The San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway covers 236 miles of terrain across southwestern Colorado. This loop travels through Durango, Mancos, Cortez, Dolores, Rico, Telluride, Ridgway, Ouray, and Silverton. Be sure to allow at least two days to see everything this byway has to offer.
Durango has endless recreational opportunities, a rich history, and countless stories to tell. From mountain biking, hiking, rafting the Animas River, scenic train ride, skiing, and awe-inspiring scenery there are endless ways to reinvigorate, rejuvenate, or just plain relax.
On your drive between Durango and Mancos, there is La Plata Canyon Recreation Area. This canyon is a popular destination for locals. Several campgrounds, numerous hikes and great opportunities for photography abound. The gravel/dirt road takes one up to Kennebec Pass whereby several trail systems converge and an opportunity to hike to Taylor Lake is a must during the summer when flowers are blooming. Four wheel drive with high clearance is recommended if one intends to make it to the Kennebec Pass.
Mancos is where the west still lives. This is Louis L'Amour country, King of the Western Novel, where you can head out with one of Mancos' local outfitters and ride the trails to see the backcountry. Explore the mysteries of the people who lived here, farmed here and built the magnificent sandstone structures of Mesa Verde and Hovenweep. If you wish to see something a bit more modern, visit the Folk & Finer Art gallery & museum just west of Mancos.
Between Mancos and Cortez is Mesa Verde National Park, a World Heritage Site. This is a must see destination if you want to see how Ancestral Pueblo peoples lived among the cliff dwellings from 600-1300 A.D. These sites are some of the most notable and best preserved in the United States. Amenities include ranger-led tours, numerous trails for the avid hiker, lodging, camping, restaurants, museum, and a recently opened Visitor and Research Center.
Many consider Cortez the cultural center of Mesa Verde Country. Strong agricultural traditions and Native American heritage characterize this town, located in the the valley that is shadowed by Mesa Verde. Ancient cliff dwellings, cowboys and farms mingle harmoniously below the surrounding mountains.
Dolores is a must-stop for anyone who is nearby. We are a wonderful small town located in a canyon with the beautiful Dolores River cutting along one side and rock cliffs on the other. There are countless opportunities for biking, hiking, fishing, hunting, exploring ancient ruins, white water rafting and much more.
Just northwest of Dolores is the Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum (formerly known as the Anasazi Heritage Center). It is a museum that features permanent and special exhibits, archaeological site information, educational resources for teachers and a large research collection from various archaeological projects in southwest Colorado. It is also an ideal starting point for planning visits to the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument. They have maps, guidebooks, and current information about trail and road conditions within the National Monument.
The unparalleled attraction of Rico is her endless opportunities to enjoy mother nature. Climb or backpack in the Lizard Head Wilderness. Ride mountain bikes on any of the numerous Forest Service roads or single-track trails around town. Fish in the Dolores River or any of her tributaries. Ski cross-country along the river, telemark or snowboard in the endless backcountry, or snowshoe anywhere your heart desires. Rico is a prime home-base for hunting elk, deer, and bear.
A visit to Telluride and neighboring Mountain Village will be unforgettable whether you were drawn here by the intellectual allure of its arts community or boundless outdoor playground for hiking, biking, jeeping or skiing.
Ridgway is nestled in the picturesque Uncompaghre Valley and surrounded by the majestic snow capped peaks of the Cimarrons and San Juans mountains. The town was founded in 1890 as the headquarters of the world famous Rio Grande Southern narrow gauge railroad serving the area's rich silver and gold mines, ranches and farms. Ridgway is the perfect town to enjoy and explore a broad spectrum of outdoor activities and year-round cultural events.
Ouray nicknamed the "Switzerland of America," has been a world-famous destination for more than 100 years. Ouray features a heavenly hot springs, Box Canyon Falls, and a super-popular July 4th celebration.
Silverton is a National Historic Landmark, home to Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop, and the summer destination for the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad train ride. Silverton is a recreational paradise in winter for snowmobiling, skiing, sledding, ice skating, ice climbing, and ice fishing, and in the summer for rafting, backcountry touring, jeeping, ATV and OHV riding, fishing, hiking, biking, rafting, horseback riding, hunting, and camping.