San Juan Skyway

Quick Facts

San Juan Skyway

Colorado

(970) 247-4874

Map Directions

Things To Do

   

Overview

This 232-mile loop is a National Scenic Byway and one of the most scenic drives in America. It is open year-round (except when passes are closed temporarily by snow) and all travel is on paved highway. The San Juan Skyway allows visitors to travel through several communities linked by the Byway including Durango, Silverton, Ouray, Telluride, Dolores and Cortez.

The sheer cliffs and rugged terrain of the skyway boast some of the most dramatic scenery on the planet. See crashing waterfalls in the spring as the snow melts in the higher mountains. Wildflowers garnish the alpine forests in the summer months, where the gilded amber, bronze, and gold of the aspens delight autumn visitors. Winter brings a glistening blanket of snow to the byway, perfect for quiet admiration or more active recreation. The San Juan Skyway promises a huge variety of activities year-round. Skiing is one of its premier winter activities, filled with fresh powder and quality resorts. After the thaw, enjoy four-wheeling, bicycling, kayaking, dirt-biking, and motorcycle-touring with friends, or indulge in solitary backpacking, hunting, fishing, and photography in the lush landscape. There's rest and relaxation, too. You can browse town shops, soak in historic hot springs, stay in a Victorian lodge, or sleep under the stars in a forest campground. This playground in the sky promises something for everyone in every season. Dramatic scenery and tempting sports are perfectly matched by the riveting history of the region. Nestled in the mountains to the south, the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park exemplify the complexity of the Ancestral Pueblos. Spanish conquistadors made their way through this area, and their discovery of gold in the Rocky Mountains changed the nature of the country forever. Learn hair-raising stories of struggling settlers and rough prospectors in the ghost towns and historic mines along the byway. Historic shops and Edwardian inns await visitors to Durango, Silverton, and Telluride. Witness the power of progress at the railway depots and stations that turned these small outposts into roaring western whistle stops. Enjoy it all on this 236-mile sampler of the best the Southwest has to offer.

The skyway travels through Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison National Forests, San Juan National Forest.

Map of San Juan Skyway

Latitude, Longitude: 37.700050, -107.777850

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Activities

  • Auto/Motorcycle

    The best time to drive the byway is June through October, although the byway can be enjoyed year-round because each season has its own attractions. Fall is one of the most spectacular seasons along the byway because of the many fall colors. July and August are the busiest months on the byway. The two-lane road between Ouray and Silverton has incredibly beautiful views. Drivers should know that while this is a perfectly adequate and well-maintained road, it is also narrow and steep, has many hairpin switchbacks and a tunnel, tremendous dropoffs with no railings or shoulders, and few places to pass. Some curves are signed at 10 mph. There are some pullouts, particularly at scenic vistas. Large vehicles do drive this road regularly, be sure and call ahead to check road conditions, especially in winter or inclement weather. The road south from Durango Ski Resort to Durango becomes three lanes with shoulders. It remains steep in places but the curves are less sharp and the countryside is more open.

    Allow five hours to drive or 1-2 days to experience the skyway.

  • Camping

    Camping is available along the byway. Go to reserveUSA.com to make reservations at nearby National Forest Campgrounds House Creek and McPhee Recreation Complex.

Seasonality/Weather

There is year-round maintenance on this byway. Mountain passes are sometimes closed for an hour or two (sometimes even a day or two) in the case of heavy snowstorms or slides during the winter. Travelers should note that Colorado State Highway 110 is restricted to 4x4 vehicles only.

Directions

Driving

From Denver: Take I-70 west out of Denver. Follow I-70 Clifton where you need to get on to CO-141. Turn on to US-50 west. Stay on US-50 until Montrose where you need to merge onto US-550. Follow US-550 until Ridgway where the byway begins.

Driving the byway: From Durango, head north on US 550 past Hermosa, Silverton, and Ouray. At Highway 62 near Ridgway, go left and follow Highway 62 to Placerville. Once you reach Placerville, take Highway 145 to the southeast. Continue on 145 until you come to the junction with US 160 near Cortez. Follow US 160 back to Durango to complete the entire loop.

Flying

Airport located in Denver, CO.

Phone Numbers

Primary

(970) 247-4874

Links