When visiting Telluride, one of the first things to embrace is the incredible landscape. And while there is plenty to do in and around Telluride, sometimes it’s nice to get out of town and go for a drive on a beautiful day. No matter the amount of time you have to explore, there’s a drive that will take your breath away. Take a look at our top six drives around Telluride and see what might be right for your day:
1. Wilson Mesa
1 hour 15 minutes - 40 mile loop
Looking for a quick loop with a stunning view of the mountains? Take a drive up to Wilson Mesa from Sawpit, head west on 145 and turn right on 58P Road in Sawpit from the highway. The road takes you up below Hastings Mesa with sweeping views of Last Dollar Mountain, Gray Head, and Whipple Mountain along with stunning views of the iconic Wilson Peak across the canyon. 58P Road turns into 56V Road which will take you back to highway 62, a direct route back to Telluride. A great drive for beautiful sights, easy places to stop and take a walk down the road, and mining ruins along the banks of the rivers and creeks on the mesa and down the valley.
51 minutes - 39 miles one way
One of the shortest drives to a charming destination, the trip to Ridgway is one with sweeping views after traveling out of the box canyon and into the ranchlands of the San Miguel Valley. Once arriving in Ridgeway, enjoy street tacos at Tacos Del Gnar, wander the Ridgway creative district for local art or the Farmer’s Market, and enjoy the outdoors on a mountain bike, raft or on your own two feet. In a small, charming mountain town, there’s no limit to the things you can do that can make for a truly memorable vacation.
3. Last Dollar Road
1 hour 50 minutes - 53 mile loop
Take CO 145 West approximately five miles and turn right on Last Dollar Road and climb up to the Wilson Mesa. As the road winds through a deep valley, massive, jagged peaks complement deep, sweeping skies. Each turn along the road will leave you more and more amazed. From the fields of aspens to the quilting pines, from wandering fields to jutting mountain peaks, this is a stunning drive to escape civilization for a while and feel like you’re truly part of the West. One of the best drives for fall colors or spring wildflowers, this drive is sure to impress. Four-wheel drive is not required when the road is dry, but you could enjoy an ATV or Jeep during your excursion.
2 hours 40 minutes - 132 one way
One of the greatest draws for a day trip is Utah’s outdoorsman haven, Moab. With rock climbing, mountain biking, hiking, backpacking, water sports, off-roading, and more, the desert oasis is a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts in the area. A beautiful drive west through red rock and arid land takes you out off the mountains, toward the La Sal Mountain Range and into the desert for a day outside among stunning rock formations, memorable national parks and plenty of adventure to be had.
5. Unaweep/Tabeguache Scenic & Historic Byway
3 hours and 7 minutes - 147 miles one way
The Unaweep Canyon cuts aggressively through the soft red sandstone of the Uncompahgre Plateau. Traveling north, driving a historic road through Norwood, Redvale, Nucla, Naturita, and Gateway before approaching Grand Junction. If seeking an overnight after this long drive, consider a spring stay in Fruita, one western capital of mountain biking or a fall night in Palisade, visiting peach orchards and vineyards. Or simply return to Telluride through Delta and Montrose to see some new sights along the way and stopping for dinner in charming Ridgway.
6. San Juan Skyway
6 hours - 236 mile loop
More of an all-day event, the San Juan Skyway is a loop that takes you through some of the most historic mountain towns in Southwest corner of Colorado. From highway 145 to 62, 550 to 160, back to 145, some of Colorado’s most historic mining and mountain towns are stops along the loop. Beginning with breakfast in Telluride, you’ll take the skyway through Ridgway and stop by the Farmer’s Market in town for some fresh snacks for the road. Next, you’ll take the road through charming old town Ouray, the ice climbing capital of Colorado before continuing the trek on the Million Dollar Highway. Built in the 1880s, the Million Dollar Highway is one of the nation’s most spectacular drives as the highway was cut into the side of the mountain range. Locals back in the day would say, “You’d have to pay me a million dollars to drive that stretch in the snow,” but the road is quite safe and it pays to take it slow and take in the views before arriving in Silverton. Continue through the mountains to the larger town of Durango and grab lunch before carrying on through the ghost town of Mayday, ranch town of Mancos, Dolores in the canyon, Rico pioneer town, and finally the mining town of Ophir before returning to Telluride. One of the most historic and amazing drives in the country, you’ll see everything Colorado has to offer in one day and learn a great deal about the history of the state while you’re at it.