RoadRUNNER’s Bucket List Roads: The Silver Thread Scenic Byway (Colorado State Route 149)

Oct 08, 2016 View Comments by

Colorado Route 149

State Route 149 begins at its junction with U.S. 160 in South Fork, CO, and snakes northward through the San Juan Mountains to U.S. 50. Along the way it passes through the Rio Grande National Forest. Riders cross the Continental Divide at Spring Creek Pass at an elevation of 10,901 feet.

Points of Interest:

  • South Fork, CO: Originally built to support mining activities in Creede, South Fork is now a tourist stop and a good place to gas up before heading into the San Juan Mountains.
  • Creede, CO: Located in a scenic box canyon, Creede was the last of Colorado’s silver boomtowns in the 19th century. In the 21st century, the former mining town is a tourist destination, with shopping venues, jeep rides, live theater, and more.
  • Waterfalls: Clear Creek Falls and South Clear Creek Falls are just off of Route 149 between Creede and Lake City.
  • Lake City, CO: This quintessential western town has some-200 historic buildings. It is also near the site of the Alferd Packer Massacre, where a group of travelers became lost in a snowstorm and resorted to cannibalism.
  • Gunnison, CO: It’s approximately nine miles from the route’s northern terminus with U.S. 50 to Gunnison. With a vibrant cultural scene, the town is a prime location to stop for lunch, for the night, or for a weekend.

Best Time to Go: Late spring through early fall. The waterfalls are at their peak flow, however, in the springtime.

Scenery: The landscape encompasses old mining and logging camps, enchanting wilderness, and national forest lands. Much of the route follows the meandering Rio Grande River through rugged valley, which is often deep. The overlook of Lake San Cristobal is breathtaking. While pine forest is present most of the way, the northernmost section of the route tracks through an arid landscape. The small towns have an inviting Old West vibe. Riding south to north is considered to be more scenic by some.

Curves: Almost continuous, but mostly sweepers, with moderate elevation changes.

Traffic: Generally light

Distance: Approximately 118 miles

Time Required: Two to three hours one way

Technical Difficulty: Moderate



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