The road between Sedalia and Woodland Park has more American flags than anywhere outside of the D.C. beltway. It’s reasonable, especially considering that if the rest of America looked like the two-lane 50-mile stretch of perfection in the middle of Colorado, I’d drape everything I own in the Stars and Stripes too.
However, the rest of America doesn’t look this way, and that’s what makes this road so special. Unassuming and alarmingly close to the metro area (the best place to pick up Highway 67 is in Sedalia, 20 minutes from Aurora) the road between two dramatically different Colorado towns is among the most diverse and picturesque. Anglers know the road well, the highway crisscrosses the Platte River several times and fishermen inhabit the cabins and lots off of the highway to fly fish the Platte from early Saturday morning to Sunday evening.
But the road itself is my treasure for wandering out of the metro area and beyond the hill toward Castle Rock. Sedalia, a town of just over 200 people, is a small stop on the way around the mountains toward Colorado Springs, but it’s worth visiting nonetheless. Cherokee Ranch and Castle may be the biggest draw for the small town, and the Scottish-style castle overlooking the town makes the 10-minute drive from Sedalia worth the jaunt out of town. Cherokee Ranch looks sharply out of place; its architecture looks like it predates Christopher Columbus. The ranch is certainly not that old, but it is old enough to have one of the largest tracts of open acreage near the metro area. It’s alarming and stunning to see an estate that stretches as far as eyes can see — the 3,000 acres run right up to the nearby Rampart mountain range.
Sedalia is a sleepy small town, mostly missing any kitsch or manufactured charm of a small Colorado town desperately trying to draw visitors and weekend money.
To be sure, there’s an ol’ timey General Store and a handful of antique stores dropped into the town’s small streets, but for the most part, Sedalia is about everyday people, doing everyday things. Want proof? The first and best place to stop in Sedalia is O’Brien’s Cafe (5585 U.S. 85) for a cup of coffee before tackling Highway 67.
A turn south from U.S. 85, the road winds quickly out of Sedalia and into the Rampart range toward Pike National Forest.
About one quarter of the way from Sedalia to the town of Deckers, civilization fades into the distance. One third of the way, stress goes away, and by the time you’ve hit the three-mile dirt stretch of Highway 67, Monday is too far in the future to worry about.
(Oh yeah, Highway 67 becomes a dirt road for about three miles inside the national forest, which by any measure is pretty great.)
There aren’t many attractions on the way from Sedalia to Deckers, but plenty places to stop. Church youth groups and camps make their summer homes along the way here and for good reason: between hiking, fishing, walking and wildflowers, there’s plenty to do and see only 45 minutes from the metro area. Painfully dull when you’re 12 years old, we all remember, but Valhalla when we’re tied to our desks at 42.
The going is literally and figuratively slow between Sedalia and Deckers. There are plenty of places to stop and enjoy nature or a picnic lunch, but the speed limit is also 25 miles per hour in many spots. The road is fairly narrow — dirt in some places — and nearly winds through many people’s backyards. Cabins, summer homes and escapes all line the Platte River because those buyers found this place first.
Just 25 miles from our journey’s beginning, Deckers comes up suddenly. To be fair, Deckers is a restaurant, general store and patio. The fork in the road offers two directions from where we come in. The road left goes toward Colorado Springs, the road right goes somewhere into legend — then hits Bailey.
Bikers line their motorcycles near the road and families take pictures in the parking lot in front of the store, here. If you’re willing to walk five minutes, it quickly becomes apparent why Deckers exists: the streams here look lifted straight from Montana’s Bitterroot Valley, of “A River Runs Through It” fame.
A handful of handpainted boards boast the glory of more than 20 flavors of soft serve at the small restaurant in Deckers — that’s Baskin Robbins country, people — and an old couple behind the counter deliver the goods. A soft serve cone with a curious green stripe circumnavigating shocking white ice cream confirms pistachio flavor can exist in the middle of nowhere; even if the pistachio in question is as authentic as politician’s smile.
From Deckers to Woodland Park is another 25 miles. Motorcycles echo between the mountain walls out of Deckers traveling south. For the most part, the anglers have given way to campers, and the road south is full of people looking to set up lawn chairs and park for a weekend out of Colorado Springs. The views here, in rolling hills and heavily forested areas is dramatic and stark. Even now, years after a catastrophic wildfire swept through the area, entire hills are still look charred and barren.
The American flags are strangely missing between Deckers and Woodland Park, which is not to say that the people aren’t proud of where they live, rather underscores how dramatically different the first half of the trip is from the second half. The road toward Woodland Park is faster, paved, and open for more lanes of travel. There are organized campgrounds instead of pull-off areas, and the views of rivers and wildflowers give way to sneaks of Pikes Peak in the distance.
Woodland Park, which proudly proclaims itself as the “Town Above The Clouds” at roughly 9,000 feet, is equal parts tourist trap and suburb of Colorado Springs. The town of a few thousand has a bigger main street, antler archways and T-shirts with the town’s name on it — Sedalia is the ultimate contradistinction — but is all the same entertaining. Many already know about the Hungry Bear here (111 E. Highway 24), which is packed on the weekends thanks to its divine breakfast, but if you’ve travelled highway in the way it deserves to be (read: slowly) something stronger for the evening is our reward.
BierWerks (121 E. Midland Ave.) is a hunk of craft brewing splendor stuck between a dinosaur museum and a parking lot. Its patio and beer list are worth the trip alone, and with a co-pilot to take the keys and the wheel all the way back home, having two certainly isn’t against the rules. If you’re flying solo, like I am, growlers are available for the ride back to the metro area.
And the beer will still be mostly cold by the time you get home. After all, you’re only 90 minutes away on the interstate.