Following in the Trail of the Ancients and Exploring the San Juan Skyway

Travel through the archaeological heartland of America on the Trail of the Ancients, the only National Scenic Byway dedicated solely to archaeology. Then explore the mining history of Southwest Colorado along the San Juan Skyway, an All American Road and “the most beautiful drive in America.”

Total Number of Days/Nights: 9


Destinations include:
Mesa Verde National Park
Ute Mountain Tribal Park
Hovenweep National Monument
Lowry Pueblo
Anasazi Heritage Center
Cortez Cultural Center 
Historic Districts
Durango & Silverton Train 
Mine Tours
Galloping Goose Railcar  
Jeep Rides 
Day One: Anasazi Heritage Center. Visit the Anasazi Heritage Center, an outstanding archaeological museum and headquarters for Canyons of the Ancients National Monument (north of Cortez.)  The Heritage Center includes archaeological exhibits, hands-on activities, cultural videos, and two small archaeological Anasazi Centersites. 

Day Two: Mesa Verde National Park. Just east of Cortez, visit the spectacular cliff dwellings and mesa-top villages in world-renowned Mesa Verde National Park, a World Heritage Site. Ranger-guided, self-guided, and ½ day guided tours are available in the park.

Day Three: Ute Mountain Tribal Park. For a completely different experience visit the “other side” of the Mesa for a tour of the Ute Tribal Park.  Full day tours of this primitive area are led by Ute Guides who share their knowledge of both Ancestral Puebloan and Ute cultures, sites, and rock art.

Day Four: Hovenweep National Monument, 
Lowry Pueblo.  Located 46 miles west of Cortez, Hovenweep is famous for its square, oval, circular, and D-shaped towers.  Square Tower site is easily accessible, with a nice hiking trail and visitor center.  To get a taste of more archaeology, take the back road home and visit Lowry Pueblo, the site of 
a Great Kiva. Obtain directions at the Hovenweep 
Visitor Center.

Day Five: Durango. Travel from the ancient culture of the Ancestral Puebloans highlighted along the Trail of the Ancients, to the San Juan Skyway, reminiscent of the glory days of mining, railroads, brothels, and outlaws. Take a ride on the historic Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad;  a coal-fired, steam-powered locomotive that carries you through the wilderness of the San Juan Mountains to the historic mining town of Silverton. 

Day Six: Silverton and Ouray. Explore Silverton’s National Historic Landmark District, including a stop at the San Juan County Historical Society Museum.  Experience the secret underground world of the hard-rock gold miner by taking a mine tour, and afterwards, try your luck panning for gold.  Continue along the San Juan Skyway to Ouray.

Day Seven: Ouray, CO. The Red Mountain area was one of Colorado’s richest and most productive mining districts. For four-wheelers, the Alpine Loop leaves pavement and people behind and travels into the San Juan Mountains to two 12,000-foot passes.  Non-four-wheelers may opt for a commercially-operated jeep ride on the region’s back roads. While in Ouray, stroll through the Ouray National Historic District and enjoy their museum, noted as "one of the best small museums in the west" by the Smithsonian.

Day Eight: Telluride. The timeline of human activity in the region is well documented in the Telluride Historical Museum, located in the Telluride Miners Hospital.  The historic 
architectural significance of Telluride depicts the boom and bust mining era of late 1800s and early 1900s. Victorian and mining era buildings are preserved within the National Historic Landmark District. 

Day Nine: Dolores, Cortez. The Skyway takes you through the Dolores River Valley.  “Rio de Nuestra Senora de las Dolores” or The River of our Lady of Sorrows, was named by Spanish explorers Dominguez and Escalante when they came through the area in 1776.  In Dolores, Galloping Goose Railcar # 5 has been restored and is completely operational. Continue on to Cortez to complete a ride through Southwest 
Colorado history and to enjoy Indian Dances at the Cortez 
Cultural Center.