Colorado Adventures: San Juan Mountain area gems

There's a reason why so many people decide to spend time in SW Colorado during the summer: it's simply breathtaking.

Kevin Torres, KUSA

TELLURIDE – There's a reason why so many people decide to spend time in southwest Colorado during the summer months: it's simply breathtaking. Especially the views from Highway 550.

Some will argue the best views of the San Juans come from The Million Dollar Highway. The Million Dollar Highway is a stretch of roadway between Silverton and Ouray. It's part of Highway 550. Its name derived from a few things, including the area's "Million Dollar views."

Some parts of the San Juan Mountains, specifically near Ouray, are referred to as the "Swiss Alps of America."

Dallas Divide

Standing tall at about 8,900 feet

Some other notable sights from Highway 550 come from the Dallas Divide. If you haven't been there before, chances are you've seen it photographed somewhere.

Standing tall at about 8,900 feet, the Dallas Divide is saddled between the San Juan Mountains and the Uncompahgre Plateau. The Dallas Divide gets its name from nearby Dallas Creek, which is nestled alongside Mount Sneffels. This area is full of hiking, camping, biking and climbing.

Some of the best hiking and biking near the Dallas Divide come from Last Dollar Road. It's pretty simple to get to. To learn more about Last Dollar Road, visit http://bit.ly/1mKw08S or http://bit.ly/1sz0haf.

Red Mountain Pass

Waterfalls everywhere

If you're adventurous, especially when it comes to interesting drives, check out Red Mountain Pass between Ouray and Silverton (also part of the Million Dollar Highway). Highway 550 cuts across Red Mountain Pass.

During the winter months, this pass is treacherous. Having driven it a few times when it's coated in snow and ice, I don't recommend it (unless you absolutely have to use it). In fact, it's so dangerous in the winter, a number of plow drivers have died clearing it. There's a statue dedicated to them along the pass, closer to Ouray.

However, during the warm months Red Mountain Pass is spectacular. When I drove it in July, it was blushing with newly formed waterfalls. They're pretty much everywhere! If you're going to stop to snap some pictures of them, make sure you're pulled off to the side of the road safely.

Bridal Veil Falls

Activities abound

If you're looking for iconic waterfalls in the area, head back to Highway 550 and head south into Telluride. Follow Telluride's Main Street (Colorado Avenue) for a couple of miles until you hit the end of town and the end of the box canyon. It's there where you'll stumble upon on the famous 'Bridal Veil' Falls.

The waterfalls are the tallest free falling falls in Colorado, spanning more than 365 feet in length. From the base of the roadway at Pandora Mill, you have the option of hiking, biking or four-wheeling up a path to the head of the falls. This 1.8-mile adventure will take you bring you up an additional 1,200 feet in elevation. The payoff at the top is breathtaking view. It's something you'll never forget!

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For more information on Bridal Veil Falls, visit: http://bit.ly/U4Od4z.

Good places to eat

Summer brews and BBQ

Time to admit something: I love food. Lots and lots of greasy food. If you happen to be in Ouray during this trip, I highly suggest the Ouray Brewery. Not only does it have good beer, but it has really tasty burgers and chicken wings. I'm a huge fan of their wings. When I was there in July, I tried Ouray Brewery's Camp Bird Blonde. It's their summer brew, and it's spectacular.

If you end up in Telluride, check out Oak Beer, Bourbon and BBQ. I'm a big fan of their BBQ. Their pork ribs are tasty and their bacon mac-and-cheese is something you'll be craving time and time again.

Note: My apologies to those of you who like to eat healthy. When I'm on the road for work, I often eat and bars and grills :)

Directions

5-6 hours away from Denver

Total drive time to the Million Dollar Highway is about five to six hours from Denver. It just depends on which route you take.

The best route to get there from Denver is by taking Interstate 70 West to Grand Junction, then hopping on to Highway 50 South, until you can snap on to Highway 550 in Montrose.

Safe travels!

- 9NEWS Reporter Kevin Torres

**Editor's Note: In an initial version of this story, I referred to the Million Dollar HIghway being located between Ridgway and Telluride, when it is indeed situated between Silverton and Ouray. This web article has been revised to reflect the changes. - Kevin Torres**

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