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    Gateway: on the road through the red rock canyons of Colorado

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    Joel Fulleda

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    Some time ago we received a very particular comment: a reader of the site was breathless in front of a panoramic road that cut in the middle a canyon del Colorado, seen during Jaaaaaaaags, an episode of The Grand Tour (season 2). This place had remained very impressed with her so much that she asked us for help in understanding where exactly that scene took place: well, thanks to our powerful means we immediately identified the location! The scene (of which you see two frames below) took place near Gateway, in Colorado, on a stretch of the Unaweep Tabeguache Scenic Byway.

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    Today we really want to talk to you about Gateway and of this splendid and unpronounceable scenic byway that starts south of Grand Junction and ends in Placerville, offering exciting views and Far West scenarios to anyone who decides to travel it in a wild on the road!


    • Where is Gateway located?
    • What to see at Gateway?
      • The Gateway Canyon Resort
    • On the road sulla Unaweep Tabeguache Scenic Drive
      • Itinerary on the scenic drive
    • Accomodation

    Where is Gateway located?

    The small town of Gateway is located near the Utah border in the central western region of Colorado. It can be reached via the CO-141 S (Unaweep Tabeguache Scenic Drive).

    The main reference points are:

    • Grand junction, a key town for visiting the Colorado National Monument (1 h away, 53 miles to north)
    • Telluride, an important tourist resort in a fabulous mountain setting, famous for its skiing facilities (2.12 h away, 103 miles to South East)
    For those who love adventure in 4x4 ... Gateway can also be reached from the Moab / Castle Valley area via the Dolores Triangle Safari Road (Gateway Road), a very long, dangerous and winding bumpy road that can only be traveled by a 4 × 4 : absolutely not recommended to those with no driving experience and a lot of time available!

    What to see at Gateway?

    The town's only “classic” tourist attraction is the Gateway Colorado Auto Museum, John Hendricks' exceptional collection of American cars that traces 100 years of automotive history. In the gallery you can see over 50 vehicles, among which some rare examples of the Thirties (Pierce Arrow, Supercharged Auburn, Duesenberg Model J LWB Transformable, Cord Phaeton) and Fifties (Cunningham C3 Continental Coupe, among others) stand out: practically a must for those who love striped stars engines.

    For the rest Gateway, it hosts a General Store with a bar and a gas station (the only one in the area for miles!), a few houses, three restaurants, a church and a school: just like in the best tradition of small towns in the American province! Most of the Gateway buildings (including the museum) are in adobe: a particular style that helps to recreate an authentic western atmosphere.

    The Gateway Canyon Resort

    As you may have guessed, Gateway's main attraction lies in its own exceptional location on the banks of the Dolores River: the real protagonist of this town is The Palisade, a monolithic rock formation that stands out with its bright red color in the Colorado sky. The fortunate location of Gateway has made it the home of one of the most exclusive resorts in the West: the vast and exclusive Gateway Canyon Resort & Spa, which boasts wonderful accommodations in adobe style with mountain views and high level services, including the helicopter flight to observe the spectacular natural surroundings from above.

    Check the availability of the resort

    On the road sulla Unaweep Tabeguache Scenic Drive

    As anticipated, the scenic route traveled by the protagonists of The Grand Tour was the Unaweep Tabeguache Scenic Drive, that's right south of Gateway gives its best, offering a spectacular panorama of the canyon carved into the red rock by the Dolores River. But that's not all! The scenic drive, along its extent of well 140 miles (walkable in about 3 hours without breaks), it offers some truly wonderful views over the wholeUnaweep Canyon, on the valleys, rivers, cliffs and peaks of the San Juan Mountains.

    The Indian name "A-a-weep," which translated means "canyon with two mouths" refers to the fact that one part (East Creek) "digs" towards the Gunnison River, and the other (West Creek) towards the Dolores River.

    Itinerary on the scenic drive

    Here's where you might stop on a route starting from Whitewater and ends the Placerville:

    Drigg Mansion: 25 miles after Whitewater it is necessary to stop to take a nice photo of the ruins of the Drigg Mansion, a 1914 house built by a certain Lawrence LaThourette Driggs with rocks from the surrounding canyons. But the Drigg Mansion wouldn't be so beautiful if the majestic profile of the Thimble Rock!

    27 miles south of Gateway, on the side of the road that runs alongside the river you will see the Coke Oven, an ancient oven dating back to 1880 used for the production of coke, a combustible material that burns without producing smoke.

    Hanging Flume: in the area of ​​Uravan (a town that takes its name from the Radium, Uranium and Vanadium that were extracted here) there were the Lone Tree Placer mines. To operate the equipment, the miners needed thousands of liters of water, which were brought to their destination via artificial wooden channels suspended on the walls of the ravine dug by the Dolores River: the length of the pipes was 7 miles. Today, from the top of a sensational overlook, you can see what remains of theHanging Flume: you will recognize the observation point easily, as it is located right on the road, at a parking lot 2 miles from the Coke Oven.

    If you are really motivated and have a 4 × 4 vehicle available, you can visit the Hanging Flume area in a much more in-depth way, reaching it from the other side of the river via the dirt road Y11 Rd, to be taken at Bedrock (not to be confused with Bedrock in Arizona): to help understand the correct turn, I mark this map. Bedrock can be reached via the CO-90, deviating from the scenic drive just before arriving in Naturita towards Bedrock / Paradox. After having traveled the Y11 Road by car, you can follow some itineraries on foot to discover the testimonies of the area's mining past. Here is a brochure with more details.

    paradox it is so called because near the town the course of the Dolores River digs the walls of the canyon at right angles, a more unique than rare geological phenomenon: paradoxical!

    A few miles after the Hanging Flume Overlook, following a dirt road on the right (see map at the top of the itinerary), you can arrive at a suggestive observation point on the confluence of the Dolores River and San Miguel River. About 4 miles from the viewpoint, on one side of the road you will see the Black Bridge, an ancient bridge over the Dolores River now closed to traffic. At the time it allowed to reach Bedrock and Paradox via the aforementioned Y11 Rd without necessarily having to reach Naturita.

    Panoramic point on the confluence of the two rivers
    Black bridge

    Before getting to Placerville and finish the itinerary, you will meet the tiny and pleasant towns of Redvale e Nortwood: enjoy in particular the last stretch of road, to be traveled in one breath between high wooded peaks that impose themselves on the sides of the road and on the horizon. This type of landscape will become more familiar to you as you get closer to the mountain resort of Telluride, but that's another story!


    If you are not interested in staying overnight at the Gateway Canyon Resort, you can find accommodation in Grand junction and Placerville: choose well according to the direction of your itinerary!

    All accommodations available in Grand Junction

    All accommodations available in Placerville


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