Overall Route Rating
speedo-meter speedo-arrow
4.96 out of 5 Rider Rating 4.96
32 Reviews

San Juan Mountain Skyway

Motorcycle Route Author

profile Image
By Guest (0 McR Points) on Dec 11, 1999

Rider Reviews

No Image Found
September 24, 2009
I saw this ride on this website and made the…
No Image Found
June 18, 2009
Probably the best motorcycle road in America!…

Written Directions

NOTE: A 12-mile section of this route (the section between Ouray & Silverton) is a very famous section of road known as the "Million Dollar Highway"! This route is a loop so you can start anywhere on the loop and take the loop in either direction but my description below in the "roadside amenities" section describes the route starting in Ridgway, CO and ending in Telluride. Following my recommended route you start in Ridgway on Rte. 62 heading east and immediately get on Rte. 550. Take that road south all the way to Durango. From Durango, get on Rte. 160 heading west towards Mesa Verde National Park and the town of Cortez. Before you get to Cortez, you need to turn north on Rte 145 and that will take you all the way up to Telluride. You'll definitely want to stop in Telluride and take a look around, stretch the legs, grab some chow, and gas up. Once you get back on 145 continuing north, you'll want to head up to Placerville at which point you need to get on the road you started, 62, and take it east all the way back to the starting point of Ridgway, CO. A spectacular 225 mile loop!!


This ride will take you through arguably the most beautiful sections of the Rocky Mountains as you follow a circular path through southwestern Colorado. You will pass through historic mining towns, national parks and forests and world-class ski resort areas. On this trip you will see the San Juan Mountains, home to many of Colorado's elite group of 14,000 foot mountain peeks. Along the way you will see red-rock canyons, lush river valleys, hot springs and majestic mountain peaks and an area known as the 'Switzerland of America.' Bottom line is GET READY TO BE TAKING A LOT OF PHOTOS ON THIS TRIP!!!.

Timing your trip to see the Aspens in their fall glory will make this trip even more special. These lovely Aspen groves provide a heavenly blanket of golden hues along the Uncompahgre Gorge.

Drive Enjoyment

You definitely want to be careful on this route. It has countless number of hairpin turns and switchbacks (with and WITHOUT guardrails) and the descents and climbs are almost endless. Make sure you take advantage of the many scenic turnouts to take a good long look at the scenery ... you will be surprised how glued your eyes will be on the scenery. Keep in mind, this alpine route will have you riding at over 10,000 feet three times on its path ... some bikes (like humans) struggle at these kinds of altitudes. Lastly, when planning any bike trip through mountains, keep in mind that the snow sticks around longer up there in the spring and returns more quickly in the year (you'd be safest in July/August).

One of the MANY things you can do along this motorcycle road is to take a relaxing tour on a vintage steam engine. The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad offers train ride packages that are based on changing themes (ex. "Balloon Rally Train", "Cascade Canyon Tour", etc) ... its a great way to see some of the beauty inaccessible to road travelers and to "slip back in time" and feel some of the emotions elicited by the same untamed Rocky Mountain Beauty that has been enchanting travelers for many generations.

Tourism Opportunities

There are a large variety of amenities in this area of Colorado. The town of Ridgway was home to the set of Wild West movies such as True Grit and How the West Was Won. You can also visit old mining towns such as Ouray, Silverton and Telluride. Ouray was named after a Ute Indian chief and is home of a number of hot springs including one converted to a municipal pool. Silverton offers a look at a preserved Rocky Mountain mining town with its once elegant hotels and even a former red light district where the town locals stage mock gunfights on some summer evenings. The city has a museum and ample gift shops and places to grab a bite or a brew. Durango is the largest city in southwestern Colorado and as you walk its gas-lamp lit streets you will see its vast collection of beautiful brick and stone Victorian buildings that offer a multitude of souvenir shops, restaurants and hotels. It is also the starting point for the 'Durango to Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.' This authentic coal burning steam engine pulled train runs multiple times a day across the breathtaking route from Durango to Silverton. You will pass buy Mesa Verde National Park and will definitely want to stop by and visit the ancient Ansazi villages and cliff dwellings built here over 700 years ago. There you will see the 'Cliff Palace' that served as the home of more than 200 Anasazis. On the southwestern corner of the trip you will pass through Cherry Creek and see the area that gave western novelist Louis L'Amour the inspiration for his many novels. As you finish the loop of this route, one of the highlights of your trip may be the world famous ski-town of Telluride. Here you will find yourself in a town tucked close to awesome mountains in its own corner of a mountain valley. This Victorian town has ample activities including mountain-biking, camping and a large offering of shops and restaurants. It is also houses the historic bank where Butch Cassidy committed his first bank robbery in 1889. While there make sure you hike to Bridal Veil Falls and see the highest freefall waterfall in Colorado (the fall dives 425 ft).

There is a lot of history along this route covering different times and different cultures. In addition to the gold mining era historical sites, you will be able to experience some of far older historical points of interest such as the incredible cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park. You can explore the various ancient architectural treasures from walking paths and learn from the many fascinating tours available.

Motorcycle Road Additional info

- View the weather forecast for this area from Yahoo weather .

One of the many interesting towns you'll find along this route is Ouray Colorado. Ouray has an interesting history as well as some vintage "gold mining days" architecture that you can see and walk through when it's time to take a break from the road.

One of the dominating peaks along this path is known as Engineer Mountain shown in this photo.

The route offers some good scenic diversity as part of the route will pass through idyllic alpine mountain splendor, while other sections pass through canyon areas. When you get to Ridgway, you will have made it out of the mountain hugging roads and be traveling on some flatter sections with grand panoramic views of the surrounding ranges.

Top Images

San Juan Mountain Skyway
San Juan Mountain Skyway
Share Your Comments ( 32 )
  Earn McR Points
February 21, 2015
38 McR Points
Motorcycle Type : Touring
This is one of the greatest routes in the US. It has it all, super scenery, good amenities, good roads and curves, several mountain passes, good overlooks and scenic stops and lots to see and along the way. This route takes you through some of the most rugged part of the Rocky Mountains. While you can travel it in one day it will be a long one if you make only a few stops. It is best traveled in 2 to 3 days with so much to see and visit along the way. Be sure to spend some time at Mesa Verde, Silverton and Telluride and take the train trip from Durango to Silverton if you have extra time. One great ride and a super area you will definitely want to return to.
Was this road review helpful?
2 riders found this road review useful
November 24, 2013
33 McR Points
Motorcycle Type : Other
Have lived near and ridden this road for a lifetime and, always knew it was great, just never realized it till I started touring more.
This is the best of the best and has it all. Good surface, plenty of amenities and stops. History, scenery, challenges, elevation changes and a route made for great riding.
Tips : Sept - Oct and May - June have less traffic. Sept - Oct has unpredictable weather. May - June will have road hazards such as sand and potholes.
Take C184 between Dolores and Mancos. It is more scenic and only takes you a couple miles out of the way if a Mesa Verde visit is in your itinerary.
Was this road review helpful?
2 riders found this road review useful
No Image Found
July 12, 2013
0 McR Points
Motorcycle Type : Sport - Touring
I rode from Miami to California and detoured to take the Million Dollar Highway. Starting in Durango the road climbs to Silverton through alamedas of Aspens that give way to evergreens as you gain altitude. There are three passes over 10,000 ft that still had snow in late May. The road from Silverton to Ouray rates as highly as the Tail of the Dragon in my opinion. The scenery is spectacular, the road is challenging and traffic was light. Ouray is a good stop for lunch. I then followed the loop through Telluride down to Cortez. Much of the route follows valleys with rushing mountain streams following the road. Ten miles of road under repair ("Warning, motorcycles use extreme caution") with oil and loose gravel made the ride challenging. This is definately a Bucket List ride.
Was this road review helpful?
2 riders found this road review useful