My Jeep Wrangler 4xe is fully charged, and my camera is ready to capture the vistas along the San Juan Skyway, a scenic byway that snakes at breathtaking altitudes past 14 of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks. I’m having a hard time hitting the road, though. I’ve just roused myself from a night at the recently revamped Rochester Hotel, in Durango, and this Old West railroad town, with a unique vibe that’s a little bit hipster and a little bit taxidermy, has cast a spell on me.
I have many mountains to climb, though, so I snap out of it and get behind the wheel. It’s only 12 miles north on U.S. 550 before I make my first stop, at James Ranch Grill, which has been doing the farm-to-table thing since long before that trendy term even existed. I snag a picnic table and order the Signature Burger: Belford cheese, caramelized onions, and rosemary-garlic aioli on a patty made from the grass-fed, antibiotic-free cows that graze the ranch’s land in the beautiful Animas Valley below.
After lunch, I continue on through a pastoral landscape that turns green with spruces, firs, and quaking aspens as I enter the San Juan National Forest. Soon, I’m squeezing between toothy San Juan peaks as I maneuver through the 10,640-foot Coal Bank Pass. On the far side of the gap, I pull over at mirror-like Little Molas Lake and hike a 5.2-mile out-and-back stretch of the 500-mile Colorado Trail.
I could use a breather after that high-altitude walk, so I descend into tiny Silverton. At first glance the town appears trapped in the 1880s, but on its paved main road, Greene Street, I find the new Avalanche Brewing Company alehouse, where I wash down chili-crusted cauliflower tacos with a powerful Weizenbock. Similarly contemporary is the The Wyman Hotel, a design-forward, 15-room property that augments its 1902 heritage building with bespoke furnishings and a lobby bar showcasing the trendiest of all beverages, natural wine. I grab a glass of chenin blanc and head up to my room to recharge my battery.
The cliff-skirting Million Dollar Highway—conspicuously devoid of guardrails—leads me out of town the next morningona25-mileroller-coasterride to Ouray, which bills itself as the Switzerland of America thanks to the sheer mountains that frame the town on either side but feels distinctly 19th-century American thanks to Victorian buildings such as the 1888 Wright Opera House. I go for a hike on the six-mile Ouray Perimeter Trail, which boasts views of the town and four waterfalls, then give my aching muscles a rest at the au naturel Orvis Hot Springs, a few miles up the road, near Ridgway.
Revived, I follow the highway as it curves west to Placerville and then loops back to the dramatic box canyon that’s home to Telluride, a former silver-mining town that has in recent years served as a tony hideaway for celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey and Jerry Seinfeld. I take my cue from the stars and dine downtown on beet salad and seared duck breast at Cosmopolitan, then ride the gondola over the Telluride Ski Resort to the Mountain Village and the Madeline Hotel & Residences, Auberge Resorts Collection. The property got a refresh in 2021, imbuing it with an old-meets-new spirit that’s in keeping with the other stops on my road trip through the sky. Sitting on the balcony of my room, I take in the mountain views and the crisp alpine air. I’m in no rush to return to earth.
2022 Jeep Wrangler 4xe
Jeep takes a leap into the future with the new plug-in hybrid electric Wrangler, which lets you power up on clean energy without compromising your wandering spirit. The 4xe (pronounced “four by e”) churns out 375 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque, opening up the kind of off-road possibilities—say, fording 30 inches of water—that Jeep has built its reputation on. Back on asphalt, the Wrangler zips from 0 to 60 mph in a staggering six seconds. Take down the fabric roof to let the breeze ruffle your hair; it’s easy to be carefree knowing that a full tank and charge will carry you up to 370 miles.
From $51,125, jeep.com