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San Juan Skyway Part 3:

Telluride Autumn

southwestern Colorado

The saying “getting there is half the fun” definitely applies to Telluride. Part of the resort town’s appeal is its remoteness. The nearest big cities – Denver, Colorado Springs and Albuquerque – are many hours away by highway. And boy is the drive something! CO 145 is the only paved route into town. It joins several other highways to form the circular 230-mile San Juan Skyway. This video essay features the part running north from Dolores to Telluride, which then continues onto Ridgway. It’s a magnificent drive anytime of year but fall is when this particular section is just unbelievable thanks to a splendid concentration of deciduous trees, mainly aspen. As CO 145 heads north of Dolores, it passes through swathes of golden leaves, rising quickly into the San Juan Mountains. After passing through the tiny community of Rico, the road soon crosses Lizard Head Pass. At 10,222 feet, this is the highest point of the drive, dominated by pine trees and mountain peaks. Then, CO 145 begins dropping again, winding its way through forests of colorful aspen before reaching historic Telluride, a former mining town nestled in one of North America’s most picturesque valleys. The San Juan Skyway is perhaps Colorado’s most beautiful scenic byway. There are two other Wide Open Rides featuring the Skyway during winter. Part 1 focuses on the drive going south from Ridgway to Ouray and onto Silverton. Part 2 follows the same route, only in reverse, showcasing the north-facing view.

Best Time to Visit

Because it’s home to so many aspen, CO 145 is particularly magnificent during fall. But the numerous majestic mountains ensure spectacular scenery year-round.

Route & Map        

This story follows the San Juan Skyway from Dolores to Telluride and onto Ridgway. Most of the drive is on CO 145 although a righthand turn past Placerville leads to CO 62 and Ridgway.

Length & Time

The San Juan Skyway is a 230-mile loop route through the Rocky Mountains in southwestern Colorado. This essay features the 105-mile section from Dolores to Telluride and onto Ridgway. Plan at least half a day with a few stops. Longer for short hikes and a meal in Telluride.

Major Town

With historic charm and outstanding scenery, Telluride is one of the world’s premier resort towns. Ski season, summer holidays and peak fall foliage time are busiest which means higher prices.


Start by checking out Telluride’s official visitor website. It’s probably worth contacting the visitors center directly in late summer or early fall for the most current fall foliage updates as conditions change rapidly.

Next rides along this route:
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