Halfway between Denver’s urban sprawl and the Continental Divide, the Peak To Peak Byway finds a path through Colorado’s Front Range — the easternmost mountains of the Rockies. The Byway consists of three roads: Colorado highway 119 from Central City and Black Hawk to Nederland, 72 from Nederland to its end, then 7 to Estes Park. It’s a road for people who love mountains and don’t mind curves — or at least, who remembered to take their Dramamine.
Truth be told, I was driving this road at the wrong time of day. Any time after noon is less than ideal on the Peak To Peak Byway. It’s still a beautiful drive, but once the sun moves into the western sky, it’s tough to admire the biggest mountains along this route. Peak To Peak wasn’t part of my original plan — I had hoped to travel up to US 40, and enter Rocky Mountain National Park on its southwestern side, then cross over Trail Ridge Road to Estes Park. The afternoon light would have been better on the western side, but unfortunately, Guanella Pass was still closed by snow, causing a detour to the east.
I don’t want to make it sound like I was settling for the Peak To Peak Byway. It’s a fantastic road through the foothills…
… that repeatedly offers glimpses of bigger mountains in the distance, along the Continental Divide, just a few miles away.
As you pass through the appropriately named Peaceful Valley, you’ll spot this wedding chapel, perched on a hillside. Below it, there’s a dude ranch and lodging.
Perhaps the best places along the Peak To Peak Byway are along its north end, on highway 7. Here, you’ll find several places to access the southeastern side of Rocky Mountain National Park:
… places like the Wild Basin area, where you’ll find Copeland Lake, and a perfectly framed view of 13,911 foot (4,240 meter) Mount Meeker. With the sun slipping behind the mountains, I had just enough time to drive past Copeland Lake, and make a quick hike to another one of the area’s attractions (on the next page).
Here’s a time-lapse dash-cam video of the drive up the Peak to Peak Byway, starting at Nederland and ending at Estes Park: