Wonders of the Western Slope Fall Drives: Flat Tops Trail

By: Dann Cianca, Weekday Morning Meteorologist Email
By: Dann Cianca, Weekday Morning Meteorologist Email

DUNCKLEY PASS, Colo. - Over the next several weeks, Wonders of the Western Slope will be highlighting some of western Colorado's best fall drives.

Named for its characteristic flat-topped peaks, this isolated mountain range holds a world of wonders in Colorado's back country. All of this beauty is accessible by car, via a maintained scenic byway.

“The Flat Tops area is just beautiful. It’s kind of a hidden gem," said Jack Lewis, Yampa District Ranger with the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest. We met in Yampa for a trip over the byway.

“The Flat Tops Scenic Byway runs from Yampa over Dunckley Pass and then over Ripple Creek Pass and ends up eventually in Meeker," he explained.

Despite its wilderness characteristics, it's not too far off the beaten path.

“There’s lodging, there’s food on both sides," said Lewis. "So, you could either stay in Yampa or you could stay in Meeker and come through the other way.”

The drive is exceptionally beautiful and passes through both the Routt and White River National Forests.

“There’s a lot of areas to pull over and sight-see. We have a bunch of areas that you can go hiking. We have designated trails and off-trail activities. There are a few lakes to stop in, some reservoirs, fishing.”

The area is very popular with hunters and is great for wildlife viewing. We saw several deer and birds of prey.

“We have one of the largest elk herds in Colorado. We also have a variety of smaller mammals and critters. Lots of birds for bird-watching and raptors.”

The road is closed to vehicle traffic in the winter, but open for snowmobiles and other winter sports.

Visitation really picks up in the fall, though.

“There’s hardly a better time a year than the fall," said Lewis. "The days tend to be nice. The scenery’s nice and it’s just a good time to be out. You’re going to see quite a bit of color.”

You'll find most of the road line with aspen trees, whether you're in the midst or viewing from above.

“You start seeing a little more of the reds (oak) and the yellows (aspen) and pretty soon you’ll start seeing bigger and bigger patches.”

At its fall color peak, the area is a golden wonderland.

"It is a beautiful place to be,” Lewis said.

For more information on the Flat Tops Trail Scenic Byway, click here: http://flattopsbyway.com/

For fall color information in the area, click here: http://www.fs.usda.gov/mbr

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