In 2021, one of the best tours was for us was a drive on the Million Dollar Highway in Colorado. We traveled from Grand Junction toward Ouray. This little town Ouray is called ‘Little Switzerland’, because it lays on a valley floor and surrounded by steep cliffs. There’s even a waterfall halfway up the cliff on one side that provides a stunning backdrop for the town below! The town has lots of restaurants, giftshop and swimming pools around a hot spring. From Ouray we travelled through the Uncompahgre Gorge and drove on a section of U.S. Route 550 via Red Mountain pass to Silverton. The reason this road was built was to get to the rich mining regions. The largest was the old Longfellow Mine. The Ouray to Silverton section is called the Million Dollar Highway, because it cost a million dollars to build it all the way back in the 1880s.
The overlook above Ouray from the Million Dollar Highway is spectacular. The best part of the Million Dollar Highway is the fantastic views on both sides of the road. There are no guard rails on this road with precipices on one side and rock walls on the other side, grades and switchbacks, the road winding most of its length. For these reasons, it is advisable to drive it only in good weather and road conditions.
Silverton in San Juan County is a picturesque mountain town with tourist shops, pubs and 4-wheel drive rentals. The streets are nearly exclusively lined with off-road and 4-wheel drive vehicles. Visitors come here to hike, to hunt or just to experience adrenalin driving the narrow, forest roads in the high mountains. There is an abundance of trails, beautiful lakes and at higher elevations, alpine meadows. Sighting of wildlife is common.
We did a day trip to Durango, Colorado. You can travel on the narrow-gauge railroad between the two cities, but we traveled by car and stopped at the Pinkerton Hot Springs right by the road. This is a spectacular geological formation. Minerals deposited from the trickling hot spring built a pyramidal mound colored by various minerals. The Hot Springs was named after Pinkerton James, who discovered it in the 1800s. He made a big swimming pool from the water. Rumor has it that Marilyn Monroe bathed in it. The water is hot as it merges on the top and slowly cools as it runs down a slope. I always wanted to visit a natural hot spring and I am glad I had the experience.
Durango, Colorado is a jewel. The town has lots of specialty shops. My favorite store was Dreams of Tibet full of beautiful clothing with Asian couture and musical instruments. I admired the Strater Hotel building that is in its original shape. One of the West’s iconic hotels with beautiful, handcrafted woodwork, period wallpaper, and the largest walnut antique furniture that decorated the hotel and the guest rooms. The Railroad Museum was fascinating with lots of artifacts. It takes at least a couple of hours to look at all of them.