The air felt crisp as we loaded up the van in front of the Strater Hotel- a cozy Victorian nestled in the heart of downtown Durango. The town was quiet so early in the morning, but the sun was up and our layers of clothing slowly diminished as we began the first climb of the trip. It was a stunning ride and stopping was a fairly frequent occurrence, attempting to capture the beauty of the landscape on camera- something that could never do the area justice. A stop at the Mesa Verde visitor’s center proved to be memorable, learning about the history shortly after a box of fresh Palisade Peaches emerged from the van. Appetites satisfied, we descended into town and capped the evening off with dinner at the Dolores River Brewing Company, pizza in hand, with a view of the mountains and guitarists playing a melody in the background.
Our second day began with a climb up to Lizard Head pass- 40 miles with a nice easy grade most of the way to the top. Here we could see the Aspen begin to transition into fall colors, with hints of yellow and orange dotted around the mountainside. Right around lunchtime, we rode through the town of Rico, and lucky for us, the home of an organic coffee & taco stand. We sat around for some time, admiring the scenery and sipping on coffee. Eventually we acquired the gusto necessary for finishing the climb, and soon enough, found ourselves descending into Telluride with smiles stretched across our faces. We celebrated with a round of beer at the hotel before taking a gondola ride to the top of the mountain. A good chunk of time was spent taking pictures and admiring the sunset, watching the sky change colors as a storm began to roll in. A satisfying dinner at Smuggler’s Brew Pub left us happy and ready to tackle the next ride
After a hearty breakfast downtown at Baked in Telluride, we found ourselves yet again, smiles on our faces, as we descended 15 miles into the canyon. The following climb was nice and steady, with views made famous by True Grit and the Marlboro commercials. After yet another glorious downhill, we made it to the town of Ridgeway to get lunch at the Eatery 66 food truck. The 10 miles into Ouray were at “Margherita Pace”, courtesy of Eatery 66. We settled into our rooms and took some time to explore the city- though not after a dip in the hot tub. Another brewery, a stop at the chocolate shop and then off to bed.
US-550 runs over 300 miles from New Mexico to Colorado, but the stretch between Ouray and Silverton is commonly referred to as the ‘Million Dollar Highway. This magnificent stretch offers a road like none other, with steep drop-offs which rarely feature a guard rail. Everywhere you look, there seems to be a piece of mining history tucked into the mountains, and a waterfall when you get the gumption to crane your neck a bit off the side of the road. We made good time up the pass, just as the clouds that had been looming in the distance dropped a load of hail. We were thankful for the van, as we piled inside and drank our beers, happy with our accomplishment. A cold, wet descent into Silverton made us appreciate the fireplace at the Wymann Hotel. After showers and relaxation, we enjoyed a complimentary wine tasting and then walked over to the Golden Block Brewery for dinner and drinks.
Our last day together consisted of a 50 mile ride back to Durango. A couple climbs in the morning made way for a long, rolling descent back into town. It began to rain as we got closer to Durango, but only for a little while- just enough to get everything soaked. But, the sun came out and we rode the final stretch as a group of happy cyclists. We get out of our wet clothes quickly, and relaxed until our dinner across the street at Carver Brewing. A walk past the Durango Distillery made us sad when we realized that had just closed 15 minutes prior, but we made up for it with plenty of other stops.
All in all, it was a grand week filled with laughter, excitement, and of course, plenty of beer. Some of the most beautiful scenery is in Southwest Colorado, and the San Juan Skyway is the pinnacle of it all. We hope to see you next year!