6. Hardscrabble Canyon

Hardscrabble Canyon

Mile marker 23, Highway 96

 The next part of the Frontier Pathways Scenic and Historic Byway passes through the San Isabel National Forest and is flanked by rocks over a billion years old. Intense heat, pressure and chemical changes transformed some of this ancient rock into banded gneiss pronounced "nice". Rock hounds recognize this metamorphic rock by its light and dark stripes. Both gneiss and granite visible in road cuts for several miles. These rocks were pushed up from many miles below the earth’s surface.

To Do: At mile marker 18.7 on Highway 96, passengers can look to the north of the road to see a pointed rock formation called Lover’s Leap. Weathering water and ice sculpted the rock into an unusual shape. On the south side of the road, look for differences in the vegetation caused by the aspect (slope) of hills. At mile marker 18 are  two other visible local landmarks. See if you can pick out the big and little sinking liners rock formations on the south of the highway.

A variety of wild animals live in this canyon. Bighorn sheep agilely jump from one precarious spot to another. Fence lizards bask on sunny boulders. You may spy a Clark’s nutcracker, raven, magpie, chickadee, flicker or a rare spotted owl.