Top Ten Scenic Mountain Drives
Winding for 232 miles through the San Juan and Uncompahgre National Forests, the San Juan Skyway takes the high road through some wild Colorado country. The loop travels among towering San Juan fourteeners, high-country forests of spruce and fir, and ancient Anasazi ruins.
Near the alpine village of Ouray you'll find Box Canyon Falls, a 285-foot cascade which plummets down over dark limestone into a deep canyon. For a quick break, soak yourself in nearby hot springs, open year-round.
The famous Million Dollar Highway section of the Skyway, a 50-mile stretch from Ouray to Silverton, curves through the iron-rich Red Mountains, along the sheer sides of the Uncompahgre Gorge, through tunnels, and above cascading waterfalls.
The Skyway breaks 10,000 feet a number of times during its loop, starting with the highway's highest point, Red Mountain Pass (11,075 feet). After cresting the consecutive mountain passes of Molas (10,880 feet) and Coal Bank (10,630 feet), the drive hits you with one last high point—10,222-foot Lizard Head Pass, which offers spectacular views of the jagged San Juans.
Just the Facts
Route: Loop from Ridgway through Ouray, Silverton, Durango, Cortez, Dolores, Telluride, and Placerville.
Length: 236 miles (one to two days)
Season: All year; mountain passes sometimes closed in winter.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication