Side Trips Along the San Juan Skyway
The thing that struck me when I first moved here 20 years ago was the incredible vastness of Southwest Colorado. The wide, open spaces. The mountain landscape. After living most of my life in places where there were people or buildings everywhere, it seemed unimaginable that there was all of this untouched, undeveloped wilderness. It was breathtaking. It still fills me with awe.
What makes it so special is that there are endless opportunities to explore. There are lots of stops for tourists along the San Juan Skyway, but some of the best treasures to be discovered are just a small detour off the main road. In one of our past issues we introduced readers to “overlanding,” camping in an expedition vehicle on the dirt roads that stretch through the wilderness. Once you’re out in the backcountry, with no one around for miles, you feel that sense of peace that only comes from being outdoors in nature. We’ve also given a primer on peak bagging in the San Juans—this region is home to thirteen gorgeous peaks that are higher than 14,000 feet. Summiting one of these jewels is an epic experience. Or you can rent a paddleboard and set out to explore the reservoirs, lakes, and rivers that make this region so extraordinary.
There are other special side trips, places to stop along the Skyway that will make your journey memorable. You can sip some of Colorado’s finest wines at Sutcliffe Vineyards in McElmo Canyon, venture inside an old mining tunnel at the Old Hundred Gold Mine in Silverton, examine artifacts from Puebloan culture at the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center in Cortez, enjoy the art at the Goodnight Trail Gallery in Mancos, or take a yoga class in the mountain town of Telluride. All of the artists, artisans, archaeologists, historians, and teachers in these communities draw their inspiration from the same place: the landscape that surrounds us.
Whatever side road you take, and whatever stops you make, we hope that you’re inspired by the landscape, too. The point of a journey isn’t just to arrive at a destination: it’s about the journey itself, the way the road disappears at the horizon where land meets sky, showing us that everything is possible.