20 Sights Along Colorado’s Interstate 25 – From the Old Cone to the “Batman Building” to Natural Fort | Content reserved for subscribers
Coming from New Mexico or Wyoming, travelers on Interstate 25 in Colorado are greeted by this familiar sign. “Welcome to colorful Colorado.”
Travel the expanse of this highway that crosses the Front Range, and it’s easy to pick up on the nickname.
From Fishers Peak in Trinidad, to Greenhorn Mountain closer to Pueblo, to Castle Rock and the 14,000 feet like Pikes Peak and Longs Peak in between, the natural beauty is eye-catching. As are the sights closer to the sidewalk.
Whether you are a visitor or a resident, you have probably wondered about some of them. We are here with the answers.
We will start our journey south and continue our way:
Cartopia Art Museum
Just outside of downtown Trinidad, you might spot the shed with colorful letters and even more colorful content. It’s home to the odd local breed of motorheads: those with a whimsical touch. They call themselves “cartists”, transforming vehicles into fantastic cars – or robots or complete dragons. More than 25 have been exhibited at the museum.
North of Trinidad, an exit marks a dark history site. In the ghost town of Ludlow, a monument stands in memory of a massacre.
On April 20, 1914, the Colorado National Guard clashed with striking miners from a tented camp. More than two dozen are believed to have died, including 11 children and two women. They died in an underground cellar, strangely preserved as part of the memorial.
Huerfano means orphan in Spanish. “So Huerfano is an orphan who rests here as the world passes,” we heard a geologist say of this 300-foot mound of ancient rubble. Located on private property between Walsenburg and Colorado City, it looks like a miniature volcano. The cone formed over millions of years, rising through the ash of a time of violent eruptions.
Gallery at 64
This is what Ray Shaw called his dynamic space, so named for the exit number that leads to the otherwise indefinable block of a building. Once inside, we admired the paintings of a man with a lifelong interest in art and wildlife.
Maybe you saw the name on the exit near Colorado City and thought it must be a mistake. Surely there is no such gorge on these pristine plains to the east. But indeed, where you least expect it on a country road, the land breaks up for rugged cliffs and the best view you’ve ever heard of. Although on public land, Graneros Gorge has been largely overlooked.
You cannot pass through the city of steel without passing through the heart of historic industry. Colorado Fuel and Iron Co. established the plant in the 1880s. Parts of the plant are now operated by Chicago-based EVRAZ North America, which produces rail, pipe, and rod shipped beyond the South from Colorado.
Pikes Peak International Circuit
The stands you see today have been reduced by tens of thousands of seats over the years. The glorious days of pros circling the oval are long gone. But the track south of Fountain has managed to survive since its beginnings in the late 90s. The racecourse operates year-round with enthusiasts testing their limits.
Al Kaly Shrine Mule Train
In Colorado Springs, not far from the Broadmoor World Arena, a very different venue is turning heads across the freeway. An old dairy farm retains its silo and barn, curiously surmounted by a statue of a mule.
Also, there is a clubhouse with trophies and photos dating back decades. This is where a local club maintains its 65 years of experience by riding mules in parades and participating in drills all over the country. The mule train is considered the last of its kind within Shriners International, the Masonic society founded in 1870.
Greenland open space
Between Monument and Larkspur, between buttes and mesas underestimated in the traffic jam, a nostalgic diffusion appears frozen in time. A dirt road stretches to a trailhead, passing farm animals and old structures, including a school. A picnic pavilion now graces the former general store in what was a major shipping center along the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad.
All is earth and sky beyond, inspiring a poet. After taking the train, Helen Hunt Jackson is credited with the name Greenland.
Jellystone Park in Larkspur
Between Larkspur and Castle Rock, it was impossible to miss the expansion of what appears to be a combination theme park and small family village on the west side of the highway. This is, in fact, one of those Yogi Bear themed family getaways. It calls itself an RV resort, also featuring a range of modern accommodation, a water play area, sports courts, a restaurant and more.
The family tourist destination north of Colorado Springs doubles in size after the remake
Denver Waste Management Building
You’re not the first person to wonder what this bronzed, imposing, arched building is like near downtown Denver near the Sixth Avenue Freeway, which towers over the west side of the highway. Perhaps an extravagant religious base? A temple? “The Batman Building?” This is what someone called it on a Reddit thread, in which a response emerged:
“I wish it was something more…exciting. But it’s the Denver sewage management building. They handle the poo.
The Society of Architectural Historians calls this bizarre seat a “neo-art deco reverie.” The group reports that the designer drafted it “in the spirit of the Works Progress Administration of the 1930s.”
Here’s another whim to go with Mile High Stadium. Next to it is this tall, circular, multicolored, retro structure that, yes, looks like a check-in palace. It’s more of a trendy micro-apartment concept, as developers explained in 2014 when they reimagined the former VQ Hotel. Units range from 330 to 820 square feet across 13 floors.
The grizzly rose
Nothing remarkable to passers-by who see it tucked between an industrial strip (however, the red exterior of the old-fashioned saloon is intriguing). But for country music fans, Grizzly Rose is a special haven – “truly one of the world’s last great honky tonks,” the website reads. Live music, line dancing and riding mechanical bulls have been a tradition since the venue opened in 1989.
It’s the name of the company that catches the eye in the Dacono flyover location. It’s the seat of a cult of sorts, a deep-pocketed community of road warriors across the country. Retired couples are selling their homes and opting for an EarthRoamer, a beastly, sleek and luxurious off-road traveler built from high-end Ford trucks.
It was a roadside attraction before there was I-25. Inside you can see the grainy 1950s images, those timeless block letters hanging over an empty field. Johnstown and Milliken farmers still congregate indoors, as do weary truckers, for a hot meal and the famous cinnamon rolls.
From the highway near Timnath, you can barely make out the castle-like pillars of Bill Swets’ house under the Harmony Road bridge. Its riverside property, however, is no secret. The Swetsville Zoo is home to a group of quirky iron creatures that Swets has spent his life modeling from farm and car parts. For years they have been free for families to admire.
Budweiser Event Center
Everyone knows the Broncos, Nuggets and Avalanche. The pro teams. But fewer know the Eagles, the American Hockey League team from Colorado. They take to the ice in this sprawling, glassy arena – quite complex for little Loveland. The Budweiser Event Center is located on the Larimer County Fairgrounds.
Bee Family Centennial Farm Museum
North of Fort Collins, in the farm fields east of the highway, there is a modest house and an inconspicuous set of paddocks, corrals, and sheds. Here, the unlikely story of one family’s efforts to cultivate the arid land is told. This is the Bee family, who began to carve out a life here in 1882. The museum tour visits several animals and pieces of machinery, as well as the former migrant worker house, wagon barn and metal shops and wool.
National Polecat Conservation Center
There doesn’t seem to be much going on around Carr as it approaches the Wyoming border. But off the road there is an effort to restore one of North America’s rarest mammals. It is the government refuge for American polecats, which in 1981 were rediscovered in the neighboring state. The furry, button-nosed, and googly-eyed creatures look cute, but they fiercely prey on the prairie dogs that also live in this prairie.
Before you leave Colorado, there’s one last thing that goes with the state’s “colorful” motto. It is this particular, low-lying arrangement of rock outcrops and spires that lives up to its local name. Unfortunately, the natural fort has been subjected to unnatural phenomena, such as spray paint and litter.