Friday, March 04, 2011

The San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway

The continuing saga of our trip west in the spring of 2009...

After leaving the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and our favorite Best Western in Montrose, Colorado, we drove the San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway toward our next destination. Actually, the San Juan Skyway forms a loop, and we traveled only the eastern and southern portions of it. I look forward to another visit when we can see the rest of the loop.

The portion of the Skyway that runs between Ouray and Silverton is known as the "Million Dollar Highway." I haven't been able to find a definitive answer as to why it bears that name. I thought it might be due to the many silver mines that had been located in that area during the late 1800s. But it may refer to the cost of building the road, which was completed in 1924. Or it may be a reference to the "million dollar" views all along the route. Or one explanation is that someone said, "I wouldn't drive that again if you paid me a million dollars."

Ouray, Colorado (Nicknamed "The Switzerland of America")
Some of the "Million Dollar" Scenery
An Old Mine (There were lots of these visible from the roadway.)
Information about the mining towns established in the area
Information about the Yankee Girl Mine
Red Mountain
Mining Area
Silverton, Colorado
The Narrow Gauge Railroad at Silverton
Molas Pass
"If you should, in your imagination, put together in one small group, perhaps 12 miles square, all the heights and depths, the rugged precipices and polished faces of rock, and all the sharp pinnacles and deeply-indented crests, and twenty times the inaccessible summits that both of us have ever seen, you would not have a picture equal to this..."
-  W. H. Holmes, U. S. Geological and Geographical Survey, 
describing the San Juan Mountains, September 7, 1876.

Our beautiful drive took us to Cortez, Colorado, where we would stay while visiting Mesa Verde National Park, which will be featured on the next installment of this travelogue. Stay tuned.


  1. I've just spent the past half hour mesmerized by your photos! I had quite a bit of catching up since your visit to the Bishop's Castle. (Still amazed over that thing!) I just have to tell you that I have never, ever, been so tempted to travel out west as I am since I've seen your photos! Honestly, they should hire you to take pictures for travel brochures!

  2. Wow.. it's amazing how many beautiful and diverse areas there are on our one continent alone. Your photos are fabulous, Linda. Just amazing.

  3. I have been here and road on the railroad. Lovely area to play, I really enjoyed the mountain pictures you took.

  4. EthelMae - Thank you so much for the kind comments about my photos. I used to think I took a decent picture until I entered Blogland and began seeing all the truly excellent photographs posted by some bloggers. Now I'm my own worst critic. So your praise is much appreciated.

    Our West offers so much beauty and diversity. It shouldn't be missed. And there's a lot of it I haven't seen yet myself.
    Hilary - With your photographic talent, it's kind of you to praise my efforts. It's a very photogenic area, though. Most anyone could come away with some "calendar" photos.

    Have you ever traveled to Canada's own Banff and Jasper National Parks? If not, you really should try to schedule a visit. The scenery is stunning there.
    Thank you, Steve. Maybe we'll take that train ride on a future trip.

  5. Beautiful photos! I love the West. There's so much to see and never enough time.

  6. Hi Linda, I've heard about that train ride out of Silverton... Did you all take that??? It's supposed to be wonderful... BUT--driving was probably even better...

    Great pictures....

  7. I guess if I never make it to Switzerland, I can always go there!

  8. Thank you, Kristina. You said it very much to see and never enough time.
    Betsy - We didn't take the train, but I'd like to do that sometime. I think you'd get a whole different perspective. The road climbs the mountains, while the train (I think) follows a lower you'd be looking up at the mountains. So I don't know if one is better than the other...just different.
    Elizabeth - I suspect that the people in Switzerland might object to Ouray's nickname. :)

  9. When we worked with Dick M. he always told me about the great small gauge railroad that was based in his hometown of Durango, so I've always thought I would like to take that trip.

    These are all great. And it's so great that blogging is giving you a way to share them with so many who appreciate them. Good work!

  10. Sandra - We enjoyed seeing the scenery from the highway, but I'd still like to take the train ride some day, for the opportunity to see the same scenery from a different perspective.


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