San Juan Skyway - a MUST do!
The San Juan Skyway has been checked off the list. It’s been on my bucketlist for a while. I’ve done sections of the drive at separate times but I’ve never driven the entire 233-mile loop in one weekend. It was spectacular. And we even caught the tail-end of the gorgeous fall foliage. You can make Telluride your home base and take a couple day trips, or do the entire loop and stay in a neighboring town.
Here's how it went down:
We started in Telluride and headed south towards Cortez, CO where a stop at the Mesa Verde National Park is another “bucketlist checker off-er”. Ancient Cliff-dwellings dating back to 550-1300 AD built by the Ancestral Puebloan people, sometimes called the Anasazi. It’s an amazing sight! Don't forget your camera.
Onward to Durango, CO. Durango is a really cool town. Known for its Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railway, micro breweries, and its mountain biking mecca status. Great place to spend the night (we recommend the Rochester Hotel) to split the trip up and take in all the sights. Eat brunch at Carver's or a tasty lunch at Steamworks Brewery (or our favorite dinner spot, Ken and Sue's), bike along their River Trail, or go fishing/rafting down the Animas River. We fished the Animas right outside of town and it was a blast. Lots of rainbow trout to be caught!
The next day, we continued along the Skyway towards Coal Bank Pass, Molas Pass, and ended up in the tiny town of Silverton, CO. Silverton is straight out of an old western movie - one main thoroughfare with saloons, shops, great food and a brewery. Not much going on but a really cool mining town turned into one of the best ski "resorts” in the nation. Silverton converts into an expert, backcountry ski resort in the winter with hike-to terrain, 1 lift, guided and unguided trips, and even an old UPS-like truck to drive you back so you can do it all over again. 5 runs at Silverton Mountain is a GOOD day. Highly recommended if you're looking for some extreme skiing in the winter!
Next, we drove along Red Mountain Pass and the “Million Dollar Highway” connecting Silverton to Ouray, Colorado. This road has to be one of the most ridiculous roads I’ve ever been on. Ridiculous in a good way – amazing views, gorgeous fall foliage, cliffs, valleys, tunnels, mining structures and lots more. I’d never seen anything like it. I actually don’t even know how it was built. It’s exhilarating and one of the prettiest sights in Southwest Colorado but it’s definitely a “white-knuckle” kind of drive.
Next up, we checked out the little town of Ouray. I’ve been to Ouray many times and it's always a blast - known for its Hot Springs (clothing optional), jeeping, and the infamous Imogene Pass Run. It’s a cute/quaint little town which claims to be “Switzerland of America”. It’s surrounded on all three sides with mountains, giving it the box canyon feel like Telluride. Eat and have a beer at the Ouray Brewery (has a sweet rooftop deck) and take a stroll down main street. Great town and nice neighbors!
We left Ouray and head back towards Telluride through Ridgway. Stop in Ridgway and eat at their delicious restaurants (Adobe Inn is highly recommended) and check out the awesome Orvis Hot Springs:
The San Juan Skyway is an amazing way to discover Southwest Colorado. Awesome trip and highly recommended! Make Telluride your home base and visit these unique towns this fall. We're offering discounted lodging to help you experience this gorgeous season here in Southwest Colorado. Call us with questions (877-507-9695) or view our current lodging specials. The San Juan Skyway is something you’ve got to check off your list when you visit us!