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South Platte Trail Scenic and Historic Byway

Explore Colorado's Northeast Corner

Mileage19 miles (30 km)
DurationThe duration is an estimate of a one-way drive and does not include any stops or side-trips.30 minutes
SeasonsThe seasons listed are the best seasons for this scenic drive. If Winter is not mentioned, the road may be closed during the winter.Spring, Summer, and Fall
RoadwaysColorado Highway 28, US Highways 138 and 385, and Country Road 27.8
ServicesThe cities or towns listed have either Food or Services such as gas, hotels, pharmacies, etc.Julesburg, CO, and Big Springs, NE
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Elevation Graph for South Platte Trail Scenic and Historic Byway

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Close to the Nebraska border, this 19-mile loop travels around the South Platte River from Julesburg to Ovid and back. This historic route was well-traveled by traders, gold seekers, and fur trappers heading west to seek their fortunes.

Depot Museum - Photo by Sally Pearce, CDOT
Depot Museum - Photo by Sally Pearce, CDOT

You can start anywhere along the loop, but we describe it beginning at the Colorado Welcome Center in Julesburg (I1). Along with regional information, gas, RV parking, and a picnic area, discover a monument dedicated to the Pony Express Trail. In 1860, Julesburg was the only Pony Express home station in Colorado Territory. Display panels tell the story of Julesburg, Native American Indians, the buffalo, and life in the wild west.

Before beginning the byway, or at the end, explore Julesburg. Though small and sparsely populated, you’ll find lodging, restaurants, services, museums, a golf course, and antique shops. Catch a movie or performance at the Hippodrome Arts Centre (A1). Opened in 1919, the remodeled theatre shows first run movies, and features an art gallery and event space. The Old Ford Garage and Museum (M3) houses Lee Kizer’s personal collection of antique vehicles, restored gas pumps, vintage signs, photographs, and regional artifacts. The museum is open upon request. Fort Sedgwick was established in Ovid to protect travelers and telegraph lines from battles with Indians and the threat of robbers. Though the fort no longer stands, learn about its vivid history at the Fort Sedgwick Museum (M1). Open Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day. Free admission. Nearby, the Depot Museum (M2) is on the Colorado State Register of Historical Properties. Displays include Pony Express and Union Pacific Railroad memorabilia, as well as period clothing, buggies, and artifacts. Open Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day. Free admission. Don’t miss the roar of engines and thrilling action at the Julesburg Drag Strip (A2) located at the Julesburg Municipal Airport. Check race schedule online.

The byway begins heading west on Co Rd 28. Along the way, stop at 11 pullouts which feature interpretive markers that recant the history of this area.

At the junction of CO-385, turn right to head from Ovid back to Julesburg. This section of the road traces the Lincoln Highway, the first coast-to-coast car route in the nation. Today, most people cross on I-76. Ovid was a prosperous town in 1925 when the Great Western Sugar Company built a large sugar beet processing plant here. The factory is no longer standing, but historic equipment can be seen in Town Park.

Consider a short detour from the byway by heading east on CO-385 to Jumbo Reservoir/Julesburg Reservoir (W1). The reservoir is a draw for anglers fishing for walleye, crappie and bluegill, as well as swimming, boating, hiking, and camping. A bird-watching hot spot, discover shorebirds, hawks, bald eagles, owls and many other species that pass here during spring and fall migrations. There is hunting nearby at Julesburg State Wildlife Area.

There are three other State Wildlife Areas offering hunting and recreation opportunities, but no camping or facilities. Pony Express State Wildlife Area (H1), Red Lion State Wildlife Area (H2), and Sand Draw State Wildlife Area (H3). The South Platte River is also popular for fly-fishing. Try your luck catching brown and rainbow trout, walleye, and smallmouth bass.

The byway continues back to Julesburg or head over to the nearby Pawnee Pioneer Trails Scenic Byway.

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