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San Juan Skyway. Photo by Jason J. Hatfield

Colorado’s Scenic and Historic Byways: San Juan Skyway

Take this 236-mile loop past hot springs, over mountains, and to travel the Million Dollar Highway.

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Ridgway (loop)

When you’ve earned a nickname like the Million Dollar Highway, you better live up to it—and the San Juan Skyway does. Lore says the moniker might derive from the amount of precious minerals carried out of the nearby mountains or from the astronomical cost of building a road so high in the sky. But it might as well refer to the views and activities: This loop goes by three natural hot springs, a handful of mountain passes, and some of the state’s best hiking and backcountry skiing. Not to be overlooked are quick side trips that carry you to the Anasazi Heritage Center and Mesa Verde National Park. This is the stuff travel brochures are made of.

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Roadside Attraction

The six-mile Perimeter Trail in Ouray (the path starts at the town’s visitors center on U.S. 550) has a little bit of everything: elevation gain (more than 1,000 feet), bridges, views of town, and aspens. Lots and lots of aspens.

’Grammable Spot

There are several mountains to photograph along this byway, but don’t miss the chance to frame aptly named Lizard Head peak in your smartphone’s camera.

Refuel

Get the day started right with a hearty morning meal—try the smothered breakfast burrito—at the Durango Diner. 957 Main Ave., Durango, 970-247-9889

Go Now

As the name implies, you’ll find loads of autumn color at the Durango Fall Blaze, a bike ride with three different lengths (37, 60, and 100 miles) through the Animas Valley. Sept. 28; Durango

Winter in Colorado

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