Without a coast or navigable rivers, Colorado long remained a difficult-to-reach backwater. Travelers and their cargo moved on horseback, by wagon, or simply by foot. By necessity, most pathways across the arid region followed the available water of steams and rivers, and the most popular trails avoided large tracts of dry and craggy Colorado.
Even when the Transcontinental Railroad linked California to eastern cities in 1869, it bypassed Denver—the northern route provided a much easier course over the Rockies. But by June, 1870, a spur connected Denver to Cheyenne. Colorado was finally united to the rest of country by rail.
In the mountains, Colorado railroading took an adventurous turn. Narrow gauge rail lines twisted through canyons and alongside high peaks, seeking to bring valuable mineral ores out to the plains. In the flatter regions, railroads supported the more sustainable, if prosaic, business of agriculture, connecting farm and ranch goods to eastern markets.
In the twentieth century, railroads and highways increasingly penetrated the mountainous heart of the state. The once-daunting mountain ranges now offered accessible opportunities for freight travel, recreation, and more.