The Collegiate Peaks Scenic and Historic Byway leads visitors to a unique set of characteristics, found only in this area. The rich history of Chaffee County and the Upper Arkansas Valley can be experienced on every segment of the Collegiate Peaks Byway, from the 14,000+ foot peaks rising above the valley floor to the nationally recognized historic structures scattered throughout the county. These and other resources along the Collegiate Peaks Byway draw full attention to the natural and cultural history of South-Central Colorado.
The Collegiate Peaks Scenic and Historic Byway Brochure is available. This 24 page, full color piece highlights Chaffee County's heritage destinations and special Exploration Routes.
Special features that characterize this byway include:
- the state gemstone, the Colorado Aquamarine, found only in Chaffee County
- the Arkansas River, the most commercially rafted river in the United States
- the highest concentration of 14,000-foot peaks in the United States
- numerous commercially developed hot springs
- high altitude ranching
- high concentration of ghost towns and historic structures
- vibrant artistic communities dedicated to building their futures
The Collegiate Peaks Byway stretches 57 miles through Chaffee County, allowing the traveler direct access to the county’s beautiful natural scenery and all three historic communities.
The Collegiate Peaks Byway includes US 24 north of Granite, where it connects to the southern portion of the Top of the Rockies Byway at US 24 and CO 82. The byway follows US 24 southward through Buena Vista, and continues south on US 285 to US 50 and the Town of Poncha Springs. The byway then turns eastward on US 50 to Salida, turns northward on CO 291 through Salida’s Historic Downtown, and reconnects with US 285.
The Byway route passes directly through the heart of each of the three historic communities in Chaffee County. US 24 literally divides Buena Vista, allowing the traveler easy access to art galleries and shops along its main street, and to its historic museums and town hall. US Highways 285 and 50 intersect in the heart of Poncha Springs, near the old Jackson Hotel and the historic Poncha Springs Museum and schoolhouse, built in 1882. The final leg leads travelers through Historic Downtown Salida, named by Outside Magazine as one of the top 20 outdoor towns in the country, and its Historic Downtown district. In addition to the nationally recognized Arkansas River which runs through the historic district, Salida’s many art galleries and shops will give visitors a true taste of the talents and imagination found in the Upper Arkansas Valley.