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Scenic Byways

Scenic BywaysLake City serves as the launching point for both the Alpine Loop and Silver Thread Scenic and Historic Byways,  In addition to their state byway designations, the Alpine Loop is also a Bureau of Land Management National Backcountry Byway while the Silver Thread is a US Forest Service National Scenic Byway.  Lake City truly lies amidst splendor that is unparalleled nationwide.

The Silver Thread weaves 75 miles over the Continental Divide linking Lake City with the communities of Creede and South Fork. Gunnison and Rio Grade National Forest land in addition to BLM public land add up to breathtaking vistas at every turn.  Once a toll road and stage route for the miners, Colorado Highway 149 is fully paved and open year-round.  Views of the Rio Grande and Lake Fork of the Gunnison Rivers add to the Silver Thread's Beauty.

The Alpine Loop's sixty-five miles of dirt and gravel roads beckon the backcountry traveler.  Brimming with stories of bygone days, the Alpine Loop

View from Squires Cabins located on the Alpine Loop connects the once-mining towns of Lake City, Ouray, and Silverton. Depending on snowfall, the Loop opens in late May or early June and closes in mid to late October.  While much of the Byway is suitable for 2 wheel drive cars,  Traversing Engineer and Cinnamon Passes requires a high-clearance, 4 wheel drive vehicle.

The Alpine Loop was a natural for this recognition and was one of the BLM's first Backcountry Byways. This 65-mile route between Lake City, Silverton and Ouray was first built by miners in the late 1800's for mule wagons hauling equipment and ore across the Mountains. Today you can follow their tracks. The Alpine Loop gives visitors an intimate glimpse of outstanding San Juan Mountain scenery, ghost towns, wildflower displays, fall colors and much more. Most of the route is accessible by two-wheel drive vehicles, but four-wheel-drive is necessary for some side trips, and to cross the high passes.

Of course, the centerpiece of the area is the Alpine Loop National Backcountry Byway. Look for the blue columbine signs that indicate the route. Your trip can be started from Lake City, Silverton or Ouray. Signs indicate where four-wheel drive is recommended. Along the way you can see displays for beautiful wildflowers (peaking in late July and early August), historic remnants of mining activities from the late 1800's and blazing shows of fall colors (around mid-September). Side roads along the way will let you explore Cottonwood Creek, American Basin, Nellie Creek, North Henson Creek, California Gulch, Picayune Gulch, Eureka Gulch, Minnie Gulch, Maggie Gulch and Stony Pass as well as the ghost towns of Animas Forks, Carson, Sherman, Mineral Point, Capitol City and others.