The Million Dollar Highway
Colorado is one of our favorite states that we've been to, with it's quaint little towns, and the beautiful and treacherous mountain passes that have breathtaking views around every turn. It can get sketchy driving a car through the mountains, but just imagine an 18-wheeler, fully loaded going around hairpin curves and down steep grades! The majority of the roads have guard rails of course, but one of the most beautiful and dangerous roads of them all doesn't have a single one. That is hwy 550 aka The Million Dollar Highway. It's about 80 miles starting from Durango and going to Ouray.
The scariest part of the stretch is between Silverton and Ouray. It's about 25 miles of hair-pin curves, tall rock walls on one side, and a shear cliff drop off on the other side with absolutely no shoulder or room for error!! I almost gave myself a headache on this road because I was holding my breath too much, haha!!
These are some of the views as you leave Durango. This road is part of the San Jaun Skyway and goes over three very tall mountain passes. It was built in the late 1880's and is one of the most scenic and dangerous roads in the US.
At one point it opens up into a small valley thats surrounded by mountains, and you're at such high elevation they don't look as big as you'd think. There is a rest stop up there, so we took the advantage to pull over and get out, take some pictures and breathe in the clear air. It was one of the most beautiful sights I've seen. It felt like you were on top of the world.
Then you come to Silverton, which is such an adorable little town that looks like it belongs in a snow globe. From here starts the most thrilling part of it all!
Red Mountain is the tallest in elevation of the three passes on this road at 11,017 feet. Now a ghost town, the Red Mountain Mining District used to be a bustling western town that opened the mine in 1883. Sadly we didn't get to explore because it's always a tight schedule in the truck, plus where are we gonna park a big truck? It barely fits on this road anyway!
This is the Yankee Girl Mine that was discovered in 1882, and became one of the richest and most famous mines in the history of silver mining in the US.
You can see how tightly the road hugs the side of the mountain (notice the tiny blue car on the left side of the photo) and the steep drop-offs.
Just before entering Ouray is a beautiful overlook they've built where you can walk out over the cliff a little ways and view the Bear Creek Waterfall. It was beautiful and huge, but pictures just simply don't do it justice. (click the arrows to the side of the photo above to see more)
And finally you get to Ouray. It's one of the most picturesque and quaint towns I have ever seen and I can't wait to go back and explore it. Hands down this is mine and David's most favorite road we've driven. He's already planning a motorcycle trip one day, and I'm planning out all the cute cafes, landmarks, and local Bed & Breakfast I want to check out!!
If ever you're in Colorado I highly recommend adding this route to your list, check out all the sights and landmarks along the way, and most definitely stay in the gorgeous town of Ouray.