Cruising the San Juan Skyway and Million Dollar Highway

This past spring (May 2014) we spent about 5 weeks in Mancos, Colorado, a small town that captured both of our hearts. Four of those weeks we workcamped, saving at least $650 in "rent", so we decided to treat ourselves to a vacation by leaving the Mutiny behind and having friends at the campground babysit the cats, Avi and Miso. We wanted to check out the San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway which incorporates part of the famous Million Dollar Highway and decided to overnight in a nice hotel in Telluride. Livin' the high life...

We stayed at the New Sheridan Hotel...very nice rooms, comfy big bed and hot tubs on the roof! It's also centrally located and in easy walking to distance to everything.
The Skyway passes though some of the most beautiful parts of Colorado (and the country) along it's 236 mile route including Telluride, Ouray, Silverton, Durango, two National Forests (the Uncompahgre and Rio Grand),  past waterfalls, ghost towns, rivers, sweeping mountain tops, fields of wildflowers and even Mesa Verde National Park. It's unbelievably beautiful and very much worth the drive.

We picked Telluride as our overnight destination. Even though the slopes were closed for the season we were drawn there due to our love for skiing and the charm of small ski-towns (we were married at Squaw Valley Ski Resort in Tahoe). Even though it's still quite touristy, the town manages to honor it's old west charm and personality. I'd put it high on the list of places we loved.

There are, of course, a thousand different places to eat, drink or enjoy coffee while hanging with the (mostly) locals during the off-season. Since we were only there one night we could only check out a few places.

Here's what stood out:

Chop House Restaurant at the New Sheridan Hotel where we enjoyed breakfast and some great local coffee from Black Canyon.

Allred's Restaurant at the top of the {free} gondola. This is the place to come for a nice sunset dinner...or, if you're cheap like us, a (not so cheap) cocktail. Regardless of the inflated prices, the views are stunning and you can kinda justify it because the gondola is no charge...right?

The Gondola to Station St. Sophia (for Allred's) and then Mountain Village (and back). It climbs 1,730 feet to get you a to a heady 10,540 feet above sea level. If the drinks at Telluride (at a measly 8,750 feet) don't feel strong enough, try them at the peak where the elevation may already be making you feel a little spacy.  Mountain Village is exactly what you think of when someone mentions ski "resort"...all of the expensive (but oh so cool) ski shops, clothing stores and kitschy stuff that you'd expect. Think Disneyland for skiers...not to say it's not cool...we loved it.

As we continued on it became pretty clear that the fresh air, blue skies and amazing views were the real reasons to visit this area...

Red Mountain Pass.

Box Canyon Falls.
Hiking Box Canyon.
AKA Ouray, Colorado
The streets of Silverton.
Elk herd outside of Telluride.
Box Canyon bird seed thief...
Black-headed Grosbeak (I'm a bird-nerd and proud of it).
Marmot? Woodchuck? Rockchuck? I think they are all the same animal...I think they're pretty dang cute.
 I really think it was this drive that ignited the fire for us to do our solar install (done in Dec 2014). We saw so many gorgeous places to boondock/wildcamp that were out of our reach unless we really wanted to live "off-the-grid"...meaning not having electricity. And yes, that's an option and many purists wouldn't think that's a big deal (we did it in Yosemite and Joshua Tree) but since we live 24/7 in our RV we want to also have the option for creature comforts like computers and maybe even a movie (don't hate).

Here's a place we have dogeared for a return visit with the Mutiny:

The Mutiny crew definitely feels the San Juan Skyway as a must-see. So far, there's really been nothing like it. We hope you check it out...and if you already have, tell us in the comments what your thoughts and/or favorite places are.

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