Where to Take Your Car on a Road Trip to the Mountains
From the September 2022 issue of Car and Driver.
Colorado may bring to mind four-by-fours and all-wheel-drive wagons, but when we were there recently, we appreciated how much the mountains’ winding curves begged for a downshift of the six-speed manual on the 2023 Acura Integra we were driving. This car’s small size, comfortable back seat, and large cargo hold make it perfect for hauling vacationers and their luggage to a large city. So we chose an adventure in and around Denver, Colorado.
Maybe you’ve only shot there, but the mountains and cities of the Denver area are full of automotive delights. From scenic drives that will test your bravery and your brakes to all kinds of transportation museums, here are the best roads and places to visit.
Big’s and Little’s
Shrink it down and enter a remote-control race at MHOR R/C Raceway in Aurora. Or go big and scope out the collection of trains (including a Union Pacific Big Boy), planes, cars, and bikes at Denver’s Forney Museum of Transportation.
Rent a Jeep, an ATV, or even a scooter and enjoy some of the scenic off-road trails just outside Denver. Check out Yankee Hill and Estes Park.
Colorado is justly famous for winding byways with fabulous views. Mount Evans Scenic Byway rises above Denver, and the Lariat Loop runs west. Established in 1918, the famed Peak to Peak Scenic Byway near Boulder is Colorado’s oldest scenic road. Note that on some routes, going to the summit requires a timed-entry permit.
If you can wait that long, a June trip could overl with the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, America’s second-oldest auto race (the Indy 500 beats it by five years). It can sell out, so make plans early and dress warmly. Teams practice for weeks beforehand, and early risers can buy tickets to watch from designated areas. During nonracing hours, the mountain is open to everyone, with a museum and excellent donuts at the top. Again, reaching the 14,115-foot summit might require a reservation.
- Penrose Heritage Museum: You’ll find cars that span the century-long history of the hill-climb, including Nobuhiro “Monster” Tajima’s wild twin-engine Suzuki Cultus from the 1993 event.
- Rocky Mountain Motorcycle Museum: Located above a food court in downtown Colorado Springs, the attraction features a tightly packed array of two-wheeled machines.
- Bandimer Speedway: At a track tucked against a hillside near Denver, hear an NHRA nitro Funny Car echo off a canyon. On grudge night, for $40, see what your rental car can do.
- Pikes Peak International Raceway: For more traditional racing, this road course in Fountain offers track days, autocross sprints, and drags—no oxygen bottles required.