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Beyond Cortez: Epic Road Trips from the City to Explore Southwest Colorado's Natural Wonders

Posted on 30 May, 2023 at 10:08 am - by Sarah Johnson

Road Trips from the City to Explore Southwest Colorado's, Natural Wonders

While Cortez, CO, offers a plethora of natural beauty within its boundaries, there are also numerous epic road trips you can take to explore the stunning natural wonders of Southwest Colorado. From towering mountains to crystal-clear lakes, these road trips will take you on an unforgettable journey through some of the most awe-inspiring landscapes in the region.


1. San Juan Skyway: Mountains and Scenic Beauty

Embark on the iconic San Juan Skyway road trip, a 236-mile loop that takes you through some of the most breathtaking mountain scenery in the state. Starting from Cortez, follow the route through Durango, Silverton, Ouray, and Telluride. Marvel at the towering peaks of the San Juan Mountains, traverse high mountain passes and be awestruck by the picturesque beauty of the Million Dollar Highway.

Make stops along the way to hike through alpine meadows, visit historic mining towns, and soak in hot springs surrounded by majestic vistas. The San Juan Skyway road trip is a true feast for the senses, offering a glimpse into the raw and rugged beauty of Southwest Colorado's mountains.


2. Mesa Verde Loop: Ancient Ruins and Scenic Landscapes

Discover the ancient wonders of Mesa Verde National Park and surrounding landscapes on the Mesa Verde Loop road trip. Start in Cortez and drive to the park, where you can explore the magnificent cliff dwellings and learn about the fascinating history of the Ancestral Pueblo people.

Continue the loop by heading south towards Four Corners, where Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico meet. Take in the vast desert landscapes and visit the Navajo Nation, where you can immerse yourself in Native American culture and craftsmanship.

As you drive back towards Cortez, stop at Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, where you can hike among ancient ruins and witness the remnants of civilizations long gone. The Mesa Verde Loop road trip offers a perfect blend of history, culture, and breathtaking natural scenery.


3. Durango to Silverton: Historic Train Ride and Alpine Beauty

Experience the charm of the Old West and the beauty of the San Juan Mountains on the Durango to Silverton road trip. Start your journey in Durango and board the historic Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, a scenic train ride that takes you through the rugged canyons of the Animas River.

Arriving in Silverton, you'll be greeted by a picturesque mountain town nestled in a stunning alpine setting. Explore the historic streets, visit the local museums, and take in the panoramic views of the surrounding peaks.

If you're up for an adventure, continue the road trip by driving the Million Dollar Highway from Silverton to Ouray. This thrilling stretch of road offers jaw-dropping views of towering cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and dramatic mountain landscapes. Be prepared for steep drop-offs and hairpin turns that add an extra dose of excitement to the journey.


4. Telluride and Bridal Veil Falls: Alpine Splendor

Escape to the alpine splendor of Telluride and experience the beauty of Bridal Veil Falls on this road trip. From Cortez, drive through the picturesque town of Dolores and make your way to the charming mountain town of Telluride.

Explore the historic main street, indulge in local cuisine, and take a scenic gondola ride to enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding peaks. Don't miss the opportunity to hike to Bridal Veil Falls, Colorado's tallest free-falling waterfall, located just outside of Telluride.

Immerse yourself in the stunning natural beauty as you hike along the trail and feel the mist from the cascading waters. The Telluride and Bridal Veil Falls road trip is a true alpine adventure that will leave you in awe of the region's majestic landscapes.


5. Dolores River Canyon: Scenic Drive and Outdoor Recreation

Discover the rugged beauty of the Dolores River Canyon on this scenic road trip. From Cortez, drive east along Highway 160 and enter the canyon, where you'll be treated to towering red rock cliffs, lush vegetation, and the tranquil waters of the Dolores River.

Take your time to stop at designated viewpoints and soak in the breathtaking scenery. If you're up for an adventure, you can also explore the area through various outdoor activities such as hiking, fishing, or rafting on the river.

As you navigate the winding roads of the Dolores River Canyon, be sure to have your camera ready to capture the awe-inspiring vistas. This road trip offers a serene escape into nature's embrace, allowing you to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of daily life.


Plan Your Southwest Colorado Adventure

Embarking on these epic road trips from Cortez, CO, is an opportunity to immerse yourself in the natural wonders of Southwest Colorado. From towering mountains to crystal-clear lakes, and ancient ruins to alpine beauty, the region is a paradise for nature lovers and adventure seekers.

Remember to plan your road trips accordingly, check for road conditions, and be prepared with essential supplies. These road trips offer a glimpse into the awe-inspiring landscapes and unforgettable experiences that await you in Southwest Colorado.

  • San Juan Skyway: Mountains, scenic beauty, historic towns
  • Mesa Verde Loop: Ancient ruins, desert landscapes, Native American culture
  • Durango to Silverton: Historic train ride, alpine beauty, Million Dollar Highway
  • Telluride and Bridal Veil Falls: Alpine splendor, mountain town charm
  • Dolores River Canyon: Scenic drive, outdoor recreation, red rock cliffs


Start planning your Southwest Colorado adventure today and get ready to embark on road trips that will take you through landscapes that will leave you breathless and memories that will last a lifetime.

About Author
  • Sarah Johnson

    Sarah produces creative and informative content based on her travel experience. She keeps her blogs up-to-date with the latest information. 

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