The Beautiful San Juan Million Dollar Skyway From Ouray To Durango, And A Soak In The Durango Hot Springs, Colorado


The Beautiful San Juan Million Dollar Skyway From Ouray To Durango, And A Soak In The Durango Hot Springs, Colorado

The high mountain road from the town of Ouray to the old silver mining town of Silverton is considered to be one of the most scenic drives in the USA.
In the fall, the mountains are painted in reds, yellows and oranges, as the aspen leaves change their colors.

This stretch of the Skyway is called the “Million Dollar Highway,” because of the high cost required to build the highway.
The road was painstakingly built by lowering men loaded with dynamite with ropes, in order to blast a path through the Rocky Mountains.
The rest of the clearing was done with hand chisels.

A sign posted on the skyway said that in order to recover the cost of the skyway, they used to charge a toll of $5 per person, an exorbitant amount in the late 1800’s.

Most of the people who passed through these mountains in those days were gold and silver prospectors and miners.
It was this skyway that help develop the small western towns along the way.

We left Ouray early without eating breakfast.
We thought to eat a late brunch after we summited the passes, in the tiny town of Silverton.

The Million Dollar Highway climbs up and over Red Mountain Pass, with a summit of 11,075 feet.
The views were stunning everywhere we looked.
Jagged mountains covered in perpetual snow stretched over the horizon.

The Red Mountain gets its color from oxidized minerals within its rocky surface.
Stunning steep canyon walls and gorges drop down from the side of the road without any rail guards.

Ouray is known as the “Little Switzerland of America,” with its picturesque mountain views, a box canyon frozen waterfall, and wild natural hot springs that can be accessed by foot.

We stopped often to admire the amazing scenery and to let other cars pass us by.
We were not alone on the skyway.
It is a major playground in all seasons.
During wintertime, people come here to ski the pristine snowy wilderness, to snowboard, for snowmobiling and to enjoy cross country skiing.
We saw many cars parked along the side of the road, and even spotted two excellent snowboarders who expertly made their way through a very steep and wooded forest path back to the road.

We had a simple brunch in Silverton and continued on to the town of Durango.
We climbed over the Coal Bank Pass, with a summit of 10,660 feet, and then through the Molas Pass (at 10,899 feet).

Leaving behind the beautiful views of the surrounding San Juan Mountains, we descended into Durango.
Before checking into the historic Strater hotel in old Durango, we stopped for a two hour soak at the Durango Hot Springs, on the outskirts of town.

We has made reservations online to soak in the hot springs the day before.
We changed into bathing suits and looked for the hottest pool.
This hot spring has about twenty small pools of various temperatures.

Each hot pool had the temperature written on a sign and the maximum number of people allowed to soak in it.
This is an adjustment to the coronavirus.

The Durango hot springs is going through extensive renovations, but it was still a fabulous experience.
A friendly waitress offered laminated menus and delivered us herbal teas and a nuttela banana snack.
We soaked in the sun, and absolutely loved the experience and the pleasant sunny day.

From there, we continued on to downtown Durango.
We checked into the charming Stratler hotel, with its amazing woodwork, wall paper and stained glass chandeliers.

Downtown Durango is not very large.
The city is quite spread out, but the downtown is just a few blocks long.
There are a few cafes, a variety of restaurants, many shops selling outdoor gear and clothing, and a historic tourist train taking travelers over the old Rio Grande route.

We had many food choices in Durango, but we chose to dine in the elegant Mahogany Grille that is part of our hotel.
The dining hall was beautiful and the food was good and abundant.

We went for a long walk before dinner, sat in a cool cafe to drink green tea served in big copper teapots, and bought books at a fabulous bookstore that was open until late in the evening.

The combination of the hot springs soak in the lovely sun, a glass of good Italian wine with a lavish dinner and the long day of mountain scenery, left us tired.
We made our way to bed feeling content and very grateful.

Wishing you a wonderful day,
Tali

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