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Peak to Peak
The Peak to Peak Highway is a designated Scenic Byway. It begins as CO Highway 7 in Estes Park, passes Lily Mountain and Twin Sisters, then turns south just past Allenspark on CO Highway 72, goes to Nederland where it continues south on CO Highway 119, through Black Hawk, through Clear Creek Canyon and down to I-70.
There were many gold mines along Highways 72 and 119. The mine tailings (scrap rock from the mines that was dumped down the side of the mountain) are visible from the small town of Ward down past Blackhawk. Weekend prospectors still dredge for golden flakes in the creeks. There are a few old mines along the way that allow the public to pan for gold in the creek---for a price, of course. Children find panning exciting whether they find gold or not.
Panning and rockhounding are considered casual-use prospecting because they create minimal environmental disturbance and they don’t require the use of motorized equipment. Gold panning uses shallow, flat pans that separate gold from other materials. Pans are filled with water and then tipped, which washes out lighter materials and leaves heavier gold behind. Rockhounds collect rocks and minerals. The Bureau of Land Management allows gold panning, rockhounding and non-mechanized sluicing on most public lands without requiring miners to obtain permits.
IN BOULDER COUNTY, be VERY SURE you are on public FEDERAL land. Boulder County has a complete ban on any type of prospecting, including panning. They are aggressively enforcing the ban put into effect in 2006.
This is a lovely drive, passing interesting sites and places along the way. Gravel roads crossing the main highway lead to ghost towns at Hesse and Apex; others lead to high country lakes. There are many aspen stands, so it is a golden marvel in the fall. From Estes Park to I-70, the Peak to Peak Highway is about a 3 hour drive. Established in 1918, this is Colorado's oldest scenic byway.
~ In Denver, merge south onto I-25 S on the Colorado Springs ramp.
~ Take exit 209B for US 6W/6th Ave.
~ After about half a mile, keep left at the fork and merge on US 6W.
~ Exit onto I-70 W toward Grand Junction, then take exit 243 toward
~ Hidden Valley/Central City, the southern terminus of the byway.
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