Many, many moons ago I got really into taking the scenic back roads. I mean who doesn’t love a good dirt road with epic scenery?!? #PointMade! One of our first scenic drives was Phantom Canyon Road, also known as the Gold Belt Tour Scenic and Historic Byway… well at least a portion of it. And that road has been one of my favorites to date!
It’s been on my list of places to revisit for years now and last weekend we finally got around to it!
The Road starts in Florence, Colorado and leads to Victor, Colorado or vice versa. It’s about 30 miles of unpaved road and it takes about 2 hours to complete. Unless you’re like me, then you’ll be making multiple stops to take photos and do some exploring along the route, then it will definitely take you longer than 2 hours!
The old dirt road follows the route of the Florence and Cripple Creek Railroad (F&CC) built in 1894. It was a built as a way to connect Florence to the goldfields of Cripple Creek and Victor. If you’re looking for them, you’ll notice plenty of old mining caves. These caves have long since been sealed but it’s still fun to wonder what they might have found in all those mining caves.
In it’s glory there were 12 established stations along the F&CC Railroad that serviced the trains hauling coal and supplies upgrade and gold ore downgrade to Florence’s smelters. With that kind of history it’s only natural that there a few tales of the road being haunted. Hence the name, Phantom Canyon Road.
The road is full of a ridged rocks and steep cliffs. While some consider this road one of the most dangerous in Colorado, we’ve definitely been on worse. Although I would say take your time to enjoy the route and slow down. This is definitely not a road you want to speed on.
You’ll cross over a few bridges. This beautiful red one by far being the most interesting. And definitely the most photogenic. There are also a few tunnels throughout the trail, but somehow I failed and I didn’t manage to get even a single photo of a tunnel. Blogger fail!
As always I’ve got a few “Know Before You Go” tips! ↓↓↓
- Start in Florence/Canon City. This is by far the easiest way to find the route. And while you can start at either end, I recommend starting “downhill” and going up.
- Stop and read the informational signs posted. We skipped all but those at the very end (at the start of the road in Victor). If you want to know about the history just stop and read them.
- Drive slow. There were many people driving way too fast on this road which made me wonder why they were driving on the road at all. Drive slow and enjoy the views.
- Leave no trace. Pack it out. Whatever saying you need to help you remember not to be a litter bug. I seriously couldn’t believe the amount of trash people have left behind on this beautiful scenic drive.
- There are a few picnic areas and bathrooms along the way. I use the term bathroom loosely but they’re there if you need them.
- There are also plenty of places to camp! So if camping is your thing I bet this is a beautiful spot to do some stargazing. BUT PLEASE MAKE SMOKEY THE BEAR PROUD AND PRACTICE FIRE SAFETY!
Remember → only you can prevent forest fires.
- Get out of your car and do some exploring. But, as always, be respectful of your surroundings.
- If you’d like, you can make a whole day of it and drive all 131 miles of the Gold Belt Tour!
- Be polite and courteous. Move over so other cars can pass when feasible.
- Don’t let your footwear hold you back. Wear some shoes you can do some exploring in.
Of course my best tip is to just enjoy the drive!
Now, please enjoy these photos from my drive! 🙂