San Juan Skyway

State: Colorado
Length: 233 miles / 372.8 km
Time to Allow: You’ll want to give yourself 1 or 2 days to see everything this Byway has to offer.

If you have time to spare, take a few days to explore the 235 mile San Juan Skyway loop. It’s filled with old mining towns, gorgeous scenery, and enough twists and turns for those who love to drive cars. The skyway takes you through the San Juan Mountains. You can drive the byway in as little as seven hours, but with so much to stop and see, you may want to move to the area!

The first town on the loop southwest of Denver is Durango. Choose this location if you want to see an old railroad and train with a steam-powered locomotive. Next, mountain bike at Purgatory Bike Park with options for every skill level in the Needles Mountains and San Juan National Forest. Finally, a must-see is the Mesa Verde National Park, with over 5,000 archaeological sites in the cliff dwelling right in the rocks.

Before leaving Durango, visit the hot springs and spa for a soak in 12 spring-fed pools. The city also offers over 500 shops with something for everyone. Try out whitewater rafting, tubing, and fishing without leaving the town near the Animas River Trail. Durango offers everything from dining, disc golfing, ranch tours, museums, and even a roller coaster on a mountain for impressive mountainside views.

Clinging to the canyons are the towns of Silverton and Ouray in an area called “The Million Dollar Highway” because of mass amounts of gold ore in the roadway. Silverton offers history with an old jail, gold mine, and a victorian hotel. Visit the Island Lake in the basin for a four-mile trek in a crystal blue haven. In the winter, head to the Kendall Mountain, where you can enjoy a plethora of winter activities. Ouray offers the Box Canyon Falls with a massive 285-foot cascade. The Ouray Ice Festival makes a great feature in the cold months too.

No visit would be complete without a visit to the town of Telluride, with an opera house, historical museum, and a well-preserved hotel. The town was designated as a landmark back in the 60s with Victorian homes, clapboard storefronts, a variety of historic buildings filled with art and shops. It’s a climb up to the town of those at 9,500 feet on Mountain Village. Take a ride on a free gondola as a unique form of public transit. Telluride offers activities and festivals in every season, ready to impress even teenagers.

In the town of Dolores, find the Mesa Verde National Park. Cliff dwellings from the Puebloan people are viewable, with many other attractions overlapping with the Trail of the Ancients Scenic and Historic Byway. With so much to see in this area, there’s no way to list everything or even every body of water. It’s an All-American road everyone should travel if their budget allows. Find options to bike, boat, camp, enjoy the nightlife, archaeological sites, and much more.

More Colorado Byways

You can check out additional Byways in Colorado by clicking on the list of byways below, or by going to the Colorado Byways home section. To find even more of scenic byways in the United States, visit our scenic byways map.