- San Juan Skyway
The San Juan Skyway is one of the
scenic byways in the Colorado Scenic and Historic Byway System. It forms a 236 mile (379 km) loop in the southwest part of the U.S. State of Coloradotraversing the heart of the San Juan Mountains.
U.S. Highway 160
State Highway 145
At Cortez, the byway turns north following State Highway 145 through the town of Dolores and follows the
Dolores Riverinto the San Juan National Forest. The byway passes through the small town of Rico, county seatof Dolores County prior to 1941. The old Courthouse still remains. From Rico, the byway crosses 10,222 ft (3116 m) Lizard Head Passand enters the Uncompahgre National Forest. Lizard Head Pass provides views of 14,159 ft (4316 m) El Diente Peak, 14,246 ft (4342 m) Mount Wilson, 14,017 ft (4272 m) Wilson Peakand the pass's namesake, 13,113 ft (3997 m) Lizard Head Peak. The byway descends near the little town of Ophir past the location of the famous Ophir Loopof the Rio Grande Southern Railroad. A spur road heads off to the old miningtown turned ski resortof Telluride. The byway follows the San Miguel Riverdown to the little town of Placerville.
State Highway 62
The byway turns east at Placerville onto State Highway 62 and follows it over
Dallas Divide. There are many excellent views of the San Juan Mountains, especially of the mountains around 14,150 ft (4313 m) Mount Sneffels. From top of the divide the byway descends into the town of Ridgway. The entire route of the byway from Durango to Ridgway roughly follows the route of the Rio Grande Southern Railroad.
U.S. Highway 550
From Ridgway, the byway turns south onto U.S. Highway 550 following the
Uncompahgre Riverinto the Victorian miningtown of Ouray. From Ouray south back to Durango, the highway is referred to as the Million Dollar Highway. The first seven miles (11km) south of Ouray, the byway follows through the Uncompahgre Gorge. Just past the only tunnelon the route, just south of Ouray, the road crosses over Bear Creek Fallson a bridge at the location of an impassable toll booth on the original road. The Alpine Loop Scenic Byway, a four wheel drive jeeproad takes off in the gorge south of Bear Creek Falls. Before leaving the gorge, the byway passes through a snow shedunder the Riverside Slide avalanchezone. A monument stands near here honoring those who have lost their lives in the avalanche, including several snowplowoperators. At this point the byway enters Ironton Park, a nice flat valley in contrast to the gorge. The road ascends several switchbacks, or S curves, past the Idarado mining peration to the 11,018 ft (3358 m) summit of Red Mountain Pass, providing views of Red Mountain (Colorado)and several ghost towns. Back into the San Juan National Forest, the highway descends through the Chattanooga Valley to Silverton.
From Silverton the byway passes over 10,910 ft (3325 m)
Molas Passand 10,640 ft (3243 m) Coal Bank Passdescending past the ski resortof Durango Mountain. From Hermosa the road parallels the Durango and Silverton narrow gauge raiload before returning to Durango.
* [http://www.byways.org/explore/byways/2101/ National Scenic Byways Program - San Juan Skyway]
* [http://www.coloradobyways.org/ByWay.cfm?byWayIDpar=SAN20011203091122 Colorado's Scenic and History Byways - San Juan Skyway]
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