Charging Up Colorado’s Electric Byways

Everything is going electric — even Colorado’s scenic byways. Sure, it’s easy to get around the city in an electric car for an eco-friendly commute, but what happens when you want to head west on a scenic road trip? Your green fantasies come to a screeching halt due to the lack of charging stations along the way. Or maybe you don’t own an electric vehicle and you are a green-conscious Coloradan who thinks long road trips with a gas-guzzling car are bad for the environment.   

Well, the state of Colorado doesn’t think you should have to choose. Working in collaboration together, the Colorado Department of Transportation, Colorado Tourism Office and Colorado Energy Office has partnered with the Colorado Scenic and Historic Byways Commission to achieve the goal of electrifying all 26 of the state’s Scenic and Historic Byways by 2030. 

As of last month, Colorado is now halfway to that goal with three of its latest designations — the Santa Fe Trail National Scenic and Historic Byway, the South Platte River Trail Scenic and Historic Byway and the West Elk Loop Scenic and Historic Byway. This brings them to 13 of the state’s byways recognized as Colorado Electric Byways.

Colorado electric byways

Ribbon cutting ceremony at the newly designated EV charging station by the South Platte River Trail in Julesburg.

The South Platte River Trail now includes a station near Julesburg and runs 19 miles. The West Elk Loop is the longest of the three new additions totaling 205 miles and includes five charging stations. The Santa Fe Trail is 188 miles long and has three charging stations in Trinidad, La Junta, and Lamar. 

We are well aware that transportation and travel are one of the biggest culprits of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, making E.V. an important piece of the puzzle in fighting climate change. Governor Polis recognized this with the 2021 Colorado Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reduction Roadmap. This plan lays the groundwork to achieve a reduction of greenhouse gases of 26 percent by 2025, 50 percent by 2030 and 90 percent by 2050. A key component of this goal is to electrify all its scenic byways.

Colorado electric byways

Charging up along Colorado electric byways.

“Not only does electrifying our scenic byways make Colorado a great place to explore in an electric vehicle, but it also expands the feasibility of EV travel across the state, including rural communities on the western slope,” said Colorado Energy Office Transportation Fuels & Technology Managing Director Christian Williss.

“To meet the state’s goal of 940,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2030, rural communities in Colorado must be a part of the transition away from gas-powered cars. Expanding EV charging infrastructure to meet the needs of these communities helps ensure that EVs are a practical option for all Coloradans and our visitors.”

Colorado also plays an important role in an even larger electrical grid that would expand into a wider regional area. According to the Economic Development Council of Colorado’s website“expanding the number of electrified corridors is part of the Regional Electric Vehicle West (REV West) Partnership. This partnership provides a framework for creating electrified corridors and would give EV users the opportunity to travel seamlessly across Colorado, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming”

Colorado electric byways

Fast EV charging stations added to Colorado’s scenic byways.

In order to be considered a part of the Colorado Electric Byways, the route must have sufficient charging infrastructure in place for electric vehicle travelers to complete a journey along the byway. 

The specific requirements for designation as a Colorado Electric Byway include:

  • Dual-port DC fast charging stations located at least every 100 miles within the start and terminus of the byway
  • When byways are less than 100 miles, a dual-port DC fast charging station must be available within 15 miles of the start or terminus of the byway

For those who don’t know, Dual-port DC or Direct Current Fast Charging (DCFC) stations charge your EV’s battery to 150 miles of range in approximately 20 minutes. While these fast-charging stations are required to be designated as an electric byway, the Colorado Tourism Office is encouraging retailers, restaurants and lodging properties to install Level 2 charging stations (the same 150 miles of range would take up to 8 eight hours to charge). 

The Colorado Scenic and Historic Byways that are currently designated as Colorado Electric Byways include:

  • Alpine Loop (high-clearance and 4WD vehicle required)
  • Collegiate Peaks
  • Colorado River Headwaters
  • Flat Tops Trail
  • Grand Mesa
  • Guanella Pass
  • Lariat Loop
  • Silver Thread
  • Santa Fe Trail
  • South Platte River Trail
  • Top of the Rockies
  • Trail Ridge Road
  • West Elk Loop

Many people’s complaints land in the camp of “it takes forever to charge my car,” or “this road trip would take twice as long in an E.V. than a gas vehicle.” But like most anything, isn’t it worth the wait? Scenic drives are meant to be enjoyed and not whizzing past landmark overlooks to get to your final destination. Rather it’s the perfect opportunity to slow down, take it all in, and give a little something back to Mother Nature who afforded you those views in the first place.

For more information visit the website of the Colorado Electric Byways Program.

And for a map of the EV-fast charging corridors in Colorado visit the

All images courtesy of Tri-State Generation and Transmission