Oh, golly, what a choice. The best thing to do is to add a day to your itinerary so you can do both! The whole loop could feasibly be done in a day, but an overnight along the way would be better.
I personally would choose the drive from Cortez to Rico to Telluride, then over Dallas Divide to Ridgway. This route includes spectacular views all the way from the approach to Lizard Head Pass through Telluride, then throught the vermillion colored canyon walls to Placerville, and on over Dallas Divide with its amazing views of the rugged San Juan range to the south. However, the drive from Durango to Silverton and then over the Million Dollar Highway to Ouray has three high mountain passes, ghost towns and mines, and breathtaking views (plus breathtaking dropoffs in some areas with no guardrails!)
If you have a full day, you could drive from Cortez to Telluride to Ridgway, then south to Ouray and Silverton, then back to Ouray and on to Montrose to get some of the best of the best views. Or, you could drive to Durango and north to Ouray, then detour to Telluride and maybe on to Lizard Head Pass before turning around to retrace your route back to Ridgway, then north to Montrose.Edited: 8:51 am, April 11, 2013
Thank you for your responses. My original plan was to leave Moab and travel highway 491 down to Cortez. However, I have read that the drive from Moab on highway 128 and I-70 provide spectacular views as well.
I do have a spare day up my sleeve. Do you have a recommendation as to the most scenic route from Montrose to Denver? I was initially going to travel to Delta, then take highways 92 and 133 to Glenwood Springs, then travel the 1-70. Is it a better option to leave Ridgway and travel to Grand Junction, then the I-70.
Are you visiting Mesa Verde? The Black Canyon of the Gunnison Natl Park? What time of year is the trip? How much time do you have? What is your objective for the trip? (i.e. scenery, hiking, national parks, historic sites...)
If you could give us a little more information about your plans, your likes, and your overall itinerary, it would probably make for responses better tailored to your trip.Edited: 3:54 pm, April 11, 2013
My wife and I are driving from LAX to Chicago next month (May). It will be purely a driving trip, looking at scenery with no, or very little hiking. We will be spending five days in Colorado, allowing two days in Denver to see the Rocky Mountains National Park. I suppose we are looking at the most scenic way of travelling from Moab to Denver.
Most scenic way from Moab to Denver is as follows.... go to Google Maps and plug in "directions" then enter the following cities....
This will take you on some of the most beautiful and least traveled highways in the state!
First you will leave Moab going South on US 191, for about a dozen miles to the turnoff to Utah 46... USE CAUTION when driving Utah 46... It is pretty, paved, well maintained... and obey speed limits because there are sharp curves with no guardrails.... IF YOU SPEED ON THIS ROAD YOU MIGHT NOT LIVE TO REGRET IT... however, it is one of the most beautiful roads in the world..... and there is NO TRAFFIC... I MEAN NONE... you might drive 50 miles without seeing another car.
Take SNACKS, WATER, and HAVE A FULL TANK WHEN YOU LEAVE MOAB... it will be 70 miles to anything.
I hope you consider this route... it really is remarkable. Have a great trip!
No need for Google Maps I have a very well worn 2008 Rand McNally Road Atlas.
Thank you very much for your help and warning about road conditions. This is exactly the information that I wanted. Having no traffic to worry about on 46, 90 and 145, means I will be able to stop frequently and take many photographs. This route will also give me the opportunity to see Telluride. I know I will have to turn around and go back, but I thought that I may take the drive from Ridgway to Silverton.
Once again thanks for your input.
missWestSlope, Thanks for the additional information about Ironton. I have cut and pasted the directions and will make a point of stopping off there.
The drive from Telluride to Ridgway is spectacular, many mountain vistas. You will encounter other cars, but there are many places to pull off to take photos. You will pass thru a red rock canyon on the way up to Telluride. Also, between Ouray and Silverton is just drop dead gorgeous. I never tire of either drive, so beautiful.