Ever since the days when dinosaurs roamed the earth, Southern Colorado has been a destination. The region continues to attract people in search of getaways that can satisfy their desires for some arts and culture—with a backdrop of incredible mountain views.

If you’re visiting Southern Colorado and hope to make the most of your time, consider taking a condensed road trip. Not only does this allow you to appreciate the diverse arts and culture scenes of various Southern Colorado towns, but it also gives you the chance to appreciate our unique landscapes, from the Royal Gorge to the Arkansas River and the unbeatable views of the Sangre de Cristo mountains.

Start with a heritage tour and lunch in Cañon City: Ever since it popped up during the Pikes Peak Gold Rush in the late 1850s, Cañon City has been a hub of activity in the Southern Colorado region. Today, the Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center is a free resource for exhibits and galleries. The staff can also offer recommendations for taking a self-guided heritage tour of the Downtown Historic District. Finish the morning next door to the History Center with lunch at Le Petit Chablis, a gourmet French restaurant and bakery.

Travel to the historic town of Hillside for the night: Built in 1904, the post office in the unincorporated town of Hillside also serves as a window the the past when the little valley village was an essential center of operation for ranchers. Purchased along with the town hall and collection of buildings by Chris and Tara Seegers in 2015, Hillside now has renovated cottages and a group lodge, which makes it the perfect stopping point.

Explore the towns of Westcliffe and Silver Cliff: After a restful night, make your way 20 minutes down the road to the neighboring towns of Westcliffe and Silver Cliff. The quaint downtown offers a number of art shops as well as the Sangres Art Guild. From there, it’s an easy walk to All Aboard Westcliffe, an interpretive center and railroad museum. Finish the afternoon with dinner at the Wine Mine for a sampling of some regional vinos along with great food—all within walking distance of another great place to rest your head – the Lamp Post Lodge.

End your trip in the river town of Salida: An hour down the road from Westcliffe, the town of Salida sits on the edge of the Arkansas River. But this isn’t just a destination for kayakers and rafters: As the first certified Creative District in Colorado, Salida is home to a diverse group of artists and makers. Events throughout the year include the Salida Art Walk in July and Film Festival in December, but there is always something new to see while browsing the galleries downtown.