High Country: 6 pot-friendly pit stops to hit on your next road trip

Atlas Obscura’s Dylan Thuras shares weird and wonderful weed-inspired destinations worth visiting across the U.S.

Katie Shapiro
High Country
Atlas Obscura co-founder and podcast host Dylan Thuras.
Courtesy Atlas Obscura

Sing it with me: “On the road again / Goin’ places that I’ve never been / Seein’ things that I may never see again / And I can’t wait to get on the road again…”

The words of the legendary country crooner and cannabis activist Willie Nelson have been in the back of my mind while staying home for the past year, unsure of when I’d actually and safely be able to get on the road again. Now that a return to travel has commenced, I can’t wait to put my multiple itineraries made in Apple Notes during the pandemic to proper use.

After sneaking in a spring skiing getaway to Taos (see this week’s Aspen Times Weekly cover story), another road trip this summer around the west is next on my list and one resource I’ve referenced to help plot some of the pit stops along the way is Atlas Obscura.

Founded in 2009 by author Joshua Foer and documentary filmmaker/author Dylan Thuras, the online magazine and travel company catalogs unusual and obscure travel destinations around the globe via user-generated content. Populated today with over 20,000 places, each entry is approved by the Brooklyn-based Atlas Obscura team. And since its start, Atlas Obscura has expanded to offer expert-led trips and experiences, plus jam-packed itineraries and lists to tackle on your own as you travel.


The Atlas Obscura Podcast

In a just-released, first-ever podcast, Atlas Obscura co-founder and host Dylan Thuras takes listeners on an audio journey to discover new and hidden places; perhaps on the other side of the world, or in your own backyard. Hear the stories and histories from the incredible people who make every one of these places extraordinary.

Tune in wherever you get your podcasts at (@atlasobscura)

“Ever since we launched, we have been a collaborative community-based project,” shared Atlas Obscura co-founder Dylan Thuras. “Since day one we have asked our users for their suggestions to the most interesting, surprising and curious places in the world. Once suggested, our editors (originally that was just me, but now we have a whole staff) review and fact check the destinations and if they fit what we are after, we add them to the Atlas.”

In celebration of the Aspen Times Weekly’s annual “Road Trip” issue, here are six weird and wonderful weed-inspired destinations worth visiting — all official entries in Atlas Obscura:

Inside the International Church of Cannabis in Denver.
Courtesy Atlas Obscura

International Church of Cannabis

Denver, CO

“A Lutheran church has stood at 400 S Logan Street in Denver since the early 1900s, but as of recently it has become unoccupied. In April of 2017, the church was reopened as a place of worship for the followers of a brand new religion: ‘Elevationism,’ dedicated to the spiritual benefits of cannabis.”

420 Louis Pasteur Statue

San Rafael, CA

“There is a wealth of modern folklore about the origin of the term ‘420’ and its connection to weed culture. But despite the myths, it isn’t a California police code, nor is it Bob Marley’s birthday (he was born in February) or the number of active chemicals in marijuana. Of the many origin stories for the term 420 as code for all things herbal, the most credible traces back to 1971, to this statue of Louis Pasteur on the campus of San Rafael High.”

Hit the Richard Bong State Recreation Area when passing through Wisconsin.
Courtesy Atlas Obscura

Bong State Recreation Area

Kansasville, WI

“The Richard I. Bong State Recreational Area is a 4,500-acre wildlife reserve and campsite located about halfway between Milwaukee and Chicago. Lovingly referred to by locals simply as ‘The Bong,’ it’s not hard to guess why the park has become a magnet for vandals and a regional mecca for cannabis smokers.”

This mile marker in Stratton, Colo., once read 420.
Courtesy Atlas Obscura

419.99 Mile Marker

Stratton, Colorado

“It’s an otherwise unremarkable stretch of Interstate 70, just west of the Kansas border. There are the familiar large green mile-marker signs on the side of the highway; familiar, that is, with one exception. Since the recreational use of marijuana was made legal in Colorado in 2012, the ‘Mile 420’ post became a hot commodity. So hot, it kept disappearing — and the Colorado Department of Transportation got tired of replacing it.”

Light one up under the Janis Joplin Tree on “Hippie Hill."
Courtesy Atlas Obscura

Janis Joplin Tree

San Francisco, CA

“Now the best place in the park to find impromptu drum circles and enthusiastic pot smokers, the gentle grassy slope known as ‘Hippie Hill’ once attracted Janis Joplin to play her guitar in the shade of the tree that now bears her name.”

University of Mississippi Marijuana Research Project

Oxford, MS

“A government-funded lab devoted to the growth and study of kilo upon kilo of potent, legal weed sits in a nondescript pocket of an enormous state university. This is not a campus legend, nor is it a plot point from some long forgotten, straight-to-VHS comedy, but the structural embodiment of the United States’ policy to both marijuana’s legality and its medical potential.”

Katie Shapiro can be reached at and followed on Twitter @bykatieshapiro.

Aspen Times Weekly

See more