Highway 550 is better known as the Million Dollar Highway and this is one of the very best scenic drives in Colorado! The Million Dollar section of Highway 550 runs between Durango and Montrose through the San Juan Mountains and it takes a few hours to do the complete drive. There are a few high elevation towns along this route that are popular attractions and the National Forests offer endless activity options, which include fishing, camping and endless trails to explore. As can be imagined, a scenic drive on the Million Dollar Highway can easily be turned into a lengthy fun filled summer vacation!
The section of the Million Dollar Highway from Ouray to Silverton certainly is a beautiful scenic drive and there are many worthwhile points of interest along the way. When going south from Ouray, the first majestic sight encountered will be Red Mountain Pass, which is one of the most dangerous sections of road in America. The road is vary narrow, the white line painted on the edge of the road is as wide as the road shoulder gets and there are no guard rails. There is only a 600 foot drop straight down from the edge of the road, so this is a place where the passengers will likely say a few prayers! Going slow through this section is advisable, especially in icy conditions, because Bighorn Sheep have been known to jump down onto the road in front of cars in this area. Stopping to take a look around is not a good idea either, because gigantic boulders do fall down from the steep towering mountain on a regular basis. If this all sounds too much to handle, then it may be better to take the long way around through Telluride to get to Durango and Silverton.
After surviving Red Mountain Pass, the rest of the drive will be a piece of cake, even though there are some difficult steep inclines later on down the road. Up ahead there is nothing but majestic mountain views and high elevation mountain meadows for most of the rest of the drive. The exception is the Red Mountain Mining Area, which is a major attraction that is located in a zig-zag switchback section. There are a few dirt side roads in this area that go to the Ironton Park Ghost Town and Red Mountain Mining Area that are worth exploring.
Some of the most famous Jeep trails in the world can be found along the highway between Ouray and Silverton, so if you drive a capable vehicle you will be in 4x4 heaven! Black Bear Road and Engineer Mountain Road are just to name a few. Detailed maps and Alpine Loop dirt road condition information can be found at the San Juan National Forest Ranger Stations if touring the back country is in the plans.
Several picturesque waterfalls and a few great scenic overlooks can be found along the Million Dollar Highway that are worth taking the time to check out. This is the land of 14,000 foot tall mountains, so be sure to bring a good camera along for the ride. Modern accommodations, mountain bike shops and 4x4 rentals can be found at either of the two end points, so the options for outdoor adventures are endless. The section of the Million Dollar Highway between Ouray and Silverton certainly is a vacationland of its own, so be sure to fill up the tank and check the brakes before logging the trip on the books!
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