San Juan Mountains

In southwest Colorado, the San Juan Mountains offer perhaps the state’s most varied scenery with 13 peaks over 14000′.  The mountains contain highly mineralized veins of silver, gold, zinc and other metals. The towns in the area are all unique and interesting, many established during the mineral rush in the late 1880’s. They include Silverton, Ridgeway, Ouray and Telluride. The San Juans were the home of the Ute Indians for hundreds of years.

Today this area is  very active year around for hiking, skiing, off roading, camping and other activities. It is also a photographer’s paradise, particularly during the fall color change. The area between Ridgeway and Telluride provides expansive views of the “Sneffels Range”, which includes the Uncompahgre National Forest (950,000 acres), Mt. Sneffels, Dallas Peak, Mears Peak, Wilson Mesa and Mt. Wilson.

Take SR 62 west from Ridgeway towards Placerville and Telluride. About 8 miles west of Ridgeway one comes to a parking lot in an area called Dallas Divide. This location offers one of Colorado’s iconic photography spots (others include Maroon Bells and Crystal Mill). This offers a view of the Sneffels Range along with massive aspen groves and other rolling land and forests.

Beyond this stop, one can take Last Dollar Road (CR58P) over to Telluride. This road is a winding, narrow trek of some 21 miles, and offers spectacular views including Wilson Peak. A 4WD vehicle, while not necessary, is strongly recommended.

Back towards Ridgeway, there are two county roads which run through the Double RL ranch (read Ralph Lauren) into the Uncompahgre National Forest. These are both fairly smooth gravel roads – windy and somewhat narrow but passable for passenger vehicles – which both offer more spectacular views of the range and massive groves of aspens. One is CR 9, or West Dallas Creek Road; the other is CR 7, or Dallas Creek Road. Both follow the Dallas Creek valley for 6-8 miles up into the foothills, and are commonly used for hiking access to the forest.

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