It's not hard to see why the San Juan Skyway has a stellar reputation as one of America's must-drive scenic byways. Not only does it have unforgettable views (a must for any scenic cruise), but it's also got plenty to see and do along the way. There are tons of opportunities to pull over, hop out of the car, and engage with the area, from waterfall hikes to gondola rides to hot spring resorts. And we haven't even mentioned the best part of the drive! The epic craft beverage scene in Southwest Colorado means you can treat yourself to a craft beer once you're done. Not a beer lover? No problem! The route along the San Juan Skyway has a whole Crafted Beverage Program that features local coffee roasters, cideries, wineries, distilleries, soda-makers, and more. Each drink is more unique and delicious than the last. Whatever your drink of choice, it'll be the perfect end to a perfect drive. Pick up your Tasting Passport at the Durango Welcome Center, grab a DD, and get ready for an adventure through the foodie scene and stunning landscapes of the San Juan Skyway!
Start off with a drink and some grub at Durango's Ska Brewing. This joint packs a lot of personality into their taproom, along with more than a few stellar beers. Blondes and grapefruit lagers are offered alongside DIPAs and sours, making an afternoon or evening of sampling their brews an adventure for your tastebuds. The spacious taproom features pizzas and sandwiches in addition to outdoor seating, so it's a great place to kick back and mingle with the locals.
After Ska, you might need a caffeine boost to keep you going, because there's still more to see in Durango and along the San Juan Skyway. Desert Sun Coffee Roasters is a gem for a good cup of joe. Whether you like a blend, prefer something single origin, a pour-over to stay while you relax, or a nitro to go so you can get back out on the road, Desert Sun is a haven for all things java. Remember to grab a bag of beans as a souvenir of your trip!
Let someone else do the driving for a bit and take a day trip on the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. The ride will take you along a route important to Durango's past. The railroad has been in operation since the 19th century, when it hauled silver and other goods along the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. Vintage locomotives and train cars are still used today, and offer a perfect setting for taking the scenic journey from Durango to Silverton and back. This is one of the must-do attractions in Southwestern Colorado, and is sure to be a day of unforgettable views and adventure.
While you're stopped off in Durango, make a point to take a hike. There are loads of trails around, but you don't have to go far out of town to find a favorite: the Animas River Trail. The 7-mile, hard-surface, shared-use path follows along the famously gorgeous Animas River. Along the way, it passes parks, the incredible Victorian downtown district, and more, connecting to other trails as it follows the water. There's no better way to immerse yourself in the natural and historic beauty of Durango than with a nice stroll!
Born from a “love of good booze,” the Honey House Distillery's story begins with Old Vern Culhane, who found a honeybee hive on his farmland in 1918. Vern soon became obsessed with the honey the bees produced, and took care of the bees like family. Vern was so passionate about the honey, he was quickly able to sell it to locals and make a mark on the entire town of Durango.
Hoping to further his father’s legacy, Danny Culhane and his wife Sheree continue to sell small batches of handcrafted whipped honey, syrup, sauce, and jam. Most recently, the Honey House Distillery was opened by Danny and Sheree’s children, who have dedicated their lives to expanding the family business. The distillery was founded in 2012, and specializes in incredibly delicious, honey-based adult beverages, such as Colorado Honey Whiskey, Red Cliffs Spiced Rum, and more. The Cinnamon Honey Whiskey is a standout! Grab a bottle or two to bring back as souvenirs of your Western adventure.
Another world-class brewery, located in the heart of Silverton, is Avalanche Brewing Company, the perfect place to settle in for a drink while enjoying the fresh air of the San Juan Mountains. Avalanche has been brewing tasty craft beer since 2011, and continues to be one of the most popular spots to grab a bite and drink, thanks to its continuous renovations and commitment to being an integral part of the Silverton community. Overwhelmed by all the options? You can't go wrong with anything, but grab a Treasure Mountain Pale Ale and the Mojo Pork Pie pizza for a true taste of Silverton.
The drive down Million Dollar Highway will probably have you feelin' like a million bucks! Built in the late 1880s, the route is a part of the San Juan Skyway renowned as one of the most scenic drives in the country. It passes nearby Ouray, and Silverton, Colorado, and since this highway is carved into the gorgeous Colorado mountains, it offers views you can’t find anywhere else. Keep your eyes peeled as you crest three mountain passes, and cruise right through a landscape of vistas, cliffs, mountains, forests, and more. The 12 miles can be a bit tricky to drive depending on the weather, but if you have the time and ability, it’s a drive you absolutely won't forget.
Ouray boasts more than great beer; it's also home to a few natural hot springs. Take a break from the Skyway and rest your head at the Box Canyon Lodge and Hot Springs so you can take advantage of the geothermal spring pools. The mineral-rich water (between 103 and 108 degrees Fahrenheit) is kept in pools on a scenic redwood terrace. The rooms here are cozy and the lodge offers loads of amenities, along with a concierge service that can help you make the most of your stay in Ouray.
If you're just passing through and aren't looking to stay the night, the city of Ouray runs the public Ouray Hot Springs Pool, which boasts waterslides, diving boards, lap lanes, water games, and more. The water in this million-gallon pool is crystal clear, and the temperature usually clocks in around 96 to 106 degrees.
Got a sweet tooth? Pop into Mouses Chocolates and Coffee in Ouray to pick up something to treat yo' self. Fudge, barks, truffles, toffees, caramels, and more await you in this wonderland of candy delights. The perfect complement to all that sweetness is a cup of in-house roasted coffee or espresso; Mouses has a lighter roast from Costa Rica and a darker roast from Sumatra, so there's something for every palate here.
Make your next stop Ouray Brewery, where you can sit back, relax and enjoy some killer brews while taking in the beautiful sights of the Ouray, Colorado, mountains. The brewery offers dozens of award-winning craft beers and is known for filling pub fare. Whether you’re a seasoned craft beer drinker, or just looking for a place to enjoy some great food and conversation, Ouray Brewery has you covered. Family owned and operated, this brewery has something for all beer palates, and also offers a wide selection of delicious seasonal beers that'll keep you coming back. Plus, as a staple of the community, it provides the true Ouray experience.
The perfect place to unwind after leaving Ouray is Telluride Brewing. It's one of the highest-elevation craft breweries in the world, making beer from fresh Rocky Mountain snowmelt (and hops and malts and yeast and all of that other good beer stuff.) The taproom has a laid-back and super-friendly vibe, and there are always plenty of choices on tap. Telluride always has staples like the blonde, brown, red, and India pale ales, along with a few unique seasonal offerings. There's a deli next door where you can order some grub, and you can always grab a crowler of beer to go as well.
You don't have to be a hiker to enjoy the scenery in Telluride; a quick 13-minute ride on the free Telluride/Mountain Village Gondola offers some of the best views in the country, let alone the state! Hop on at the Telluride Station and ride up to San Sophia; here, you can take in some hiking, or grab some refreshment at the summit restaurant at 10,540 feet. From there, you can even ride over to the town of Mountain Village. Whether you're looking to explore, hike, ski, or just enjoy the mountain setting from a new angle, the gondola is a local gem.
Before you hop back in the car, take a quick hike out to Telluride's Bridal Veil Falls. The 365-foot cascade is, when it's at its best, a real beauty. In fact, it's the tallest free-falling waterfall in Colorado! Adding to the gorgeous setting is the restored historic power plant atop the falls. Plan about two hours for the hike-- it's 1.8 miles each way. As you stroll along, enjoy the pine forests and fresh mountain air!
Beer isn't the only thing Colorado does well; the state can hold its own when it comes to wine too. Sutcliffe Vineyard features a picture-perfect tasting room set among its organically-grown grapes. Go for the $10 tasting, which gets you samples of four wines, and then sit outside and soak in the lush greenery, framed by mountains in the background. Sutcliffe makes a variety of both reds and whites, so you're sure to find something for every taste here!
As you follow the San Juan Skyway into Cortez, you'll probably be ready for a break (and a cold beer). WildEdge Brewing Collective is the perfect stop. Not only does it offer WildEdge brews in a renovated warehouse space, it also has a rotating tap of Colorado-produced ciders, and a menu of locally-sourced bites (think brewery staples like soft pretzels and brats, alongside hummus.) The beers can get delightfully weird, with lots of kettle sours, ales with fruit added and semi-sweet stouts. The crowd is sure to be great as well!
Phil's World Mountain Biking Trail is a world-renowned park for mountain bikers looking to enjoy the outdoors. Head to Kokopelli Bike Shop, which maintains the trail, for advice on which sections to ride, and then hit the trail for some adventure. Expect to encounter jumps, hard-banking turns, climbs, overlooks, drops and more.
One of the most iconic attractions along the San Juan Skyway is Mesa Verde National Park. It's an essential visit for any American, as it protects, preserves, and interprets Pueblo cliff dwellings from the 13th century. There are several "houses" to visit, some that can only be reached on ranger-led tours, and others that you can hike to and explore on your own. There are 4,000 sites spread out over 80 miles of park, so there's a lot to take in. Ruins Road and Mesa Loop Road are great quick scenic drives that offer an overview of the park, and if you want to learn more about the fascinating culture of the Pueblo people, the Mesa Verde Visitor and Research Center offers artifacts and information galore.
Cruise on over to Mancos for a change of pace. Outlier Cellars is a local craft cidery that makes Fenceline Cider. The amount of detail put into perfecting the beverage is apparent from first sip, and a stop at their cider bar means you get the chance to taste exclusive offerings like barrel aged cider, reserves, single varietals and other one-offs. The Cellars also runs an applewood-fired brick over that turns out perfect pizzas as well, the perfect pairing for your cider.
The San Juan Skyway is more than just a famously beautiful drive; it's an experience that leads you right to some of the gems in and around Durango. Cozy craft breweries, natural hot springs, airy wineries, lush forests, and more lie in wait along the route, making it the adventure of a lifetime.
Located in southwestern Colorado, Durango offers everything from Old West experiences, ancient ruins, and exceptional arts and culture to world-class outdoor recreation, a distinctive dining scene and one-of-a-kind activities and events.