Whether it’s your first time visiting or your fifth, no trip to Durango is complete without driving along the famous Million Dollar Highway. As part of the San Juan Skyway, this scenic drive stretches over 235 miles in the U.S. Route 5. Read on for everything you need to know about this historic drive.
The Highway’s History
Nestled on the southern edge of the picturesque San Juan Mountains, the town of Durango flourished into a center of commerce and railway hub by the 1889s. The San Juan Skyway was built in the late 1880s, earning the nickname “The Million Dollar Highway” due to its expensive building costs. It was designated as a National Forest Scenic Byway in 1988 and later named a Colorado Scenic and Historic Byway in 1989.
An Overview of the Trip
With beautiful views and winding roads, the San Juan Skyway travels over four mountain passes. The famous highway stretches for approximately 25 miles in western Colorado and follows the route of U.S. 550 between Silverton and Ouray. Between Durango and Silverton, the Skyway loosely parallels the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.
Points of Interest Along the Way
If you’re looking to break up your trip, consider taking a stop along the way. Go for a soak at The Durango Hot Springs Resort and Spa, which is open to the public year round. Guests can look forward to the use of two saunas and naturally heated mineral-rich hot springs. You might also want to spend some time exploring the San Juan National Forest, which expands across 1.8 million acres of desert, mountain peaks and meadows. Camping, hiking and birding are just some of what you can enjoy here.
To Know Before You Go
Keep in mind that completing the full loop takes approximately seven hours of driving. Plus, you’ll want to schedule some extra time to grab lunch or explore the historic towns dotted along the way. It’s a good idea to always check current road conditions before you go. Regardless of the season, you can be sure to expect some twists and turns, as parts of the scenic drive do feature steep drop-offs.
Consider going in fall to see colorful foliage or in the spring to catch a glimpse of the vibrant wildflowers. With breathtaking views of the mountains, valley and gorge, you’re in for an unforgettable adventure driving along the Million Dollar Highway.