Colorado's top five drive-by mountain vistas

Sometime while driving south from I-70 towards Leadville last week on my way to Chicago Ridge/Ski Cooper, I found myself grinning and thinking again how lucky I am to live in Colorado. I've had a passion for the mountains since I was little, and I've seen and played in most of the mountains in the U.S.

While nothing matches the absolutely jaw-dropping view of the Tetons you get as you round the last curve heading north out of Jackson, Colorado has Wyoming beat by offering more views that melt the heart.

1. The San Juans on the drive to Dallas Divide between Ouray and Telluride
This is probably the closest view Colorado has to the view of the Tetons north of Jackson. On the 12 mile drive up the summit of Dallas Divide from Ridgeway, you get amazing views of the North Face of 14,150 foot Mount Sneffels, which rises nearly 7000 feet above Ridgeway and 4,700 feet from the trailhead to Blaine Basin. Other impressive peaks seen on the drive include Mears Peak (13,442 feet), Teakettle Mountain (13,819 feet), and Gilpin Peak (13,694 feet).

2. Rocky Mountain National Park, with Hallett Peak, Flattop, and Notchtop from the Bear Lake Access Road
The drive up to Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park provides impressive views of the peaks surrounding Glacier Gorge. These mountains lie on the Continental Divide, and include Hallett Peak (12,713 feet), with its imposing North Face, Flattop Mountain (12,324 feet), and Thatchtop (12,668 feet). You can also catch views of Chiefs Head (13,579 feet), Longs Peak (14,259 feet) and Mt. Meeker (13,911 feet). In between Hallett and Flattop is the Tyndall Glacier.

3. U.S. 550 between Ouray and Durango, aka San Juan Skyway and Million Dollar Highway
It says something about the views you get between Coal Bank Pass (10,640 feet) and Molas Pass (10,910 feet) that even though I've only done the drive once, I still find it memorable. You get pretty incredible peak views, including Twilight Peak (13,158 feet), Engineer Mountain (12,968 feet), and Snowdon Peak (13,077 feet). You also get views of three 14,000 foot peaks: Mount Eolus (14,083 feet), Sunlight (14,059 feet) and Windom Peak (14,082 feet).

4. Sangre De Cristos from Highway 69
With views of the Great Sand Dunes National Monument and the vertical relief of the Sangre de Cristos behind them, this is one of the most unique mountain views anywhere in the U.S. You can see several 14,000 foot peaks on this road, including Crestone Needle (14,197 feet) and Crestone Peak (14,294 feet).

5. Highway 285 between Buena Vista and Salida
The only reason this isn't higher on the list is because the mountains don't look as impressive from the road, showing mass, but not classic mountain features like steep faces, ridges, and couloirs. They are high though, and include several 14,000 foot peaks, such as Mt. Yale (14,196 feet),  Mt. Princeton (14,197 feet), Mt. Antero (14,269 feet) and Shavano (14,229 feet). The vertical relief is impressive on the drive, with the peaks rising between 6,000 and 7,000 feet above the road.

What do you think? Am I missing any?

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Candace Horgan