Million Dollar Hwy

Note: this road is maintained during winter, but may be closed occasionally due to severe weather or avalanche control.
Length: 81 miles (2 to 3 hours)
Overall Rating:
10 - Bucket List
10 - Stunning
10 - Unforgiving
06 - Moderate traffic, quieter off-peak

In a land of many great drives, the Million Dollar Hwy is arguably Colorado’s best. It’s got great mountain and canyon scenery, engaging twists and turns, and a miner’s bucket of historical sights and attractions.

The drive can be broken down into four sections. Heading southwards, the section from Ridgway to the old town of Ouray has some nice sweeping corners as it enters the mountains. The next section is spectacular, with the road barely hugging the Uncompahgre Gorge and twisting through the hairpins of Red Mountain Pass and down to Silverton. The road again climbs a couple of more mountain passes (presumably to avoid the canyons of the Animas River, which the Durango and Silverton tourist railway uses), with the final stretch straightening out and descending to Durango.

I’ve only driven this route once, and it was a pretty late start at that (the sun was already down in Ouray). While I wish I had spent much more time here, driving in the evening was absolutely incredible: no crowds, few cars and no RVs, and nothing else to compete with the absolute mountain silence on roadside stops. Silverton was even a bit spooky in the twilight; I swear I could see the ghosts!

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