RoadRUNNER’s Bucket List Roads: Unaweep-Tabeguache Scenic Byway

May 09, 2015 View Comments by

RoadRUNNER’s Bucket List Roads: Unaweep/Tabeguache Scenic BywayColorado Routes 141 & 145 – 

The Unaweep-Tabeguache Scenic Byway is located in the rugged and remote red rock country of western Colorado. In earlier times the area was home to the Ute Indians and, reportedly, an infamous outlaw, Butch Cassidy, used it as a hideout. A variety of wildlife still call the area home, including black bear, mountain lion, mule deer, and elk. The entire two-lane route is paved, but most of the connecting roads, leading into nearby Uncompahgre National Forest, are not. Mechanical varmints, in the form of ATVs and dirt bikes, may be encountered slithering across the paved route, so be mindful of your speed.

Unaweep in the Ute Language translates to “canyon with two mouths” and Tabeguache means “where the snow melts first.” The byway is kept open most of the year, but the warmer months obviously provide a more pleasant motorcycle experience.

Scenery: From Whitewater, CO, the route descends into Unaweep Canyon, following East Creek as it slices through the soft red sandstone. At around eight miles into the ride, stop at the Grand Valley Overlook for panoramic views of Unaweep Canyon. In Gateway, CO, the canyon walls narrow as the route hugs close to the rust-colored Dolores River’s cascading flow. Precipitous thousand-foot striated canyon walls press in on the road. Tabletop flat mesas and verdant valleys are a frequent companion.

Curves: Both sweeping and some tight curve apexes are the order of the day, particularly along the mid-section of SR 141. The asphalt roadway writhes, like an uncoiling snake, through breathtaking buttes, mesas, and peaks.

Points of Interest: In addition to the splendid scenery, there are several noteworthy points of interest along the route:

  • Driggs Mansion Ruins: At the foot of Thimble Rock lie the remains of Driggs Mansion. The home was built between 1814 and 1818 for Colonel Lawrence Driggs, who was an author, socialite, and attorney from New York. It’s unclear whether Driggs and his family ever occupied their remotely sited home. Unfortunately, time, weather, and vandals have taken their toll on the once grand structure.
  • Gateway Auto Museum: A glittering collection of some 50 classic cars awaits visitors at the museum’s various themed galleries. Find it adjacent to the Gateway Canyons Resort just off Route 141 in Gateway, CO.
  • Remains of Hanging Flume: Some 30-miles south of Gateway, CO, the remains of a water flume cling precipitously to a sheer rock wall. The original seven-mile long wooden aqueduct was completed in 1891. This impressive engineering feat, reportedly, carried millions of gallons of water a day to a nearby gold mine.
  • Uravan, CO: There are several abandoned towns along the route, but no trace is left of Uravan, CO, except for a historical marker. This was a U.S. Government town established in 1936. It was named for the uranium, vanadium, and radium processed here for World War II’s Manhattan Project. Radiation contamination ultimately made this a Superfund Site, resulting in the elimination of all structures and the application of various other intensive remediation processes.

Services: Because this is generally a remote landscape, be sure to gas up, fill up the water bottle, and pack a snack before venturing out on the byway.

Traffic: Traffic jams are highly unlikely!

Distance: Approximately 133 miles between Whitewater and Placerville, CO

Time Required: Allow three hours

Technical Difficulty: Most any street bike can accommodate this route, but new riders should have some previous experience with mountain roads in remote areas or go with a group.

Website: www.utbyway.com

 

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