There are two ways to drive from Durango, across the San Juans, to Ridgway. The most direct route is on a road called the “Million Dollar Highway”, thus named because there is supposed to be millions of dollars worth of silver ore in the gravel used to build the road. This road crosses three high passes and in many places has no guardrail, no shoulder, hairpin turns with no visibility and lots of truck traffic. We opted to take the longer San Juan Skyway between Cortez and Ridgway and found it a beautiful mountain drive (without the white knuckles).
We camped in Ridgway State Park, which was a wonderful home base. The campground was right on the Uncompahgre River, which was strongly flowing and quite a good trout fishery. There were also fishing ponds in the campground and Lynnae caught dinner there a few nights
From Ridgway we could see the spectacular Dallas Divide of the northern San Juans and explored several nearby highlights: the old mining town of Ouray (the Switzerland of America), Yankee Boy Basin on a 4WD tour, the winding dirt road over Owl Creek Pass to Silver Jack Lake, the awesome Blue Lakes trail and even the clothing-optional Orvis Hot Springs, in use since the days when the Utes still occupied the area. The San Juans are an amazing mountain range in a state with over 50 ranges. There are over 1,000 peaks more than 10,000 feet tall and over 100 above 13,000 feet. We drove and hiked deep into the mountains and found pristine blue lakes, wildflowers in abundance and drop-dead-gorgeous mountains. We’ll be back.
For more detail and pictures of some of our adventures in the northern San Juans, visit the Outdooor Project:
|On the beautiful San Juan Skyway from Durango to Ridgway|
|Wildflowers on Lizard Head Pass|
|The Dallas Divide near Ridgway along the San Juan Skyway|
|Wildflowers near Silver Jack Lake and Owl Creek Pass|
|Meadow at the top of Owl Creek Pass near Ridgway|
|Colorado Boy mine building near Ouray|
|The Yankee Girl mine was one of the richest silver strikes in the entire U.S.|
|We took a 4WD tour up to Yankee Boy Basin. Leaving the driving to them was a good call!|
|Hiking up to Blue Lake near Ridgway|
|Beautiful Lower Blue Lake still had icebergs on the lake in late June|
|Mt. Sneffels, a "fourteener" in the northern San Juans|
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