San Juan Skyway loop is one of the most scenic highways in the United States. It covers 236 miles of terrain across southwestern Colorado traveling through Durango, Silverton, Ouray, Telluride, Dolores and Cortez. The stretch between Silverton to Ouray, which is about 25 milles, is also called the 'Million Dollar Highway.' We spent a day driving along this loop on July 4th and what a beautiful day it was!
We were camping at Mesa Verde National Park, so we entered the San Juan Skyway at Mancos and did the loop anti-clockwise. We started in the morning, it was sunny and the stretch from Mancos to Durango was ok. I have been on scenic highways before including the famous Pacific Coast Highway (US Route 101) and I know that weather can make all the difference between a good experience and an extraordinary experience. To me, the perfect weather to enjoy all the greenery, mountains, lakes, streams and wildflowers is to have a cloud filled sky with a slight drizzle and occasional sun. How else are we supposed to get rainbows? Rainbows are my most favorite things in the world. Nothing else can make me as happy as a beautiful rainbow can! Ok, I am diverting here but the point being you need a cloudy sky and a slight drizzle to fully appreciate all the beautiful green shades around you.
And Mother Nature did want me to appreciate her in all her beauty. It started drizzling soon after we reached Durango. And the drive from Durango to Silverton was an absolute pleasure. Here are some of the million dollar views on the way :)
As we were being wowed by the different shades of green trees, mountain and wildflowers, we saw signs for scenic overlook at Andrews Lake just before the Molas Pass. We took this detour and how glad I was we did! While the scenery on the highway was fantastic, there are always vehicles zooming past you, and amidst all the noise, it was difficult get a peaceful moment to soak in the surrounding beauty. The short hike from the scenic overlook to the lake was not only beautiful but was so peaceful (it was just the two of us), giving us time to enjoy the picturesque beauty and wildflowers in peace. That, I think, is the best part of road trips without an agenda. Finding such hidden treasures on the road gives you such joy and pleasure that a planned getaway can never offer. Being a meticulous planner myself, I enjoy these rare moments immensely.
After this worthwhile detour, we continued on our way to the Silverton, a small mining town, though we did not make a stop here. The stretch from Silverton to Ouray is called Million Dollar Highway, probably because it offers grand views of mountains or due to its sharp curvy roads. Given its name, we had high expectations. It did have great views of rocky red mountains, but coming from Arizona, having been to Zion National Park, we were not as impressed, I must say. Give me green, Colorado, we have rocks too!
We reached Ouray around 1:30 PM and what happened there warrants a separate blog post. We left Ouray after lunch at 3:30 PM and continued on our way to Ridgeway and then towards Telluride. We stopped at this refreshing stream on the way and played in the cool waters for a while. I love my husband more when he makes such cool stops, especially near the waters. Not sure if it has got anything to do with me being a water sign, but if I see fresh flowing cool water, I have to get into it :)
This was our last pit stop on this loop, after which we drove to Dolores passing through such beautiful greenery and scenery that my eyes were tired by the end of it all, trying to absorb everything. We then drove to our campground at Mesa Verde National Park via Cortez, calling it a beautiful day!