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20 Best Things to Do on a Colorado Roadtrip in 1962

by Jill Rogers and

ON THE ROAD IN 1962

Here’s one of the rare guest posts on Roadtrip-'62 ™. Jill Rogers of the “Your RV Lifestyle” staff has put together a list of the 100 Best Things to Do in Colorado, so I’ve extracted the top 20 that were around in 1962. Some of these are along our US-6 roadtrip; check out the pages for Day 29 in Denver, and Day 30 west of Denver. Others are on roads I have not written about yet, and I will note the routes below. I hope you find some places to visit when you next visit Colorado! Jill’s full list is available at Your RV Lifestyle.

 
Colorado State Capitol, Denver, 1955 postcard)
Colorado State Capitol, Denver, Colorado (1955 postcard from online auction)
  1. Mesa Verde National Park (On US-160 near Cortez, established in 1906.):
  2. This park is in the southwest of Colorado and is well known for the Puebloan cave dwellings. You will know them by the name of Cliff Palace. If you are hiking, then follow the Petroglyph Point Trail. These are some of the best-preserved archaeological sites in the USA. This is a great place to take an RV and stay a few days while you hike in the park.

  3. Denver Museum of Nature and Science (Off US-40 and US-287 in Denver, opened to the public in 1908.):
  4. Here you will be able to learn about the natural history of the state. There are over 1 million objects in the collections. There are also archival and library resources if you need to look anything up. There are permanent exhibits, as well as temporary displays, which vary each month, so it is worth checking upcoming exhibits.

  5. Mount Evans and Scenic Byway (Off US-40 at Bergen Park, road to Mount Evans was begun in 1915 and completed in 1930.):
  6. This is the highest peak in the front range of the Rocky Mountains. You will find it in the Mount Evans Wilderness which is about 13 miles southwest of the City of Idaho. If you are a hiker, then this should be on your agenda. Walking in the area is also very popular and there are several trails you can follow. Some are steep while others cater for younger walkers. You can take an RV and stay a few days in the area, although you should be sure to check the weather to make sure it is good to hike or walk. You can start up this byway in Evergreen. It is the highest paved road in North America. The road winds its way up Mount Evans to an altitude of 14,130 feet above sea level. The road was completed in 1931 and runs for 28 miles, with some of the most spectacular scenery in the state. Be aware that it can get cloudy and have snow falls so check the weather before you plan a trip. There are plenty of pull-off areas where you can stop and take pictures. Along the way you will find the Mount Goliath Natural Area, which is home to protected trees. At the top you can stop and see Summit Lake Park and the lake. You will notice that the waters of the lake are pristine, because they are fed from a glacier.

  7. Nevadaville Ghost Town (Off US-6 in Central City area, mostly abandoned by 1920.):
  8. You will find this Masonic Lodge in the deserted town. Oddly enough, the lodge is still used for meetings. The town was established in 1859 as a gold mining town. It reached its peak of population with 1,000 inhabitants. When the gold was mined out, the town basically died, although there are still six official residents. You will be able to see the city hall, and a saloon building, along with mining shacks. It is not a good idea to explore the mine shafts as they are considered dangerous, so keep children under control.

  9. Denver Art Museum (On US-40 in Denver, founded in 1893 and the present main building opened in 1949.):
  10. This is situated in the Civic Centre of the city of Denver. It is one of the largest museums between Chicago and the west coast, and known for the amazing collection of American Indian Art. Also, of interest is the Berger Collection, which is a private collection of mostly British art over six centuries. The Hamilton Collection consists of 22 impressionist works from a private collection including Van Gogh’s “Edge of a Wheat Field with Poppies”. Make sure you check for upcoming events and exhibitions. Allow yourself a full day to see this museum.

     
    Coyote, Trail Ridge Road, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
    Coyote along the roadside, Trail Ridge Road, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
  11. Rocky Mountain National Park (On US-34 at Estes Park, established in 1915.):
  12. This park spans the Continental Divide. You will find a differing landscape of forests, alpines, and mountains. If you are a hiker, then look for the Trail Ridge Road, and the Old Fall River Road. You can also drive your car along many of the routes past Aspen trees and rivers. For the more experience climbers, the Keyhole Route is a vertical rock face, which leads up Longs Peak, and is the parks tallest mountain. Be sure to take enough provisions for any hike as there are few supply stores here.

  13. Denver Zoo (Off US-40 and US-287 in Denver, founded in 1896.):
  14. The zoo was founded in 1896 and is now the most popular tourist attraction in the city. The zoo began with the donation of one black bear, and the zoo became the first naturalistic zoo in the USA. You will notice that there are no bars, just enclosures. The zoo was named the ‘Greenest Zoo in the Country’. Allow yourself a full day here. There is a café where you can buy snacks and refreshments.

  15. Walk up the Mile-High steps and visit the Colorado State Capitol Building (On US-40 and US-287 and just off US-6 in Denver, opened in 1894.):
  16. You will find the steps at the State Building in Denver. The top measures exactly 5,280 feet above sea level. Over the years there have been differences of opinions as to the exact height, so you will notice on the 15th step it is engraved with the acclamation. Later it was thought that the 18th step was the peak. Recently it was worked out that the top step is in fact the exact mile height. Wherever you think the exact spot is, the view from the top is stunning! Make sure you see the mile high marker on the steps as you climb. The building houses the offices of the Governor of Colorado as well as the Lieutenant Governor. The building was started in the 1890’s from Colorado white granite and completed in 1894. You may take a tour of the inside where you will see large amounts of Colorado Rose Onyx which is very rare and comes from a nearby quarry. Look out for the stained-glass windows telling about events related to the history of the state. Allow yourself a half day to see the building.

  17. Desert Reef Hot Springs (Off US-50 in Florence, the springs were created in the 1940s):
  18. You will find this in Florence. It is a naturally-sourced hot spring. This is also a recognized nudist spot so if you visit, you are welcome to remove all your clothing to try the spring. The springs were first discovered during a subsurface oil investigation and this led to the stream of hot water forming in pools.

  19. Broadmoor Seven Falls (Off US-87 near Colorado Springs, tours opened in the early 1880s.):
  20. These seven waterfalls are found in South Cheyenne Creek. There are several trails which you can take to get to the top of the falls. Look for the trail leading to Midnight Falls and Inspiration Point. Be aware that in heavy rains there may be flooding so be sure to check the forecast. Also, make sure you take your own provisions.

     
    Broadmoor Seven Falls, Colorado Springs, Colorado
    Broadmoor Seven Falls, Colorado Springs, Colorado (Photo by Michael Mangin at Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.)
  21. Cheyenne Mountain Zoo (Off US-87 in Colorado Springs, founded in 1926.):
  22. This zoo is found in downtown Colorado Springs. It is at an elevation of 6,800 feet above sea level and is the highest zoo in the USA. You will find over 750 animals of 150 different species and divided into sections. For the little ones, look for ‘My Big Backyard’ where there are rabbits, chickens, and amphibians. The ‘Rocky Cliffs’ is home to the mountain goats, while the ‘Rocky Mountain Wild’ is home to bears, eagles, mountain lions, and lynx, to name a few. Be sure to check upcoming events at this amazing zoo. Allow a full day here. There is a café to buy lunch.

  23. Kit Carson County Carousel (Off US-24 and US-385 in Burlington, constructed in 1905 for Elitch Gardens and moved in 1928.):
  24. This is found in Burlington. It is one of the few remaining antique carousels in the USA. You will also notice that the animals do not move. The carousel is wooden, which is why the animals cannot move. The difference between modern day carousels is that this one moves along at 12 mph, while most modern carousels only reach the speed of 8 mph. All 46 animals are hand carved and hand painted. You will find chariots, giraffes, lions, tigers, horses, and even a hippopotamus! Look at the center of the carousel and you will find an interesting Wurlitzer 155 Military Band Organ. While the kids may enjoy the ride, the carousel is more than an amusement. Looking closely, you will appreciate it for the work of art it really is.

  25. Cranmer Park Sundial (Off US-40 and US-287 in Denver, installed in 1941.):
  26. This is one of the smallest parks in Denver. It has the privilege of being the home of the Chinese style quartz sundial. The sundial was first installed there in 1941, although this was destroyed by vandals. A replica was installed. As it was designed in typical Chinese style, you will find a polar chart at the base with western features. The park itself is worth walking around. Even though it is small, it is well-maintained and very pleasant to walk through. Plan on spending the morning or afternoon in this delightful park.

  27. Edwin Carter Discovery Centre (About 10 miles off US-6 in Breckenridge, collection dates from 1875.):
  28. If taxidermy fascinates you, then be sure to visit here. Edwin Carter was a gold miner who turned his hand to taxidermy. The collection consists of over 3,000 animals. Carter began as an amateur taxidermist and set out to preserve as many specimens as he could. Eventually his cabin could not house them any longer and they were donated to a museum. The original cabin is also still preserved where visitors can visit and learn about the art of taxidermy. The centre regularly has special exhibits of interesting subjects.

  29. Pikes Peak (Off US-24 west of Colorado Springs, the cog railway opened in 1891 and the auto road opened in 1915.):
  30. This peak is the highest summit of the southern edge of the Rocky Mountains. You can reach it by going 12 miles west of Colorado Springs. Pikes Peak is one of Colorado’s ‘Fourteeners’ which are mountains higher than 14,000 feet above sea level. There are many hiking trails around the base as well as up the mountain. You should be aware of weather conditions before you head out and be sure to take enough provisions with you. The area is perfect for taking an RV and spending a few days while you hike in the vicinity.

     
    Elitch Gardens fountain, Denver, Colorado, 1960s postcard
    Elitch Gardens fountain, Denver, Colorado, ca. 1960s (postcard from online auction)
  31. Elitch Gardens (Now off US-6, formerly off US-287 in Denver, originally established in 1890.):
  32. This amusement park is found in Denver. During Halloween they host the haunted house and the Trick or Treat trail for the smaller kids. Make sure you head for the new rides, these are the Tube Top, Tike Bikes, and the Kiddieland area. The Island Kingdom Family Water Park is great fun for the whole family with a huge family raft ride as well as the lazy river. Allow yourself a full day here, especially if you are visiting with kids. (As I mentioned on my page for Day 30 of the US-6 roadtrip, the Elitch Gardens we would have seen in 1962 no longer exists. Most of the site has been redeveloped for condominiums and apartments, though the old carousel building still stands and has even been restored, without the ride. A brand new Elitch Gardens amusement park was constructed in a new location in 1994.)

  33. Great Sand Dunes National Park (About 15 miles off US-160 near Blanca, established in 1932.):
  34. This preserve is found in southern Colorado. It is well-known for the towering dunes. Look for the high point named Star Dune. There is a seasonal creek, which may be filled with water at different times through the year. For hikers, head for the Medano Pass which winds through the canyon and on towards the Sangre de Christo mountain range. There are several trails leading through forests, wetlands, and lakes. This is a great place to take an RV and stay a few days while you enjoy hiking in the park.

  35. Buckhorn Exchange (Off US-6 in Denver, founded in 1893.):
  36. This attraction was founded in 1893 and is found in Denver. It houses a wall-to-wall collection of taxidermy. It is also Denver’s oldest steakhouse. You will find collections of antique weapons along with the hundreds of stuffed animals. The steakhouse menu includes such items as rattlesnake and elk, with buffalo sausage and alligator tails also being available. This restaurant is definitely a ‘must’ for those who enjoy a meal with a difference. Be sure to reserve your table, as it is a very popular venue.

     
    Interior of the Buckhorn Exchange, Denver, Colorado
    Interior of the Buckhorn Exchange, Denver, Colorado (Photo by Paulo Moncores at Flickr, used by permission.)
  37. Royal Gorge Bridge (On US-50 in Cañon City, completed in 1929.):
  38. This attraction is near Cañon City, in the Royal Gorge Park. The bridge crosses the gorge at 955 feet above the Arkansas River, and until 2001 was the highest bridge in the world. It is still the highest bridge in the USA. The bridge is 1,260 feet long. Cars are allowed over the bridge but only at certain times, so you should check before you plan to cross. There is an amusement park at the entrance to the bridge, which is a great place to take the kids. There is also a zip-line across the gorge for the more adventurous.

  39. Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railway (At US-160 in Durango or US-550 in Silverton, tracks completed in 1882.):
  40. The railway runs from Durango to Silverton and has been designated as an historical site. The railroad was opened in 1882 to transport gold and silver from the San Juan Mountains. The last train ran along the tracks south of Durango in 1968, after running continuously since 1881. You can take the train from Durango to Cascade Wye in the winter, and to Silverton in the Summer months. Be sure to book seats in advance.

 

Well, that should be a little bit of everything available in Colorado. I hope you enjoyed this Roadtrip-'62 ™ sampler and get out on the road to find your own favorites soon.

 

All photos by the author and Copyright © 2019 - Milne Enterprises, Inc., except as noted.

Portions Copyright © Your RV Lifestyle, used by permission. All other content Copyright © 2019 - Milne Enterprises, Inc.

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