The Final Information to the Million Greenback Freeway & The San Juan Skyway Loop – Bearfoot Concept

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The Million Greenback Freeway and San Juan Skyway highway journey is a must-do if you wish to journey by the Rockies of Colorado. It takes you thru most of Colorado’s San Juans, a rugged and distant part of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. The San Juan Skyway Loop travels by small city after small city, over spectacular mountain passes, and alongside creeks and rivers. The Million Greenback Freeway part of the loop between Silverton and Ouray consists of each probably the most harrowing driving and a few of the most lovely views of the entire journey.

This information goes into particulars about every part of the loop together with issues to do, locations to eat, and locations to remain. This highway journey additionally lends itself completely to tenting, as there may be plenty of Nationwide Forest land alongside the way in which. You are able to do the journey in 5 days with plenty of actions or mix days to make the journey your personal. It really works simply in addition to a driving-heavy weekend journey because it does a week-long tenting and climbing journey.

On this information to the Million Greenback Freeway and the San Juan Skyway Loop, we give insider tips about one of the best locations to cease, issues to do, the place to camp, and extra.

What’s the San Juan Skyway?

The San Juan Skyway is a loop of gorgeous freeway that wraps across the San Juan Mountains by Durango and Ouray, Colorado. Also called San Juan Scenic Byway, the freeway travels by a few of the most spectacular surroundings within the Decrease 48.

Dwelling within the San Juans, I hear again and again from guests that the surroundings is on par – and even higher – than well-liked locations like Glacier Nationwide Park and Rocky Mountain Nationwide Park. Fourteen thousand foot peaks rise from the mountain ranges on the edges of the freeway and just about the entire journey is only one “wow” after one other. The 200+ mile loop might be pushed in as fast as two days, or take as many as 5 with extra stops and actions.

Drive Colorado's Million Dollar Highway and San Juan Skyway to see amazing views of the Rocky Mountains and visit small mountain towns.

What’s the Million Greenback Freeway?

The Million Greenback Freeway is the enduring part of the San Juan Skyway between Silverton and Ouray. The nail-biting highway winds round hairpin activates the aspect of a cliff for 23 miles between the 2 lovely mountain cities of Ouray, Colorado and Silverton, Colorado.

From Denver, the Million Greenback Freeway is a couple of 6-hour drive relying on which aspect you begin from. It’s nice for an extended highway journey mixed with different areas of Colorado!

There may be some debate about the place the identify “Million Greenback Freeway” got here from, however some imagine the identify got here from the plethora of gold and silver mining that was as soon as within the space, whereas others assume it was as a result of the highway price a million {dollars} to construct. Nonetheless one other concept is that somebody as soon as stated “I’ll by no means drive that highway once more, not for 1,000,000 {dollars}!”. That one might be up so that you can determine, when you drive the highway!

One thrilling (or scary — you determine) tidbit in regards to the Million Greenback Freeway is that it has no guard rails. It is because within the winter, the highway will get hit with frequent avalanches and the guardrails would get rapidly destroyed by these devastating avalanches. Due to this, I like to recommend driving the Million Greenback Freeway from Silverton to Ouray, as an alternative of the opposite method round, as a result of on this path you drive on the within of the highway, as an alternative of the skin (proper on the sting of the cliff!)

Drive Colorado's Million Dollar Highway and San Juan Skyway to see amazing views of the Rocky Mountains and visit small mountain towns.

Greatest Time To Drive the San Juan Skyway

Summer time is a superb time to do the San Juan Skyway highway journey as a result of the climate is often sunny and heat. Nonetheless, with the leaves turning yellow, a fall highway journey by Colorado would even be an ideal time to do that drive. The aspen leaves within the San Juans sometimes begin to flip yellow mid-late September and final for about three weeks.

The primary time I drove the Million Greenback Freeway was throughout a blizzard. I used to be taking an avalanche coaching course with San Juan Mountain Guides and was heading out for the primary day of studying in a storm. I may barely see 10 ft in entrance of the automobile, not to mention the gorgeous views, and I drove about 5 miles per hour up the freeway from Ouray to Pink Mountain Cross. The entire whiteout, lack of guard rails, and icy highway saved me mounted to my driving and it wasn’t till the storm cleared on my drive again that I started to see a few of the magnificence that makes this one of the vital scenic drives within the nation.

So, I might keep away from driving the San Juan Skyway and the Million Greenback Freeway within the winter except you’re completely ready with snow chains. They may even typically shut down the freeway as a consequence of snow, so test situations earlier than heading out.

Drive Colorado's Million Dollar Highway and San Juan Skyway to see amazing views of the Rocky Mountains and visit small mountain towns.

Million Greenback Freeway Highway Journey Itinerary

Durango to Silverton

Distance: 48 miles

Driving from Durango to Silverton, Colorado takes you over Coal Financial institution Cross after which Molas Cross, on the highest elevation of 10,970 ft. Ease into the remainder of the journey with this primary leg. It options mountain views and plenty of locations to cease and stretch your legs if you would like!

The place to remain in Silverton:

Little Molas Lake Campground is a couple of mile off the highway proper earlier than you attain Molas Cross. The primitive campground is presently free to make use of and has no water or trash companies, though there’s a rest room. Campsites comprise fireplace grates however no picnic tables. This can be a lovely place to camp and take within the meadows and peaks surrounding Molas Cross.

Silverton has a wide range of inns, inns, and lodges out there to remain in all year long, though I’ve by no means stayed in any myself.

Silverton Colorado // Drive Colorado's Million Dollar Highway and San Juan Skyway to see amazing views of the Rocky Mountains and visit small mountain towns.

What to eat in Silverton:

Kendall Mountain Cafe has scrumptious breakfast choices, I like their breakfast burrito and have additionally heard nice issues in regards to the french toast.

Avalanche Brewing Firm gives an ideal post-adventure deal with of pizza and beer though I additionally love their tacos.

What to do between Durango and Silverton:

  • Hike to Spud Lake. This two-mile spherical journey hike to a lake stretches your legs while you’re driving, with out taking on an excessive amount of time! This hike gives mountain views for the start of your highway journey!
  • Take Photographs at Molas Cross. The best level of the day, Molas Cross presents 360 diploma mountain views, with lakes and meadows galore. Search for the Grenadier and Needles mountain ranges within the Weminuche Wilderness to the east, recognized by their pointy, rocky summits.
  • Bike at Purgatory Mountain Resort. A ski resort within the winter, in the summertime the resort gives downhill mountain biking for all talent ranges. Or check out their different summer season choices together with a scenic chairlift experience and curler coaster!

Silverton to Ouray

Distance: 24 Miles

That is the enduring Million Greenback Freeway part of the highway journey, so take your time, and take within the views! First, the highway winds its method as much as Pink Mountain Cross, which is value a cease to gaze on the views. Then the highway begins happening, down, down, with numerous switchbacks and a mean velocity of about 15 miles per hour. The views by no means cease, however there aren’t too many pull-outs to take images, so simply maintain all of it in your thoughts till you arrive above the lovable little hamlet of Ouray. It’s not referred to as the Switzerland of America for nothing!

The place to remain in Ouray:

Most important Avenue Inn is a really cute brightly coloured assortment of historic homes on Most important avenue in Ouray. I stayed right here final winter whereas I used to be on the town and it was the proper basecamp to discover the world. The most effective half is that they offer you freshly baked items upon arrival!

Amphitheater Campground is a superb spot to remain for many who wish to be outdoors. I’ve not personally stayed right here, however it’s positioned proper outdoors of city and consists of 35 campsites. Reservations might be made forward of time, or some websites are first come first serve.

The place to eat in Ouray:

Pink Mountain Brewing has beer choice and a few of the finest candy potato fries I’ve had! In addition they have nice burger and entree choices.

Bon Ton is an efficient choice for a fancier night time out in Ouray! With an Italian aptitude, they characteristic nice wine choices, pasta, meat, and extra.

What to do between Silverton and Ouray:

  • Hike Ice Lakes, Columbine Lake, or Highland Mary Lakes. Certainly one of these gorgeous alpine lakes hikes makes an awesome addition to this drive. Get out into the mountains that you simply see throughout you, and discover!
  • Take photos at Pink Mountain Cross, or cease at any of the various pullouts on the way in which right down to Ouray to take images! Simply just remember to are parking in a delegated pullout, as many sections of the highway wouldn’t have sufficient room to drag off.
Ouray Colorado // Drive Colorado's Million Dollar Highway and San Juan Skyway to see amazing views of the Rocky Mountains and visit small mountain towns.

Ouray to Telluride

Distance: 50 miles

The drive between Ouray and Telluride is one other lovely stretch of highway. You may really feel like you’re driving out the mountains as you permit Ouray, however don’t fear, a few of the finest is but to return! The highway takes you thru Ridgway, the place you’ll flip left to go over Dallas Divide. Don’t miss the gorgeous views of Mount Sneffels as you head over the go! Then flip left once more at Placerville to go into Telluride.

The place to remain:

Alta Lakes Campground is a free campground above Telluride with 20 campsites and a conveyable rest room. It’s a well-liked and delightful space, however a excessive clearance four wheel drive automobile is advisable, though there have been studies of ordinary SUVs being tremendous on the drive up.

Telluride additionally has many inns, inns, and BnBs to remain at whereas visiting, though I’ve not personally stayed at any.

The place to eat:

Smugglers Union is a scrumptious restaurant and brewery with a wide variety of native meats and produce for his or her meals.

The Butcher & The Baker is a well-liked sandwich store and bakery with natural and native choices that look scrumptious! I’ve not but tried it, however it’s on my listing for the longer term, because it appears to be like scrumptious and has an awesome outside eating space.

What to do:

  • Hike Bear Creek Falls or Bridalveil Falls. These well-liked and delightful trails begin proper within the city of Telluride and are quick sufficient for a late afternoon outing after a day of driving. Take a look at the Greatest Hikes in Telluride for extra.
  • Hike to Blue Lakes. If you’d like an extended hike, head in the direction of the mountains when passing over Dallas Divide to hike the Blue Lakes path to 3 gorgeous blue lakes beneath Mount Sneffels
  • Take images at Dallas Divide. This view is one in all my favorites on the entire highway journey, and is made much more lovely by fall colours, sundown, or dawn. Cease and take images and take on this gorgeous skyline.
Bridalveil Falls, Colorado
Bridalveil Falls

Telluride to Dolores

Distance: 65 miles

This leg of the Million Greenback Freeway journey begins to take you out of the mountains and into the desert, however don’t miss the gorgeous and sometimes neglected Lizard Head Cross and the small city of Rico on the way in which to Dolores! A lot of climbing and exploring exist on this a part of San Juan Nationwide Forest, and though I is perhaps biased (I dwell there), I believe Dolores is an underappreciated gem of the world.

Million Dollar Highway in Colorado
Photograph: Ilana Newman

The place to remain:

Dolores River Campground and Cabins is a superb riverside campsite with cabin leases out there as properly. They typically have meals vehicles on-site for dinner, and actually have a youngsters fishing pond! The campsite stays fairly quiet more often than not, and if you wish to keep someplace distinctive, check out their coated wagons!

Boggy Draw Dispersed Tenting presents a free and delightful place to camp. The world has plenty of mountain biking and trails to discover, in addition to dispersed tenting everywhere in the mesa. Drive up above Dolores and both head previous Boggy Draw Trailhead to search out a wide range of campsites, or proceed down the Dolores-Norwood highway to search out many tenting choices off the highway.

The place to eat:

Esoterra Cidery makes scrumptious dry cidery with no components together with sugars or coloring. They formally think about themselves a vineyard and are available at cider from the attitude of wine. The ambiance and outside space present an awesome place to get to know the homeowners and locals, and their meals truck Zoe the Tail presents contemporary and scrumptious meals. I particularly suggest the cheese plate!

Dolores River Brewery presents one other nice neighborhood gathering place with good beer throughout. They make their very own scrumptious pizza and now have a rotation of native meals vehicles offering dinners all through the week. Present up and check out what’s out there.

What to do:

  • Cease in Rico, Colorado to search out an outdated mining city coming alive with a couple of small espresso outlets, a historic museum, and an awesome taco truck.
  • Hike at Lizard Head Cross or at the very least cease and take photos. There are a couple of climbing choices within the space, together with climbing as much as the bottom of the tower of Lizard Head Mountain, climbing a 13 mile loop, or strive the Hope Lake hike off of Trout Lake, simply earlier than Lizard Head Cross.
Trout Lake Colorado
Trout Lake / Photograph: Ilana Newman

Dolores to Durango

Distance: 45 miles

The final leg of the San Juan Freeway between Dolores and Durango heads by Montezuma county to the small artsy city of Mancos, which is value a cease to discover and have a chunk to eat on the scrumptious Absolute Bakery and Cafe. Then the highway heads over the La Plata mountains again to Durango, Colorado to complete the San Juan Skyway highway journey.

The place to remain:

La Plata Canyon options each paid campgrounds and dispersed tenting and is only some miles outdoors of Durango. There may be additionally a wide range of different dispersed tenting within the space!

Durango additionally has plenty of inns and different locations to remain within the city itself. Dwelling so shut, I’ve by no means stayed in a resort within the city of Durango.

The place to eat:

eleventh Avenue Station is a enjoyable assortment of meals carts positioned round Ernie’s Bar, which gives the drinks. It may be choice for meals when everyone seems to be within the temper for one thing completely different, with choices from Thai, to pizza, to tacos, there’s one thing for each craving.

Steamworks Brewing Firm is an area brewery and restaurant with nice beer choices and salads, sandwiches, pizza, burgers, and extra.

What to do:

  • Benefit from the artwork in Mancos, Colorado. This small city proper on the base of the La Plata mountains options an eclectic western artwork scene with a wide range of small artwork galleries which might be well worth the browse!
  • Hike Animas Mountain Path. This 6 mile loop up a mountain on the town offers your legs a stretch on the finish of your highway journey.
  • Go to Mesa Verde. This Nationwide Park comprises constructions constructed by Ancestral Pueblo individuals over a thousand years in the past. Be taught in regards to the historical past of the Pueblo individuals who nonetheless dwell within the space immediately.
Drive Colorado's Million Dollar Highway and San Juan Skyway to see amazing views of the Rocky Mountains and visit small mountain towns.

Is highway tripping the Million Greenback Freeway in your bucket listing? Do you’ve got any questions? Depart a remark beneath!

Drive Colorado's Million Dollar Highway and San Juan Skyway to see amazing views of the Rocky Mountains and visit small mountain towns.

Written by
Ilana Newman

Ilana is a author and photographer from the PNW however is presently based mostly in SW Colorado. When not writing, she might be discovered within the mountains, climbing, climbing, snowboarding, path working, or sitting by a river. Or, if it is raining, she’ll be baking one thing scrumptious and studying a guide.

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