Silver Thread Scenic Byway

The Silver Thread Scenic Byway is a beautiful route that winds its way through the San Juan Mountains in the interior of Colorado. It is roughly 117 miles long. In regard to the Silver Thread Scenic Byway, the following information is provided:

The Silver Thread Scenic Byway takes a path that goes via both State Highway 149 and State Highway 149A as its route. It starts in South Fork, which is a town in Rio Grande County, and concludes in Gunnison, with stops in Hinsdale and Mineral counties along the route. South Fork is located in Rio Grande County.

silver thread scenic byway

The scenic beauty of this byway is legendary, since it is home to some of the world’s most breathtaking alpine scenery, unspoiled wilderness areas, and varied ecosystems. Visitors are able to explore the natural splendor of the San Juan Mountains by traveling along the Silver Thread Scenic Byway. Some of the natural features that may be seen along this route include majestic peaks, alpine meadows, flowing rivers, and colorful wildflowers.

Historic Mining communities The byway either travels through or is located near a number of historic mining communities, providing travelers with a glimpse into the illustrious mining past of Colorado. These towns include Creede, Lake City, and Pitkin, all of which include surviving structures from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as well as museums and other relics of mining operations.

activity in the Great Outdoors: The Silver Thread Scenic Byway offers access to a wide variety of options for outdoor activity. Hiking, backpacking, fishing, boating, camping, animal viewing, and photography are just few of the activities that outdoor enthusiasts can participate in and enjoy. The region is home to a number of lakes, rivers, and trails, all of which are ideal for engaging in outdoor activities.

Connection to the San Juan Skyway: Near Gunnison, at the byway’s northern terminus, there is a connection to the San Juan Skyway, which is a certified scenic byway that provides a longer loop around southwestern Colorado. Because to this connection, vacationers are able to extend their picturesque drive and see more of the region’s natural splendor.

Observing Wildlife: The San Juan Mountains are well-known for the wide variety of wildlife that can be seen there. Visitors that take a trip on the Silver Thread Scenic Byway could get the chance to see animals such as elk, deer, bighorn sheep, black bears, and a variety of bird species as they travel along the scenic route.

Colors of Autumn The byway is particularly well-liked during the autumn season, which coincides with the time of year when the surrounding forests put on a breathtaking show of brilliant autumn colors. Photographers and anyone who enjoy nature are drawn to this area because of the attractive scene created by the changing colors of the aspen trees.

Services and Amenities: There are cities and localities all along the route that provide services and amenities for travelers, such as places to stay the night, places to eat, gas stations, and visitor centers. In particular, Lake City is a well-liked destination for tourists traveling along the byway.

A trip along the Silver Thread Scenic Byway provides a unique opportunity to enjoy the magnificent scenery, mining history, and chances for outdoor activity that Colorado is so well known for. It is essential to keep in mind that the road conditions and services that are available may change at any time, but notably during the winter months or due to seasonal closures. It is highly advised that you check with local visitor centers or the Colorado Department of Transportation in order to plan your journey and obtain the most up-to-date information possible.


More Historical Data On The Silver Thread Scenic Byway


On the Silver Thread Scenic and Historic Byway, modern travelers view sights that marveled 1870s stagecoach passengers. The mighty Rio Grande carves huge curves through a lush valley. Centuries-old mudslides scar a mountain slope. The jagged profile of the San Juan Mountains etches the western horizon.

As the 75-mile route follows Colorado 149 from South Fork to Lake City, it parallels the Rio Grande River and then climbs over the Continental Divide to Lake Fork of the Gunnison River.

Those who travel the byway can fish, hike, attend repertory theater productions and explore shops, museums and galleries in historic towns.

silver thread scenic byway
A 17-mile self-guided auto tour winds past vestiges of mines that fueled Creede’s economy in the late 19th century.

South Fork, a former stage stop on the Barlow and Sanderson stage line, serves as the east gateway. Heading northwest, the road passes through Coller State Wildlife Area. Lucky travelers may spot Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, golden eagles or bald eagles. In autumn, elk migrate to the area.

Palisades tower beside the highway. Volcanic action created these impressive cliffs.

At Wagon Wheel Gap, a turnoff leads to Wheeler Geologic Area’s extraordinary spiral formations. Those who enjoy rugged 4-wheel-drive roads and have plenty of time will want to take this 24-mile side trip.

Continuing westward, the byway reaches the historic mining town of Creede, nestled in a narrow canyon. Along its main street, 1890s buildings house art galleries, shops, restaurants and B&Bs. The Creede Repertory Theater features about eight productions May through September.

The Underground Mining Museum and Creede Historical Museum chronicle the town’s mining boom and that era’s colorful characters, including Bat Masterson and Soapy Smith. On the 17-mile Bachelor Loop self-guided auto tour, visitors can drive past vestiges of Commodore, Amethyst and Last Chance mines. During Creede’s halcyon years, they extracted more than a million dollars worth of silver ore monthly.

The byway courses through the fertile Upper Rio Grande River Valley for another 20 miles. The meandering river sculpts a sinuous path through ranchlands.

Before turning away from the valley, the route reaches a scenic overlook of Stony Pass and the site of San Juan City, a former settlement on the Barlow and Sanderson stage line. The byway then climbs north through stands of aspen and fir. An overlook captures a glorious vista of Colorado’s largest wilderness area, Weminuche, named after the Weminuche band of the Ute tribe. Rio Grande Pyramid scrapes the sky.

silver thread scenic byway
North Clear Creek Falls tumbles into a canyon hidden from the roadside.

At mile 49, a turnoff leads to North Clear Creek Falls. Because it is not visible from the highway, those unaware of its existence miss out on this beautiful scene. A short trail leads to a close-up view of the thundering cascade. Bristol Head rises in the background.

The byway crosses the Continental Divide at Spring Creek Pass. From Windy Point Overlook’s 11,000-foot elevation, travelers can view the shark fin profile of Uncompahgre Peak, the brilliant color of Red Mountain and several other towering mountains. Lake City sits at the base of the range.

After cresting Slumgullion Pass, a remarkable sight comes into view. A huge swath of earth, called Slumgullion Earthflow, covers a slope where mudslides occurred 350 and 700 years ago. When heavy rains supersaturated the soil, millions of tons of mud and rock broke loose and flowed into the valley below. The deposits formed a natural dam across Lake Fork of the Gunnison River, creating Lake San Cristobal, Colorado’s second largest natural lake.

Yellow, ochre and brown in color, the earthflow reportedly is still moving up to 20 feet a year. As a result, individual trees growing on the slope tilt at odd angles.

On the descent to Lake City, travelers can walk up a short trail to Lake San Cristobal Overlook. On the slope rising behind the alpine body of water, tailings mark the site of Golden Fleece Mine. Its lucrative lode yielded silver, which in 1874 assayed at $40,000 per ton.

On the outskirts of town, the route passes the Alfred Packer Massacre Site. Packer was accused of murdering and cannibalizing five gold seekers he was guiding after they became lost in a severe winter storm. The public labeled him the Colorado Cannibal. In the end, he was found guilty of manslaughter and served five years of a 40-year sentence.

silver thread scenic byway
Views of Bristol Head summit, at 12,713 feet, await travelers on the Silver Thread Scenic and Historic Byway.

The byway reaches its west end in Lake City. Enos Hotchkiss, who established the Golden Fleece Mine, founded the community in 1874. Today the tranquil town is a popular vacation spot, known for its exceptional hunting and fishing. Along Silver Street, specialty shops offer an eclectic array of merchandise. Items include handmade jewelry, crafted wildlife sculptures, fine art by locals and even Alfred Packer dolls.

Before heading home, travelers can enjoy a leisurely stroll in Lake City’s sublime mountain setting.