 1876, it became a supply center in 1879 when gold and silver were discovered nearby on the Colorado River. The much sought-after gold existed only in small amounts. By the early 1880s, the prospectors started moving on. Grand Lake survived by becoming a lakeside resort. Grand Lake, Shadow Mountain, Lake Granby, and the Colorado River headwaters are all near this town. Grand Lake still has wooden boardwalks and split lodge pole pine facades on homes and downtown buildings to give this a historic and friendly feel. Many visitors enjoy the town's historic walking tour, which begins at the Kaufmann House Museum. Any season is a good one to visit Grand Lake, with boating and camping in the summer and cross-country skiing and an extensive snowmobile trail system in the winter.


Grand Lake, CO

Heritage Park Museum (CO)

The Heritage Park Museum is a living history complex that shows the ranching lifestyle of the Kremmling area. It began when the construction of Wolford Mountain Reservoir was announced in 1991. The reservoir would flood several historic ranches, so buildings from those sites were moved to the Heritage Park complex for preservation.


Located in the center of Kremmling on US 40, one block west of the highway's junction with US 9, between 4th and 5th Streets and on the right side of US 40/Park Avenue.

Historic Ranchlands and State Wildlife Areas (CO)

Out West flat areas surrounded by peaks are called parks, named by early French trappers. The Byway runs through Middle Park, settled in the late 1900s by ranchers who grazed livestock on the grasslands along river. The area still supports working ranches and provides habitat for many wild animal species. Hot Sulphur Springs State Wildlife Area is managed by the Colorado Division of Wildlife and includes 7 units which provide hunting, fishing, camping and wildlife watching.

The ranches that flank the Byway between Granby and Kremmling are visible year-round.

Historic State Bridge Lodge and State Bridge (CO)

The historic lodge building served as a stage stop for travelers through this area and there was a ferry that crossed the river. In 1890 the State of Colorado authorized the construction of a bridge over the Colorado River. State Bridge and State Bridge Lodge have been known by those names ever since. Remnants of the original bridge can still be seen. In 1901 then Vice-President Teddy Roosevelt stayed at the lodge while elk hunting in the nearby Flat Top Mountains. The current State Bridge crosses the Colorado River on CO-131. The historic remnants of the old State Bridge are visible from CO-131 and from State Bridge Lodge. State Bridge Lodge is located on the Trough Road, just east of CO-131.

Hot Sulphur Springs (CO)

Enjoy the hot relaxing mineral pools at Hot Sulphur Springs. The Ute Indians used these pools to ease rheumatism and arthritis, as well as treat sick horses. The area around these mineral springs was build into a resort town and trainloads of people visited the area. Today visitors may enjoy many activities in the surrounding area. Fishing and rafting are available on the nearby Colorado River. Hiking and biking are also popular activities. In the winter, cross-country skiing, skiing, and snowmobiling are available.


Hot Sulphur Springs, CO


69 miles (111 km)
90 minutes to drive or 3-6 hours to enjoy this Byway
Main Roads:
US-40 W
Additional Details:
Also known as Colorado River Headwaters Scenic and Historic Byway

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Rocky Mountain National ParkAt the edge of Rocky Mountain National Park, Grand Lake is the deepest natural lake in Colorado, dipping to 265 feet. Fed by high mountain runoff, the lake is clear and pristine. In the summer, you can rent a boat, bring your own or simply enjoy the gentle lapping of the waves from the sandy shore. Grand Lake connects with Shadow Mountain Lake via a canal, and just down the road is Lake Granby, the second largest body of water in Colorado.
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