San Juan Skyway story page

Touring the Byway
7 Days / 6 Nights (Optional Day 8) | Gateway City: Durango, CO


We recommend starting your journey in Durango, where you can ride the Durango and Silverton Railroad, a historic narrow-gauge steam train that chugs up into the mountains.  Explore the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum, the art galleries and historic downtown and before or after your train ride. Visit the Animas Museum to learn more of the frontier Colorado story. Stay overnight in the very historic General Palmer Hotel.  


Today, it’s time to head out on the San Juan Skyway All American Road to Silverton, where not much has changed since 1876. Take the walking tour to admire the historic architecture and visit the San Juan County Historical Society Museum before taking a side trip to three ghost towns. In one, you can tour the Old Hundred Gold Mine to see how gold was dug out from deep in the mountainside. Spend the night at the Inn of the Rockies at the Historic Alma House in Silverton.


Start your day driving the Million Dollar Highway between Silverton and Ouray before visiting the Ouray Historical Society, taking the Historic District Walking Tour, and touring the Bachelor-Syracuse Mine. Spend the evening at the Beaumont Hotel and Spa.  


Begin today with a trip to Ridgway.  When you reach this historic town, you can explore the Ridgway Movie Locations and the Downtown Creative District before visiting the Ouray County Ranch History Museum. From there, move on to Telluride, where you can visit the Telluride Historical Museum and take the Gondola high over the city. Stay at the New Sheridan Hotel in Telluride. 


Before leaving Telluride take the historic walking tour and then move on to Dolores and the Anasazi Heritage Center. A bit further west, explore the Canyon of the Ancients National Monument, Lowry Pueblo and Hovenweep National Monument. Stay overnight at the Canyon of the Ancients Guest Ranch.


Explore the Cortez Cultural Center and the Crow Canyon Archeological Center before checking into the Far View Lodge at Mesa Verde National Park and getting a head start on exploring this intriguing place.


Having stayed at Mesa Verde National Park, you have the whole of today to explore the fascinating Cliff Dwellings left by the original ancient residents of the area, take the scenic drive through the park, and explore all of the other timeless park locations.


Today, you have the option to return to Durango, to complete the Byway loop or head out.  Whatever you decide, we wish you safe passage if you’re traveling another Colorado Scenic and Historic Byway or a safe and pleasant journey home.  

View the Detailed Itinerary below to see the full route, which is complete with dining, shopping, and lodging recommendations!

Highlighted Attractions

Mesa Verde National Park

Mesa Verde National Park

Considered one of the 50 must see places of a lifetime, the extensive dugout areas filled with cliff dwellings and other serpentine structures were home to residents for over 700 years.  Accompanied by a guide, you can tour the Cliff Palace, climb ladders into Balcony House, and walk into Long House to hear the wind whispering through the shadowed rooms. Self-guided tours are available for Spruce Tree House, Step House, Badger House, sites on Mesa Top and sites in the Far View Complex.  Prepare to be awestruck!

Durango Silverton Railroad

Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

For a completely different view of the area than you will get when you drive the San Juan Skyway, riding the train that brought over $300 million in gold and silver down from the San Juan mountains is a must do. Constructed in 1881, the line parallels the Million Dollar Highway, yet also takes you through backcountry not accessible by car. Hauling the precious metals continued until 1893, when the bottom dropped out of silver prices. After facing various challenges for nearly 40 years, the train was discovered by Hollywood which showcased the train in movies such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Million Dollar Highway

This morning it’s time to drive the Million Dollar Highway between Silverton and Ouray.  It began as a toll road named for the large quantities of silver and gold that moved down the route. Local legend has it the road cost a million dollars a mile to build (think of what that would be in today’s dollars!) and the fill dirt still contains a million dollars in gold ore. Cut from the mountainside, the highway delivers jaw-dropping vista after vista of magnificent scenery. Drive with care around the hairpin curves and use caution while enjoying the beautiful views.

Bachelor Mine Tour

Bachelor-Syracuse Mine Tour

Beginning at ground level, a tour of the Bachelor-Syracuse mine takes you 1,500 feet into Gold Hill where you’ll discover rich veins of ore veins still in place along with the equipment used to dig it out. After the underground tour, you’ll receive gold panning instruction and a tour of the turn-of-the-century Blacksmith shop. If you have not yet had lunch, stop at the Outdoor Café.

Telluride Gondola

Telluride Gondola

For the most spectacular view of the mountain valley (especially at night), ride on the gondola that links Telluride to the Mountain Ski Village. The 13-minute ride is a front row seat to the magnificent mountain landscape views from 10,500 feet. It is the only public transportation of its kind in America.