When Steve and I discovered the San Juan Skyway, we were immediately interested. When we discovered the section called the Million Dollar Highway, we knew we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to drive it.
Considered one of America’s most dangerous roads, the Million Dollar Highway offers “jaw-dropping” views through the mountains, immense historical opportunities, and scenic views that put other scenic byways to shame.
Located in Colorado, the San Juan Skyway is a 236 mile loop. We started in Cortez, Colorado and drove east to Durango. Here we hopped on 550 North and went into the mountains.
Just north of Duragno when we entered the San Juan National Forest, we were greeted with the brilliant yellows of an aspen forest. We missed Autumn peak by a week or so but the trees still didn’t disappoint.
Twenty-nine miles north of Durango, at an elevation around 10,750 feet, is Andrew’s Lake. With snow capped mountains rising behind the surrounding trees, this was a spot we could have stayed at all day.
There were signs to note that hiking trails were nearby but we didn’t have the time to explore further.
Nestled in the middle of nowhere, Silverton is a cute little town. It was a surprise to come around a steep turn and see this tiny little town down below.
A former mining camp, Silverton is now a National Historic Landmark District. It is one of the highest towns in the United States at an elevation of 9,318 feet.
The railroad station, running since 1881, offers scenic tours between Durango and Silverton.
Million Dollar Highway
The first sign you see when leaving Silverton is “Road Narrows”. They aren’t kidding. The second thing that happens is the guard rail disappears. You have arrived.
In October in good weather, we didn’t think it was too bad. Just pay attention to the road, follow the speed limit, and pay attention to the grades.
Water poured out of the mountains creating waterfalls galore. At one point we even drove across a bridge that was at the base of waterfall.
With views like this, the name seems all the more fitting.
At the end of the Million Dollar Highway is another historical town. With a nickname of the “Switzerland of America”, Ouray doesn’t disappoint.
Like Silverton, Ouray was originally established as a miner town. At the height of mining, it had more than 30 active mines. The present day economy is based on tourism, and it’s easy to see why.