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

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 stunning 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’s numerous Nationwide Forest land alongside the best way. You are able to do the journey in 5 days with numerous 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 mountain climbing journey.

On this information to the Million Greenback Freeway and the San Juan Skyway Loop, we give insider tips about the perfect 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. Often known as San Juan Scenic Byway, the freeway travels by a few of the most spectacular surroundings within the Decrease 48.

Residing within the San Juans, I hear again and again from guests that the surroundings is on par – and even higher – than widespread locations like Glacier Nationwide Park and Rocky Mountain Nationwide Park. Fourteen thousand foot peaks rise from the mountain ranges on the perimeters of the freeway and just about the entire journey is only one “wow” after one other. The 200+ mile loop may 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 facet 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 few 6-hour drive relying on which facet 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 value a million {dollars} to construct. Nonetheless one other principle is that somebody as soon as mentioned “I’ll by no means drive that highway once more, not for one million {dollars}!”. That one might be up so that you can resolve, when you drive the highway!

One thrilling (or scary — you resolve) tidbit concerning 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 manner round, as a result of on this route you drive on the within of the highway, as an alternative of the surface (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 good time to do the San Juan Skyway highway journey as a result of the climate is usually sunny and heat. Nevertheless, 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 might 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 Purple Mountain Go. The whole whiteout, lack of guard rails, and icy highway stored 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 until you’re completely ready with snow chains. They can 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 Street Journey Itinerary

Durango to Silverton

Distance: 48 miles

Driving from Durango to Silverton, Colorado takes you over Coal Financial institution Go after which Molas Go, 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 in order for you!

The place to remain in Silverton:

Little Molas Lake Campground is a few mile off the highway proper earlier than you attain Molas Go. The primitive campground is at present 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. It is a stunning place to camp and take within the meadows and peaks surrounding Molas Go.

Silverton has a wide range of inns, inns, and lodges obtainable 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 concerning the french toast.

Avalanche Brewing Firm supplies 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 when you are driving, with out taking on an excessive amount of time! This hike supplies mountain views for the start of your highway journey!
  • Take Photographs at Molas Go. The very best level of the day, Molas Go gives 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 supplies downhill mountain biking for all talent ranges. Or check out their different summer season choices together with a scenic chairlift journey 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 manner as much as Purple Mountain Go, which is value a cease to gaze on the views. Then the highway begins happening, down, down, with numerous switchbacks and a median velocity of about 15 miles per hour. The views by no means cease, however there should not too many pull-outs to take photographs, so simply maintain all of it in your thoughts till you arrive above the lovable little hamlet of Ouray. It’s not known as the Switzerland of America for nothing!

The place to remain in Ouray:

Foremost Avenue Inn is a really cute brightly coloured assortment of historic homes on Foremost 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 perfect half is that they offer you freshly baked items upon arrival!

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

The place to eat in Ouray:

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

Bon Ton is an effective possibility 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. One among these gorgeous alpine lakes hikes makes an important addition to this drive. Get out into the mountains that you simply see throughout you, and discover!
  • Take footage at Purple Mountain Go, or cease at any of the various pullouts on the best way right down to Ouray to take photographs! Simply just remember to are parking in a chosen pullout, as many sections of the highway would not 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 stunning stretch of highway. You may really feel like you’re driving out the mountains as you allow 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 move! 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 transportable rest room. It’s a widespread and delightful space, however a excessive clearance four wheel drive car is really useful, though there have been reviews of normal SUVs being advantageous 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 checklist for the longer term, because it seems to be scrumptious and has an important out of doors eating space.

What to do:

  • Hike Bear Creek Falls or Bridalveil Falls. These widespread and delightful trails begin proper within the city of Telluride and are brief 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 need an extended hike, head in the direction of the mountains when passing over Dallas Divide to hike the Blue Lakes path to a few gorgeous blue lakes beneath Mount Sneffels
  • Take photographs at Dallas Divide. This view is one in every of my favorites on the entire highway journey, and is made much more stunning by fall colours, sundown, or dawn. Cease and take photographs 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 attractive and sometimes neglected Lizard Head Go and the small city of Rico on the best way to Dolores! Numerous mountain climbing and exploring exist on this a part of San Juan Nationwide Forest, and though I is likely to be 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 good riverside campsite with cabin leases obtainable as effectively. They typically have meals vans on-site for dinner, and also have a children 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 gives a free and delightful place to camp. The world has numerous 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 take into account themselves a vineyard and are available at cider from the angle of wine. The environment and out of doors space present an important place to get to know the homeowners and locals, and their meals truck Zoe the Tail gives contemporary and scrumptious meals. I particularly advocate the cheese plate!

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

What to do:

  • Cease in Rico, Colorado to search out an previous mining city coming alive with a couple of small espresso outlets, a historic museum, and an important taco truck.
  • Hike at Lizard Head Go or no less than cease and take footage. There are a couple of mountain climbing choices within the space, together with mountain climbing as much as the bottom of the tower of Lizard Head Mountain, mountain climbing a 13 mile loop, or attempt the Hope Lake hike off of Trout Lake, simply earlier than Lizard Head Go.
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 exterior of Durango. There may be additionally a wide range of different dispersed tenting within the space!

Durango additionally has numerous inns and different locations to remain within the city itself. Residing 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 situated round Ernie’s Bar, which supplies the drinks. It may be possibility for meals when everyone seems to be within the temper for one thing totally 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 can be well worth the browse!
  • Hike Animas Mountain Path. This 6 mile loop up a mountain on the town provides your legs a stretch on the finish of your highway journey.
  • Go to Mesa Verde. This Nationwide Park incorporates constructions constructed by Ancestral Pueblo folks over a thousand years in the past. Be taught concerning 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 checklist? Do you could have any questions? Go away 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 at present based mostly in SW Colorado. When not writing, she may be discovered within the mountains, climbing, mountain climbing, snowboarding, path working, or sitting by a river. Or, if it is raining, she’ll be baking one thing scrumptious and studying a e book.


Journalist specialized in online marketing as Social Media Manager. I help professionals and companies to become more Internet and online reputation, which allows to give life to the Social Media Strategies defined for the Company, and thus immortalize brands, products and services. I have participated as an exhibitor in various forums nationally and internationally, I am the author of several articles in digital magazines and Blogs.

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