Driving around the state often reveals a wealth of curious sites, but most people are usually on their way somewhere and don’t always have time to stop and check out every oddly-shaped building, hot dog-inspired restaurant or giant piece of cutlery. And that’s a shame, because they are worth a stop. Here are several roadside attractions that are not only worth a stop, they should be the reason for a trip. Combine them and you have a ready-made weird and wacky road trip.
1. Hogan Trading Post, Mancos
A few minutes west of Mancos in southwest Colorado is the Hogan trading post. Easily identifiable thanks to the giant arrows that are speared into the ground outside, the Hogan is a genuine trading post that still trades with Native Americans in the region.
Named for the traditional dwelling of the Navajo people, the trading post has been in the Countess family for over 30 years. The third family to own and operate the post, it was originally built in 1959 by Wilma Brimhall who operated a trading post on the Navajo reservation before moving to southwest Colorado. Made from telephone poles, the arrows were installed in the 1980’s by Bill Countess who still operates the Hogan with wife Judy and daughter Emily. Inspired by a similar installation in Holbrook, Arizona, the arrows were also a nod to Wilma Brimhall.
The Hogan trading post was actually built by Navajo that came to southwest Colorado with Wilma Brimhall. They lived on site in a small hogan while they built the trading post (the smaller hogan is still right there amongst the arrows). Today, the Hogan trading post is still a fully functioning trading post and has relationships with many craftspeople of various tribes. The post also carries more typical tourist trinkets such as T-shirts. The Hogan trading post operates seasonal hours, and is typically closed between October and May.
2. Cano's Castle, Manassa
South of Manassa, and not far from the New Mexico border, there is a neighborhood of pretty normal houses, all but one that is. Cano’s Castle (pronounced Cah-no), with its reflective walls made from cut and flattened beer cans, honestly doesn’t look structurally sound. There is of course lumber and rocks, too, but it is the facade that stops passersby in their tracks. Of the five separate structures, two dominate, rising up into spires that have all been built up with whatever is lying around. Cano’s Castle is the work of Dominic “Cano” Espinoza and it is being built - how do you ever stop building something like this - for Jesus. Cano actually lives across the street. A Vietnam veteran, Cano started on the project in 1980 and is said to have been inspired by the Asian temples he had seen more than a decade earlier during the Vietnam War.
3. Coney Island Boardwalk, Bailey
Marcus Shannon had a dream. That dream was to have a franchise of hot dog restaurants that were shaped like hot dogs. Marcus achieved that dream. He filed for a patent for his sausage-shaped restaurant in 1965 and the dream was on. Shannon was granted the patent the following year for four years. Initially situated on Colfax Avenue in Denver, the hot dog moved around, first to Aspen Park and then in 2006 to its current location in Bailey. The Coney Island Boardwalk was purchased in 2016. Serving eight or so kinds of hot dogs including a vegetarian carrot dog as well the sides you would expect from a hot-dog stand, the owners try their best to use Colorado products where they can.
And if you can’t make it to the Coney Island Boardwalk because you are rushing to Tiny Town (see below), fear not, there is a 1:6 scale model of the hot-dog stand there!
4. Tiny Town, Morrison
Tiny Town, a short drive from Denver, is exactly what it sounds like. Old school fun, Tiny Town has more than 100 1:6 scale buildings as well as a train, which has two miniature but working engines, and is a major draw for kids. The train ride allows you to see parts of the park that are not accessible any other way, so bear that in mind if you are a model buff. Tiny Town’s very existence is a testament to the tenacity of several people given the town has undergone fire and flood, and it lay unwanted and closed for several years on more than one occasion. With a history that goes back to the early part of the 20th century, Tiny Town seems to be standing the test of time.
5. Creede Fork, Creede
The “Creede Fork” is the largest fork in the country and possibly the world. How many huge forks there actually are is another matter, although it is said that Keith Siddel, who commissioned local artist Chev Yund to make the fork, wanted to beat the current record, which he apparently did. A gift for his wife, the fork is situated outside Cascada Bar & Grill, Siddel’s restaurant. The fork is made from hand-welded aluminum and is just over 39 feet and weighs over 600 lbs. It is very popular with visitors and at the height of summer (which is a very popular time for Creede, in no small part to the town’s amazing Creede Repertory Theatre and its fantastic theater program) people queue to have a photograph taken with it.
6. Bishop Castle, Rye
Bishop Castle was originally intended to be a cabin, then a cottage due to the abundance of stone on the site, but legend has it that the project took a much grander scale after several people commented to Jim Bishop that it looked as if he was building a castle. Bishop’s mind raced and Bishop Castle, or at least the idea for it, was born. The monumental structure has three stories of interior rooms, a grand ballroom, towers and bridges with impressive views and a fire-breathing dragon, naturally.
Entrance to the castle is free, but if you make a donation, a percentage goes to the Bishop Castle Non-Profit Charitable Foundation for New-Born Heart Surgery, an endeavor that helps local families. The rest of the donations go towards funding construction and maintenance of the castle.
7. Sasquatch Outpost, Bailey
Literally less than five minutes away from the Coney Island Boardwalk, is the Sasquatch Outpost. Also known as Bigfoot, sasquatch (the Salish word for “wild men”) is a North American folklore legend about hairy, upright-walking, ape-like creatures that are said to live in the wilderness and leave large footprints, hence the alternative name. They are said to be the missing link between humans and apes. The Sasquatch Outpost is dedicated to solving the mystery. Comprised of a museum and shop, Sasquatch Outpost also hosts meetings where enthusiasts share sightings and stories, so if you have an interest in or have seen a sasquatch, get in touch with the Sasquatch Outpost and share your sighting! And if you want to head out into the wilderness to try and spot one of the beasts, the Outpost has you covered with all the gear you will need for fishing, hiking and camping.