The Road to Smith Fork Ranch
Depending on which route you take, the drive from Denver to Smith Fork Ranch will take between 4.5 and 6.5 hours. Don’t worry – these aren’t your average road trips.
Regardless of the road you travel on, your journey will take you through some of the most spectacular Rocky Mountain scenery Colorado has to offer, not to mention quaint alpine towns, unique attractions and much more. This is the Centennial State at its best.
The road to Smith Fork is even more appealing during our fall season (Aug. 28-Oct. 31, 2016), thanks to some great offers, including a 4th night free deal and 20% off fall rates for all Colorado residents. Learn more.
The Very Scenic Route: Independence Pass
The “long cut” to Smith Fork Ranch is worth the extra drive time.
At 6.5 hours, driving from Denver over Independence Pass through Aspen to SFR is the longest route you can take. But it’s also one of the most dramatic and beautiful drives in all of North America – maybe even the world. You’ll head west on I-70, turning off Rt. 24 through Leadville (the highest incorporated city in the USA) and then on to Rt. 82. Up, up, up you’ll climb over Independence Pass, the summit of which is an unbelievable 12,093 feet. The surrounding alpine tundra is stark and gorgeous, and the views of nearby Mount Elbert, Colorado’s highest peak, are nothing short of stunning. After you’ve soaked it all in, head down into the famed mountain town of Aspen for lunch in its charming downtown village. Bonus: if you’re driving in September, you’ll be rewarded with the bursting gold wonder of Aspen trees changing for fall.
NOTE: If you’re taking this route up until early June or after the beginning of October call the Colorado Dept. of Transportation (1-877-315-7623) to make sure Independence Pass is open.
Interstate 70 takes you to Colorado’s classic sights.
Just as you start your climb into the Rockies out of the Denver area, pull off at Exit 254 for a quick Genesee Park detour, and discover where the wild west still lives on. Genesee Park is home to a herd of buffalos – the descendants of the last wild buffalo herd in North America. Need a little more buffalo in your life? You’re in luck: nearby is the Buffalo Bill Museum and Gravesite, devoted to the wild west showman and pioneer.
The I-70 Corridor is lined with some of Colorado’s most popular ski resorts and villages – and one of the classiest and picturesque is Vail. It’s a year-round playground, with the beautiful Betty Ford Alpine Gardens (the world’s highest botanical gardens), a wide array of dining options and a gondola ride that takes you to the top of Vail Mountain for an awe-inspiring Rocky Mountain panorama.
Glenwood Canyon and Glenwood Springs
Before you turn off onto CO-82 headed toward Crawford, take in the sheer, 1,300-foot walls of Glenwood Canyon, carved over millions of years by the mighty Colorado River and Continental Divide snowmelt. This stretch of I-70 is one of the world’s greatest engineering achievements, seamlessly blending 40 bridges and viaducts spanning more than six miles into the natural landscape. After you’ve made it through the canyon, consider stopping in Glenwood Springs, home to one of Colorado’s most famed natural hot springs – and at 122°F one of the hottest springs in the world. Don’t worry, the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool cools the water down to about 90°F.
From there you’ll enjoy the rugged beauty of the Grand Mesa National Forest, before rolling through the charming towns of Paonia and Hotchkiss, where you’ll find artists’ studios, wineries, restaurants and much more. Before you know it, you’ll be rolling into Smith Fork Ranch’s welcoming arms …
US-285 & CO-50 Landmarks
This trip is slightly longer than I-70, but it might be even more impressive when it comes to mountain views.
One of Colorado’s most iconic sights can be found in Chafee County as you descend into the town of Buena Vista. Pull off at the Collegiate Peaks Scenic Overlook and soak in the amazing view of the Collegiate Peaks, a collection of “14ers” (mountains taller than 14,000 feet), including Mount Harvard, Mount Princeton and Mount Yale – hence their higher education-themed name. There aren’t many better photo ops in all of Colorado.
Located on the banks of the Arkansas River, Salida is well worth a visit, with a historic downtown that’s a magnet for artists, cyclists, craft beer-lovers and adventure sports enthusiasts. Stroll along the river, duck into a gallery, and grab lunch at an innovative gastropub. Salida’s the kind of Colorado mountain town that’s easy to fall in love with – you might end up looking at real estate listings!
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
Before you make it to Smith Fork Ranch, you’ll slide onto CO-50 and head toward a place like no other on earth: The Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Given National Park status in 1999, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison is home to sheer cliffs (soaring as tall as 2,000 feet), craggy spires, and plenty of outdoor activities, including hiking, wildlife viewing, rock climbing, rafting and more. Rugged Colorado beauty in all its glory.
From the Grand Junction Airport
If you fly in to Grand Junction, you’ll get a great opportunity to experience the essence of the Western Slope of Colorado, coupled with the alpine beauty of the Grand Mesa, the highest flat top mountain in America (10,839 ft.). The North Fork Valley, nestled up against the West Elk Range of the Rockies (where our ranch is located), is Colorado’s “Horn of Plenty”, an area of organic farms, cattle ranches, orchards and vineyards. It is a beautiful, relaxing 2 ½ – 3-hour drive to the ranch.