Wednesday, July 23, 2014

DESTINATION: Million Dollar Highway, Colorado

Nearing the end of our motorcycle trip through the southwest we drove the Million Dollar Highway starting at Durango and ending at Montrose, Colorado, before heading east towards Salida, Colorado.  The Million Dollar Highway stretches for about 25 miles in western Colorado and follows the route of U.S. 550 between Silverton and Ouray, Colorado.  It is part of the San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway. 

Waiting to head to Ouray

Area between Durango & Silverton
  
Between Durango and Silverton the Skyway loosely parallels the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.   


Though the entire stretch has been called the Million Dollar Highway, it is really the twelve miles south of Ouray through the Uncompahgre Gorge to the summit of Red Mountain Pass which gains the highway its name.  This stretch through the gorge is challenging and potentially hazardous to drive; it is characterized by steep cliffs, narrow lanes, and a lack of guardrails; the ascent of Red Mountain Pass is marked with a number of hairpin curves used to gain elevation, and again, narrow lanes for traffic—many cut directly into the sides of mountains.


Bear Creek Falls near Ouray, CO



During this ascent, the remains of the Idarado Mine are visible. Travel north from Silverton to Ouray allows drivers to hug the inside of curves; travel south from Ouray to Silverton perches drivers on the vertiginous outside edge of the highway. Large RVs travel in both directions, which adds a degree of excitement (or danger) to people in cars and, most definitely, on motorcycles.




Remains of Idarado Mine


Waterfall cutting through rocks near Ouray, CO
Molas Pass, Molas Lake
One beautiful view after another