This is part two of our Million Dollar 4th of July update. I took so many pictures of this incredible highway, I will do my best to narrow it down as much as I can.
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. Between Durango and Silverton the Skyway loosely parallels the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. We rode the train the last time we visited this area, this time we wanted to drive it so we could stop when we wanted.
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. 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. We would never drive our RV on this road, but we passed several people doing so.
We were really blessed to be able to drive there and back in the same day. This way we were able to get all the best views. I personally think the drive from Silverton back to Ouray was the most beautiful. I have a ton of pictures to add, so I will let them tell the rest of the story. Check back later for more from Colorado.