The Four Corners Motorcycle Rally will be rumbling into Ignacio and Durango over Labor Day weekend, so now is the perfect time to dish on the best motorcycle rides in Southwest Colorado. Durango, the San Juan Mountains and the Southwest Colorado region as a whole deliver some stunning scenery and incredible rides.
Colorado has a heap of designated Colorado Scenic Byways — seven of which are in Southwest Colorado. But not all of them are appropriate or safe for motorcycles; some are rough, rutty, muddy, unpaved roads that no motorcycle should be on (unless it has four wheels and is a 4×4, so…)
Here are a few scenic Durango motorcycle rides that you shouldn’t miss while you’re here for the motorcycle rally:
Durango is tucked into the foothills of the San Juan Mountains and is the ideal launching point for the San Juan Skyway Scenic and Historic Byway motorcycle ride. The route is a loop, so riders can head west from Durango on Highway 160 to Cortez or north on Highway 550 to Silverton. The byway takes riders over several mountain passes, each at altitudes of 11,000 feet or higher, and through historic mountain towns. You’ll find plenty of turn-of-the-century mining history in Silverton and Telluride as well as signs of ancient pueblo civilizations in both Mancos and Cortez. The route includes a stretch of road between Ouray and Silverston that’s known as the “Million Dollar Highway,” which was built in the late 1880s and will definitely please any thrill-seekers. This narrow, winding road clings to the side of the mountain for dear life (much like your passenger will) and features plenty of hairpin curves without any of those pesky safety features like guardrails or shoulders. Riders will also pass through the towns of Placerville and Ridgway and will pass by some of Colorado’s most impressive peaks, including Mount Wilson and Mount Sneffels.
If you start in Whitewater and head south to Placerville, this byway could serve as the first leg of your route as you head into Durango — or on your way out after the Four Corners Motorcycle Rally. (Placerville is about 115 miles north of Durango). The Unaweep Tabeguache Scenic and Historic Byway on U.S. Highways 141 and 145 follows the paths of both the San Miguel and Dolores rivers through the red sandstone of Unaweep Canyon. Be sure to watch the road but also watch for bighorn sheep on rocky ledges near Whitewater, visit the historic Driggs Mansion, tour the Gateway Auto Museum or stop at the ruins of Hanging Flume, a mining town-era aqueduct system just outside of Naturita.
This route is a little out of the way — Alamosa is about 150 miles east of Durango — but you’re here to ride, right? The Los Caminos Antiguos byway dishes up a wealth of historic sites and ancient ruins, including Colorado’s oldest Catholic parish in Conejos, the state’s oldest existing community, San Luis, and Colorado’s oldest military post, Fort Garland. Near the fort, riders will find Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, which boasts the highest sand dunes in the nation and is reason enough to make the journey.
That’s just a few of the area’s amazing motorcycle rides. Heck, every road in Southwest Colorado is basically a scenic motorcycle route that riders will enjoy. Durango motorcycle rides deliver the best of big blue skies, soaring mountains, crazy cliffs and rock formations and roaring rivers. Quality Inn Durango is a bike-friendly hotel, so while you’re here for the Four Corners Motorcycle Rally, maybe tack on a couple extra days to squeeze in some more amazing ride time. Be sure to book your room now to stay with at the Durango Quality Inn!