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Colorado's Scenic Byways- 2 of 4: Flat Tops Trail

Interpretive signs in Yampa
Interpretive signs in Yampa

Colorado has twenty five scenic byways, ten of which fall on the national America's Byways program, designated for their historic, cultural, natural, archaeological, recreational, and scenic qualities.  In the first article of this group, I covered the Colorado River Headwaters Byway.  Our second favorite accessible byway in the state is the Flat Tops Trail in Northwestern Colorado, which stretches from Meeker to Yampa along the northside of the White River, over Ripple Creek and Dunkley Passes, through the White River and Routt National Forests.

This is a beautiful drive, with staggering views of the Flat Tops, a sawed-off looking range of mountains that rise to over 12,000 feet.  The elevation climb of the drive alone is spectacular; Meeker sits at 6249', rising up to 10,343' at Ripple Creek Pass, and back down to 7892' in Yampa.  The small, rural towns along the way offer limited lodging and dining, but this short 80 mile stretch of is through one of the most beautiful sections of Colorado.

In Meeker, there are several lodging options, as there are in Yampa, so you can start/end in either town, depending on where you're headed afterwards.  The Rustic Lodge and the White River Inn in Meeker both have an ADA room with accessible bathroom and parking.  The Mesa House Bed and Breakfast has a brand new ADA suite but not designated parking (much of that is due to lack of paving in these rural areas).  The Sleepy Cat Guest Ranch has two doable cabins with a small threshold in the entrance.  All the dining is accessible in Meeker, as is the Museum and the Town Park.  Don't miss breakfast from the Meeker Bakery, and the best burgers at Clark's. 

From Meeker, the road takes you along the flattest stretch of the tour to Buford, which only offers the Buford Store and Lodge, which, laughingly, is only accessible if you bring your own ramp, but many people actually do, including one regular customer. 

From there you climb up to Ripple Creek Pass, where there is only accessible lodging at the Vaugh Lake and White River Campgrounds, the Ripple Creek Lodge is not accessible.  The interpretive signage along this route is either accessible by road or accessible trail, as is the signage along the next section, Dunkley Pass.  The East Fork Trail here is not accessible, but the rest stop is.

The next town of Phippsburg is brief, blink and you might miss it!  There isn't any accessible lodging or dining in "P-Burg," but from here you're just a short distance from Yampa, where the Oak Tree Inn has two ADA rooms and the Van Camp Cabins have four cabins that are accessible. 

The food in Yampa is legendary in the area; the Antlers Cafe and Penny's Diner are must-stops, and both fully accessible with restrooms.  Weston's Country Corner is accessible but without an accessible restroom, and the Flat Tops Restaurant is at the Royal Hotel, which isn't accessible, but the restaurant is, including restroom. 

Also in Yampa, the museum has a tight path of travel but is do-able, and the Ranger's office is fully accessible and hosts naturalists and information on the area.

This tour definitely puts the scenic in Scenic Byway, but keep reading, the Gold Belt Tour and the Los Caminos Antiguos byways are next up...


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