Learning Landscapes
Print Page
Gold Belt Tour National Scenic Byway
Scenic Drives > Gold Belt Tour National Scenic Byway (CO) 
Loop route through the towns of Cañon City, Florence, Victor, Cripple Creek, and Florissant, Colorado.         
The Gold Belt Tour takes travelers along a historic, narrow-gauge railroad bed, an old stage road, and county roads. Designated a BLM back country byway, the route itself is often breathtaking, as are views of Pikes Peak and other mountain scenery. The byway retraces the historic travel routes connecting Cripple Creek and the Victor Mining District, site of the world’s largest Gold Rush. Cripple Creek now caters to gamblers and other visitors. The three legs of the 131-mile loop route include Phantom Canyon, Shelf, and High Park Roads. The Shelf Road Recreation Area offers excellent opportunities for sport rock climbing.
The byway is located 1 hour southwest of Colorado Springs or west of Pueblo, Colorado. From the north, it can be reached from U.S. Highway 24; the southern end can be reached from U.S. Highway 50. The three legs of the byway can all be reached from U.S. Highway 50 in the vicinity of Cañon City.
Visitor Activities
Scenic drives, birdwatching, wildlife viewing, plant viewing, geologic sightseeing, historic site, fossil viewing, hiking, mountain biking, picnicking,interpretation, and rock climbing.
Special Features
The geology and paleontology along the tour are exceptional. The Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, located on High Park Road less than 1 mile south of Florissant (34 miles west of Colorado Springs on U.S. Highway 24) features petrified redwoods and fossils of 35-million-year-old insects and plants. The Garden Park Fossil Area, on Garden Park-Shelf Road, 6 miles north of Cañon City (43 miles west of Pueblo on U.S. Highway 50), has yielded an abundance of dinosaur fossils. And the Indian Springs Trace Fossil Area on Phantom Canyon Road north of Florence (34 miles west of Pueblo on State Highway 115) contains 460-million-year-old tracks, trails, and burrows of arthropods.
Besides ancient history, the tour provides numerous highlights from more recent times, particularly the gold mining era of the late 1800s and early 1900s. Several historic mining towns are located on the route: Florence is 34 miles west of Pueblo on State Highway 115. Cripple Creek, a National Historic Landmark, can be reached by traveling 24 miles west of Colorado Springs on U.S. Highway 24, then turning south on State Highway 67 (Phantom Canyon Road) for about 19 miles. Victor, with a National Historic District in its downtown area, is another 5 miles beyond Cripple Creek on Phantom Canyon Road.
Permits, Fees, Limitations
There are restrictions on the use of trailers, campers, and motor homes on Shelf Road and Phantom Canyon Road. No vehicles over 25 feet in length are permitted on these roads.
Many of the towns along the Gold Belt Tour, including Cañon City, Cripple Creek, Florence, and Victor, cater to tourists and have fully-accessible hotel rooms, restaurants, and restrooms.
Camping and Lodging
Primitive camping is allowed on public lands and there is a public campground located in Red Canyon Park (12 miles north of Cañon City on Shelf Road), as well as numerous private campgrounds located near towns along the route. Lodging is available in Cañon City (43 miles west of Pueblo on U.S. Highway 50), Florence (34 miles west of Pueblo on State Highway 115), Florissant (34 miles west of Colorado Springs on U.S. Highway 24), Cripple Creek (about 18 miles southeast of Florissant on Teller County Road 1), and Victor (5 miles southeast of Cripple Creek on State Highway 67).
Food and Supplies
Food and supplies are available in Cañon City, Florence, Florissant, Victor, and Cripple Creek.
First Aid
There is no first aid available on-site. The nearest hospital is in Cañon City.
Additional Information
Two byway routes (Shelf Road and Phantom Canyon Road) are gravel roads that are winding and narrow, and in places are limited to one lane. The route is drivable by passenger vehicle, except for Shelf Road, which may require a four-wheel-drive vehicle under certain conditions, such as heavy rain or snow. Phantom Canyon Road (State Highway 67 north of Florence) is very narrow and cannot accommodate oversize vehicles, tractor-trailers, or large towed trailers. Roads can be slippery when wet.
Contact Information
BLM - Royal Gorge Field Office
3028 East Main Street
Cañon City, CO 81212
Tel: (719) 269-8500


Gold Belt Tour Photo

Travelers on the Gold Belt Tour National Scenic Byway should be prepared for narrow, winding routes and unexpected encounters with local inhabitants, such as these sheep on Shelf Road. (BLM)

Gold Belt Scenic Byway Map

Last updated: 10-23-2009