Take the high road. Take the narrow path. Take the road less traveled.
All can be accomplished with a drive on Shelf Road.
Constructed in 1892 as a stage coach route to connect Canon City to Cripple Creek, it was originally a toll road, allowing for people, goods and ore to be transported to and from the booming mines up north. According to goldbeltbyway.com, "A trip along the Shelf Road took six hours upgrade and four hours downgrade. Tolls ranged from thirty cents for a horse and rider to $1.75 for a six-horse stagecoach." The road follows Fourmile and Cripple Creeks and offers amazing views at every turn. It is a memorable, if not harrowing, ride. The south part was cut from the side of the cliffs, high above Fourmile Creek ... thus the name "shelf." It's hard to believe a stage coach pulled by a team of horses could safely maneuver on such a perilously narrow road with its sheer drop-offs, steep grades and sharp curves. While you may not need four wheel drive, a high clearance vehicle is recommended -- and to avoid the road in snowy or muddy conditions. Don't attempt with a trailer, camper, or motor home. Take your time and keep your eyes on the road!
Above is "Window Rock" which is easily spotted from the road on the northern end of Shelf Road (taken in early spring).
Below is a view (looking south) of the road with the Wet Mountains and the snow-capped Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the distance (taken early October).
DIRECTIONS (Adapted from BLM site): From Hwy 50 in Canon City, you can turn north at the Steinmeier traffic light (at Wal-Mart) or head North on Raynolds. Travel north on either road as both will curve to the left and intersect Field Avenue. Turn north (right) on Field and travel on this two-lane road for about five miles. It will join Fremont County Road 9 (also called Red Canyon Road or Garden Park Rd.) at a "Y" intersection. From here, continue north for 9.4 miles...when the pavement ends, that's when the fun begins! From here it's 14 miles to Cripple Creek.
To learn about the Shelf Road Climbing Area, click here.