The little community of Fraser, Colorado, no longer qualifies as a well-kept secret―not since the recent explosion of second homes spilled over from neighboring Winter Park. But the countryside still harbors a few surprises. One is County Road 50, a scenic treasure unknown to most except longtime locals and forest rangers. If you take the drive by early October, you may catch the last shimmer of fall color. Later, its charms are more subtle but still lovely.
Before heading out, stop in town at Sharky's Eatery, a casual fueling station, to tank up on hearty breakfast burritos, huevos rancheros, or their signature potato huevos.
To begin the drive, branch left off U.S. 40 just north of Fraser's business district, and turn onto County Road 5. After 1/4 mile, turn left onto County Road 50 (Crooked Creek Road). It soon becomes gravel and dirt as it threads through dense woods that part to afford glimpses of Sheep Mountain and its foothills.
The sight of those peaks can take your breath away. In some places the aspens clump together in great Midas piles; elsewhere they riddle the conifers like kernels of maize in a bowl of peas, or run in streaks like parakeet tail-feathers, yellow on green. A few cumulus clouds and a turquoise sky complete the autumn palette.In two miles, when the road comes to a T, turn right on Forest Road 139. Drive about another 8 1/2 miles, then turn right (north) on Forest Road 133; go slowly and watch for rough spots. It's 14 miles to the road's reunion with U.S. 40, and then another 3 miles to Hot Sulphur Springs. This pleasantly shabby little town harbors two delightful surprises: the Grand County Museum, with a vintage schoolhouse, and the Hot Sulphur Springs Resort & Spa.
This 19th-century resort has been upgraded and, after years of neglect, the spa has been refurbished. Before heading on for an early dinner in Granby, take a soak in one of 22 private and communal pools, indulge in a spa treatment, and watch your cares float away―a perfect way to end an autumn idyll.
Fraser is 65 miles northwest of Denver via I-70 and U.S. 40. Before heading out, check road conditions with the Sulphur Ranger District (970/887-4100).
Grand County Museum. A complex of historic buildings includes a 1924 schoolhouse and an 1897 jail. 11-4 Wed-Sat; $4 adults, $2 ages 6-12. 110 E. Byers Ave., Hot Sulphur Springs; (970) 725-3939.
Hot Sulphur Springs Resort & Spa. A day's soak costs $14.50; spa treatments start at $45; rooms from $88. 5609 County Rd. 20, Hot Sulphur Springs; (800) 510-6235 or www.hotsulphursprings.com.
Sharky's Eatery. Breakfast and lunch daily. 221 Doc Susie Ave., Fraser; (970) 726-7149.
The Silver Spur Steakhouse & Saloon. Log-beamed restaurant serves lunch and dinner daily. 15 E. Agate Ave., Granby; (970) 887-1411.