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Travel + Leisure: The Perfect 5-Day Colorado Vacation Itinerary

Travel + Leisure: The Perfect 5-Day Colorado Vacation Itinerary
5 days

We’ve partnered with Travel + Leisure to help you plan the perfect sophisticated Rocky Mountain adventure. The sights along your commute to work have got to be getting old — so how about trading them for the vistas along a route that’s been coined “The Most Beautiful Drive in America”?

Swap out the strangers in your sardine-can-esque train car for a family SUV, your gray cityscape for snow-capped peaks and dark green forests, and your tired eyes for a fresh outlook as you hit the San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway. On this massive loop taking you through some of Colorado’s most picturesque luxury destinations, you’ll see all the grandeur of the Old West without sacrificing modern comforts — and we’ll even provide the itinerary. Here’s how to make the most of your Skyway visit.

Day 1

Insider's Tip

Only-in-Colorado Flavors: Start your day with some Western fare at Carver’s Brewing in Durango, Colorado’s second-ever brewpub where huevos rancheros are a must-try, served with quintessential Colorado green chili.
Breakfast

Carver Brewing Company

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Since 1986, Carvers has offered Durango the very best in food and beer. Read More
Activity

Shopping at Kelly Cowboy Company

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Outfit yourself and your family with hats, boots and other wild-west ephemera (if you don’t get it here, did you really get cowboy gear at all?).

Insider's Tip

Take a Detour: On your one-hour drive west from Durango to Cortez, you have optional opportunities to explore the artists’ colony of Mancos or check out Mesa Verde National Park.
Lunch

The Farm Bistro

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The Farm Bistro is a casual yet elegant farm to table restaurant in the heart of historic downtown Cortez, Colorado. The lunch and dinner menus are comfort food with style, and features locally... Read More

Activity

McPhee Reservoir

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Just a quick jaunt north of Cortez is Dolores, which sits on the edge of both San Juan National Forest and is home to McPhee Reservoir, the second-largest body of water in Colorado. Naturally, you have to get in some jet skiing before heading deeper into the wilderness, so zoom around the lake or rent kayaks to explore some of its quieter creek arms.
Dinner

Dolores River Brewery

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Every community should have a comfortable place to hang out with somebody! Read More

Insider's Tip

Soak It All In: Head to your home for the evening — swanky Dunton Hot Springs, where you can revel in a post-dinner soak in one of their six natural hot springs.
Lodging

Dunton Hot Springs

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This meticulously restored 19th century ghost town and mineral hot springs are tucked deep in the mountains of southwestern Colorado. Rugged buildings hide luxurious interiors. Discover... Read More

Day 2

Insider's Tip

Fuel Up: Dunton Hot Springs provides a full breakfast every morning at its saloon, using a variety of local and regional ingredients prepared by chef Basil Yu and team. After getting your fill, hit the pavement again and follow the San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway northeast to Telluride, a quaint mountain resort town.
Activity

Gondola to Telluride Mountain Village

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Perched on the slopes above Telluride is Mountain Village — a dizzyingly beautiful (free) gondola ride up the cliffs makes for a supremely laid-back way to take in views of the valley.
Lunch

La Piazza Del Villaggio

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Our resort location is ski-in, golf-in, a spectacular gondola up from Telluride, or a slow stroll from your lodge.

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Activity

Hike the Boulevard Trail

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The 2.5-mile Boulevard Trail traverses both the town and the surrounding landscape and provides new perspectives of mountain life.

Insider's Tip

Sunset Vistas: Once dusk approaches, make sure to hustle back to the gondola to descend with the sun — as it settles behind the mountains, you’ll settle into a table at La Marmotte in Telluride, where you’ll enjoy French delicacies like coq au vin in an intimate atmosphere.
Dinner

La Marmotte

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For over 20 years La Marmotte has provided elegant bistro fare in the mountain town of Telluride, Colorado. It is set in one of the oldest buildings in town, the historic Ice House. Read More

Insider's Tip

Galaxy Quest: If you’re up for another gondola ride after dinner, take it up to the San Sophia Overlook for some stellar stargazing.
Lodging

The Hotel Telluride

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The Hotel Telluride is the premier Telluride hotel for the foremost in hospitality and comfort. Nestled in the heart of historic Telluride, Colorado, The Hotel Telluride offers our guests the best... Read More
Day 3
Breakfast

The Butcher & Baker Cafe

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Our bakery and cafe specializes in handcrafted, fresh and local cuisine. We feature handmade breads and artisan pastries, fresh salads composed of local greens, fruit and vegetables, locally... Read More

Insider's Tip

Be Prepared: The route to Tomboy ghost town can be a strenuous and daunting, so if you’re not feeling up to it, there are plenty of other activities in Telluride, like shopping or museums.
Activity

Tomboy Ghost Town

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Whether you’re hiking or taking a guided ATV tour, you’re going to need something to warm your soul as you head up to the eerie ghost town of Tomboy. It’s an 18th-century mining town that still retains free-standing elements of its heyday but was abandoned when the ore beneath the town ran dry.

Insider's Tip

Ridgway Bound: Hop back on the scenic byway to make your way to Ridgway, a historic mountain town surrounded by the rugged San Juan Mountains and Cimarron Range that got its start as an 1800s railroad hub.
Lunch

Taco Del Gnar

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After absorbing some local history, it’s time to move on to modern eats — tacos at Taco del Gnar in Ridgway with succulent Korean short rib on the menu, as well as the Porto with Portobello, shredded cabbage, pico de gallo, and queso fresco. Keep in mind there will probably be a line.
Activity

Fly-Fishing on the Uncompahgre River

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Partake in one of Colorado’s time-honored leisure activities at Ridgway State Park, where the Uncompahgre River is a favorite spot for hooking hard-fighting rainbow and cutthroat trout.

Insider's Tip

Coffee for the Road: Grab a cup of joe at Ridgway’s Cimarron Coffee & Books before you hop back on the San Juan Skyway toward Ouray, known as the Switzerland of America.
Dinner

Bon Ton Restaurant

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This historic establishment with a low-key, homey vibe serves old-school Italian & American fare. Read More
Activity

Ouray Hot Springs Swimming Pool

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Nearly one million gallons of clear hot springs water, without the sulfur smell common in many hot springs. There are 3 pools ranging from 80 to 105 degree, plus lap lanes and a Wibit obstacle... Read More

Lodging

Beaumont Hotel & Spa

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The historic Beaumont Hotel & Spa is the only luxury hotel in Ouray, Colorado. Modern amenities include wireless high-speed internet & outstanding personalized service paired with... Read More

Day 4
Breakfast

Backstreet Bistro

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Rise and shine in Ouray by treating yourself to a rustic biscuits-and-gravy breakfast at Backstreet Bistro (so-named because it’s just off Main Street, not because of its boy-band allegiance) and then you’re off to explore the town’s historic district.
Activity

Ouray Alchemist

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Ouray Alchemist Museum was pieced together by a lover of pharmacological history and chock full of artifacts from previous eras of medicine — the passion here is evident, so don’t hesitate to ask questions. You can impress your coworkers with your knowledge when you get home.

Insider's Tip

Million Dollar Views: After touring the Ouray Alchemist Museum, drive from Ouray to Silverton. The canyon-clinging stretch of the San Juan Skyway between the towns is called “The Million Dollar Highway” either because it cost so much to build or the amount of gold ore that remained in the roadway’s fill. Ouray is also close to Yankee Boy Basin, one of the area’s best places for incomparable mountain views. The best (and only) way to get here is to hire an ATV or an off-road vehicle tour. Once there, you’ll see waterfalls, wildlife, and a whole lot of sky.
Lunch

Kendall Mountain Cafe

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A hidden treasure off the beaten path. Good homestyle food! Read More
Activity

Llama Hike with Redwood Llamas

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Trek across the mountains with your furry friends to engage in some interspecies bonding and learn the natural history of the area (not from the llamas, from Mr. Redwood himself).
Dinner

Thee Pitts Again

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Unfortunately, the llamas can’t accompany you to dinner afterward at Thee Pitts Again, Silverton’s premier barbecue destination.
Activity

The Rum Bar

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Join us for a drink! Open Daily through October 1:00 pm - Close. Many of our products are made right here in Colorado. Read More
Lodging

Inn of the Rockies at the Historic Alma House

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We are a traditional and historic Bed and Breakfast located in Silverton, Colorado.

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Day 5

Insider's Tip

Made-From-Scratch Deliciousness: Your final day begins with a home-cooked meal away from home, courtesy of Silverton’s Inn of the Rockies. Your hosts are accommodating and skilled, so indulge in some French toast and freshly brewed coffee before you drive down the byway to Rapp Corral, between Durango and Silverton.
Activity

Trail Ride with Rapp Corral

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Discover the San Juan Mountains on horseback on a labyrinth of trails through ponderosa- and oak-studded hillsides, wildflower meadows and aspen groves. You’re completing the loop today, a drive down the scenic byway to Rapp Corral, between Silverton and Durango.

Insider's Tip

Après-Ride Bites: Your lunch is down the road at Harvest Grill & Greens at James Ranch, 10 miles north of Durango, where you can nosh on sandwiches made with organic produce and locally raised meats and cheeses.
Lunch

Harvest Grill & Greens at James Ranch

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Our delicious meats, cheeses and vegetables are produced on the James Ranch using organic, sustainable, grass-based practices and have been for over 50 years. We strive to use organic... Read More

Activity

Trimble Spa & Natural Hot Springs

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Durango, Colorado's only lodging, hot springs, and day spa resort seven miles north of town. A popular local family hangout and a summer stopover for tourists. We like to call it the "Getaway... Read More

Insider's Tip

Journey Back to Durango: Durango is the final stop on your San Juan Skyway loop tour. Once you arrive, stroll the town’s National Historic District, lined with shops, eateries and hotels housed in perfectly restored 19th-century buildings.
Dinner

Eolus Bar & Dining

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Majestic Mt. Eolus is the namesake of our dining establishment.  We offer rooftop dining year round on our warm heated patio or an interior dining area which offers a warm and inviting... Read More

Activity

Diamond Belle Saloon

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If you're standing in the Diamond Belle Saloon, located in Durango, Colorado, you just may have stepped back in time. Revered as one of the most famous original ragtime piano bars in the Wild... Read More

Lodging

Antlers on the Creek Bed & Breakfast

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Boasting the area's most luxurious accomodations, our #1 rated Durango bed and breakfast is only 5 miles from downtown and atttractions. Enjoy gourmet breakfasts, happy hour and modern amenities... Read More