A land apart from the rest of the state, southwestern Colorado is set off by the spectacular mountain wall of the San Juan Range. The Ancestral Puebloans (also called the Anasazi) who once lived here created cliff dwellings that more closely resemble structures found in New Mexico and Arizona than anything you might expect to see in Colorado. The ancient cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde National Park are a case in point, and there are similar but less well-known sites throughout the area, primarily around Cortez.

Durango is the area's major city. Its vintage main street (ca. 1880) and narrow-gauge railroad hearken back to the Old West days of the late 19th century, when it boomed as a transportation center for the region's silver and gold mines. Telluride, at the end of a box canyon surrounded by 14,000-foot peaks, has capitalized on its still-evident mining heritage in its evolution into an increasingly posh ski and summer resort. And those who drive the Million Dollar Highway -- down U.S. 550 from Ouray, over 11,008-foot Red Mountain Pass through Silverton, and on to Durango -- can't miss the remains of turn-of-the-20th-century mines scattered over the mountainsides.