Friday, May 19, 2017

On the Road: Cripple Creek, CO, to Santa Rosa, NM

This trip actually occurred Wednesday, May 17, so I'm a bit late posting it.

When we left Cripple Creek, Colorado, we had 2 objectives. First, we wanted to find a better route to Cripple Creek from our home. I really didn't care for going through Colorado Springs, and I really didn't like the road from there to Cripple Creek. So, for future trips, we wanted to find something a bit easier and less stressful for my old nerves. Second, we wanted to see some more beautiful country.

Our 435 mile route wove in and out of the mountains.
With the first objective in mind, we took Teller County Road 1 about 9 miles northwest of Cripple Creek. We then headed almost south for 22 miles on Highway 11 (High Park Road). Both highways had plenty of beautiful mountain scenery, but little ledge driving, which I don't care for. We then picked up Highway 9 for about 9 miles south, where we turned east on US 50. While on this highway, we noticed signs for the Royal Gorge, a place we hope to return to and explore at another time. US 50 -- which roughly parallels the Arkansas River -- took us through Canon City, then on to Highway 45, which is basically a bypass on the west side of Pueblo. We looped around Pueblo, then picked up I-25 and headed south. It was nice to be out of the mountains for a while, even though they were still in clear view to the west. On future trips to Cripple Creek, we will probably come up I-25 to Pueblo then take the route described above to the little mountain gaming town.

The Spanish Peaks, northwest of Trinidad, CO
We followed I-25 south for just over 100 miles, where we then picked up US 64 south of Raton and headed southwest towards Cimarron, New Mexico. The road was straight and the landscape open. We saw numerous antelope along the road, sometimes in large numbers. In the town of Cimarron, we turned off the main road to drive through the downtown area, only to discover 2 mule deer to our left and another to our right on the side street.

Open country along US 64 between Raton and Cimarron
Antelope along US 64 east of Cimarron.
Mule deer on side street near downtown Cimarron.
One of the prettiest stretches of country we saw during the day occurred just west of Cimarron. US 64 passes through Cimarron Canyon. Carved by the Cimarron River, which was flowing nicely thanks to recent snow melt, the canyon is beautiful and stretches almost the entire length between the town of Cimarron and Eagle Nest. It's a beautiful drive through a narrow canyon, and the roadway crosses the river a number of times. Cimarron Canyon State Park stretches along the river for 7 or 8 miles along the highway, with camping, hiking, and other outdoor opportunities available.

Eventually, the road climbs away from the river, topping out with a beautiful view of Eagle Nest Lake to the west. Eagle Nest Lake State Park wraps around the lake in the valley.

Beautiful Eagle Nest Lake. The road to Taos goes through the mountains towards the left.
After passing the lake and park, we followed Highway 64 west up a mountain, then back down. This is a very curvy and slow stretch. We finally came out in the historic village of Taos. I covered Taos in an entry when we visited there 5 years ago entitled "Day Trip: Santa Fe to Taos."

After a short break in Taos, we headed south towards Las Vegas via Highway 518. The middle section of this road -- around the Sipapu Ski and Summer Resort -- was the most scenic. The road followed the Rio Pueblo, which was also flowing nicely along the road, working its way down the canyon.

The Rio Pueblo cascading down the canyon. I love mountain streams.

Another view of the Rio Pueblo.
We broke out of the mountains before arriving in Las Vegas. From there we headed south on US 84 to Santa Rosa, where we stopped for the night.

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