After the summer vacation season officially ends on Labor Day Weekend, the long waiting lines start to die down at the National Parks. Vacation travel routes through the vast wide open spaces eventually return to a low traffic volume, which amounts to a fraction of the number of automobiles that are on the road during the peak summer season. The wayside scenic overlook parking lots are nearly empty and it easier pull off the side of the road to take a closer look around at whatever catches the eye.
Colorado State Road 13 is a scenic drive that few travel brochures mention. In fact, few tourists use this road because SR 13 does not run by any of the major National Park destinations. SR 13 connects a few small towns and farm communities in northwestern Colorado with a main road that goes through the High Plains of Southeastern Wyoming up to the Bighorn. This region is full of wide open spaces that offer unobstructed views that stretch out to the horizon. The kind of tourists that are most familiar with SR 13 are outdoor adventurists and wild game hunters that really want to get away from it all. Needless to say, there is not much traffic on this patch of pavement, especially during the fall season.
The photos were shot on State Road 13 between the towns of Craig and Rifle, Colorado. Craig is a fairly large town that offers modern amenities, lodging and plenty of good eateries. Craig is a good starting point for the long drive north to the Bighorn National Forest in Wyoming. The town of Rifle is located where SR 13 dead ends at Interstate Highway 70, just east of Grand Junction, which is where the picturesque Colorado National Monument can be found.
Cruising down SR 13 is as smooth sailing as it gets. As mentioned earlier, few tourists travel this route, so the only reason to hit the brakes is when there is an urge to pull over to enjoy the view. This leisurely travel route offers plenty of time to check out the historic markers and old weathered wooden ranch buildings that dot the landscape along the way.
The landscape along SR 13 is an interesting topic in itself. In this region, the high plains meet the mesa lands, where the foothills of the Rocky Mountain Range begin. The rocky outcrops stand high over the grassy meadows, so this is a good place to spot wildlife. The deer, elk and pronghorn present great photography opportunities during the early morning hours and at dusk. The high meadows are also a good place to do some bird watching when the w migrations begin. Watching the blue, black and white color Magpies feed along this road is quite entertaining to do.
Some people are destined to meander and a scenic drive is their pathway to discovery. Just about the only way to stumble across SR 13 is to have a strong preference for driving on the two lane side roads. State Road 13 may not be a primary scenic byway that draws a lot of attention, but this actually is a good thing. Colorado SR 13 definitely is a road less traveled and there are plenty of scenic views to enjoy!
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