Colorado is known for having majestic mountains, scenic valleys, sprawling prairies, and an abundance of wildlife - but millions of years ago, the land in which we currently live looked very different. However, relics of the past have been preserved throughout the state, and now serve as reminders of bygone times.

The Highway of Legends Scenic Byway offers spectacular views of some of the most amazing rock formations in the Centennial State. Driving past this stunning stretch of stone slabs in the Spanish Peaks Wilderness of southeastern Colorado is also like transporting back in time.

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The Apishapa Phase was a prehistoric culture that lasted from 1000 to 1400. It was named based on an archaeological site in the Lower Apishapa Canyon in Colorado. It was during this geological phase, more than 20 million years ago, that the Spanish Peaks were formed.

Among the most unusual features of the Spanish Peaks are the great dikes that radiate out from the mountains like the spokes of a wheel. These dikes were created as a result of volcanoes moving the rocks, and magma hardening in the cracks. They range from one to a hundred feet wide and can be up to fourteen miles long. Some are single dikes, while others are sets of parallel dikes.

These unique rock formations are easily visible from the highway north of the peaks. Several can be seen up close on back dirt roads, and one, known as the Apishapa Arch, on the south side of the peaks can actually be driven through.

In 1934, came the creation of Cordova Pass Road, as well as Apishapa Arch.

Jose de Jesus Cordova owned a ranch near Aguilar, Colorado, and dreamed of a road that would conveniently connect his hometown to Cuchara Pass. Another main reason for wanting to build the road was to provide access for coal miners to commute between Aguilar and Weston. Cordova secured funding for the project, which the Civilian Conservation Corps helped to complete. Prior to 1934, the roadway was known as Apishapa Pass.

Jeffrey Beall via Wikimedia/CC BY-SA 4.0
Jeffrey Beall via Wikimedia/CC BY-SA 4.0

Apishapa Arch was carved through one of the volcanic dikes on the slopes of the Spanish Peaks. The stone tunnel in Las Animas County sits at an elevation of 10,151 feet. It remains a prominent and historic Colorado landmark, plus makes for a great photo opportunity. It's not every day that you get to drive right in the middle of igneous rocks right?

RELATED: Are You Brave Enough to Drive Through Colorado's Phantom Canyon?

To reach the site, take State Highway 12 (Highway of Legends) to the top of Cuchara Pass, then turn east on County Road 46 and drive 9.9 miles to the Arch. The road may be difficult to drive on during the winter.

Apishapa Arch by Jeffrey BeallCC BY-SA 4.0 (No Changes Made)   

Find Your Way to Colorado's Rattlesnake Arch

Today we're checking out one of Grand Junction's best hikes. We're gonna hike out past the Colorado National Monument towards the McInnis Recreation area to find the Rattlesnake Arches right here in Western Colorado. This hike takes most of the day, but the payoff at the end is totally worth it. Scroll on as we join Alice Ford for this trek through the high desert.

Gallery Credit: Wes Adams

Take a Tour of Colorado's Amazing Rattlesnake Arch

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Gallery Credit: Waylon Jordan

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