In 600 AD the ancient Anasazi, or Pueblo Indians, lived and worked in southwest Colorado. When resources became scarce and drought and frost hit their crops, the Anasazi left the region to settle in other parts of Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico. The Spanish followed about 500 years later, striking gold. Miners established towns, which led to the birth of the railroad in the area. Today, this area is full of ancient ruins, deserted mining towns, national parks, and some of the best scenery in America. The San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway covers 236 miles of terrain across southwestern Colorado. Starting in Durango, you can travel this loop passing Cortez, Delores, Rico, Telluride, Ridgeway, Ouray, and Silverton. Be sure to allow at least two days to see everything this byway has to offer.
The byway passes through the heart of five million acres of both the San Juan and Uncompahgre National Forests. Traveling the length of the byway will take you through high mountain passes and historical towns, and by waterfalls and acres of wildflowers. In autumn, the aspen trees turn brilliant colors. Sunset Magazine recognized the area's superior beauty by writing, "The San Juan Skyway... possibly America's greatest fall-color drive...its Aspen views are alternately breathtaking and intimate."
There are many fascinating historical features in the area. Once a landmark for missionaries, conquistadors and prospectors settling in the region, Chimney Rock is a designated Archaeology Area and National Historical Site. Many state and national parks also populate the route of the byway. Both the Mancos State Park and Ridgeway State Park are home to many recreational activities. Mesa Verde National Park is the home of the cliff dwellings of the ancient people and recognized as one of the most preserved archeological sites. Also, a narrow gauge railroad still operates from Durango to Silverton, carrying 200,000 passengers a year.
Recreational activities include four wheeling, hiking, bicycling, hunting, photography, fishing, kayaking, dirt biking, and motorcycle tours. For a more relaxing stay, visit town shops and hot springs in the area. In the winter, Telluride and Purgatory provide elite downhill skiing. Winter also creates opportunity for snow shoeing, ice climbing, snowmobiling, and cross country skiing on a well-groomed Nordic center. Purgatory ski resort also provides summer activities. The ski lift will take you to the top of the mountain for sight seeing, wild flower viewing, and a toboggan-like Alpine slide.
Places to Stay & Fun things to Do
This non-smoking retreat has spacious, well-appointed rooms and suites with spectacular mountain views, continental breakfast, WI-FI in every room, indoor heated pool. Walk to restaurants in Ridgway.
Open All Year - nestled along the Uncompahgre River amidst the towering San Juan peaks in Ouray, a variety of rooms, kitchen suites & cozy log cabins; some pet friendly. Jeep rentals. Seasonal discounts.
20 miles southeast of Durango. Relax in luxury at the hotel offering a Las Vegas style casino; or bring your RV and camp under the Stars. Amenities: casino, dining, bowling, indoor pool, lazy river & day spa.
More Activities & Information
Mount Evans Pawnee Pioneer Trail Peak to Peak Highway Pikes Peak Road
San Juan Skyway Santa Fe Trail Silver Thread Scenic Byway South Platte River Trail Top of the Rockies Trail of the Ancients Trail Ridge Road Unaweep/Tabeguache Scenic Drive West Elk Scenic Loop