From the lodge, go south for 25 miles to Silverton, Colorado. The 45 minute drive is one you will never forget and talk about the rest of your life. Steep cliffs, narrow lanes and a lack of guardrails is what you’ll experience as you reach Red Mountain Pass.
If you don’t have time to enjoy the full San Juan Skyway, which takes 7 hours, you should at least enjoy the Million Dollar Highway to Silverton.
The drive between Ouray and Silverton is breathtaking. There are plenty of “photo ops” so take your camera!
Most guests are surprised that there are no guardrails and much of this highway. Having no guardrail allows the road to be plowed in the winter because the snow can be pushed off the edge.
The Million Dollar Highway was an old toll road built in the 1880’s by Otto Mears. Just beyond the pullout for Bear Creek Falls, 2 miles south of Ouray, Otto Mears set up his tollgate at the narrowest point on the “road” to collect his $3.75 from each “vehicle”. Red Mountains #1, #2, #3, towering above the Ironton Park, glisten in the sunshine in bright rust tones. This natural colors is caused by the oxidation of the iron on the soil.
Throughout this drive, you will find the mountainsides dotted with old mines, weathered buildings, and ore dumps. Millions of dollars in gold and sliver were laboriously dug from these area mines.
The Idarado Mine, located on the Ouray side of Red Mountain Pass, closed down mining operations about 20 years ago. They are, however, continuing to work on reclamation. This drive is spectacular both going and coming. As an extra treat, the rest in the fall are truly magnificent.
Round Trip Time
This round trip takes 2 hours, depending on the number of times you stop for photographs.