Red Mountain Pass, a beautiful road in Colorado

red mountain pass
Red Mountain

With an elevation of 3,358 meters (11,020 feet) above sea level, Red Mountain Pass is a must-visit for road enthusiasts. This pass in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains provides breathtaking views and is surrounded by the Uncompahgre National Forest and the San Juan National Forest.

The twists and turns of the road winding through Red Mountain Pass provide a thrilling driving experience for those seeking adventure on the best roads on the planet.

Where is Red Mountain Pass in Colorado located?

This scenic route is located along the San Juan Mountains. It is located between Silverton and Ouray, about 35 kilometers (20 miles) north of Molas Pass.

It is part of the Million Dollar Highway, the Red Mountain Pass is a 40 kilometers (25 miles) stretch of scenic highway that is part of the U.S. 550.

You can locate the road on the map below:

Enlarge the map

Facts about Red Mountain Pass road

Road description:

This road, a section of US Route 550 known as the San Juan Highway, is a two-lane paved highway that runs 40 kilometers (25 miles) through Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. The drive to and from Red Mountain Pass is challenging and thrilling, with steep 8% grades, towering cliffs, and sharp turns that will put even the most experienced drivers to the test.

Despite its beautiful scenery, the road can be dangerous due to its narrow winding nature and unpredictable weather conditions, which can include heavy snowfall. This makes it a popular destination for adventure lovers who come to experience the thrill of driving one of the world’s most beautiful yet difficult roads.

History of the road:

The road’s reconstruction began in the early 1920s, and it was completed by 1924. Following its reconstruction, the road became a part of the US Route 550.

As the costs of construction were very high, it was decided to make it a toll road. As a result, the road was one of the first toll roads in the United States.

Even today, 100 years after it was built, the road is an engineering miracle and is very impressive. If you have some knowledge of road engineering, you will be very surprised how they managed to build a road like that a century ago.

Things to do nearby the Pass

Get time to explore San Juan Forest during your journey. Havilland Lake doubles the beauty of it. You can go fishing, hiking or hunting. Camping is also a good idea during the late spring or summer.

Join the plenty of birds in Ouray and don’t miss 285-foot Box Canyon falls. Ouray is a classical Colorado mining town, but the landscapes are very incredible there. In fact, Ouray is also called little Switzerland because of its climate and landscapes: a little town in the valley surrounded by mountains. It gives a real impression that you are somewhere in the Swiss Alps. Take some time to hike there, you won’t regret that!

You can see the abandoned mines in your entire journey. You will feel as if you are visiting this road in ancient times. Stop at the abandoned Idarado Mine or Ouray mines and walk there, you will feel a special mood, as you are in a ghost city.

Try to be very cautious while passing through Red Mountain Pass. A little mistake can be fatal for you. So adapt your speed there and drive even more slowly there during winters. Just take snaps of the dramatic scenes and move ahead.

If you drive the road in winter, and you are a ski or snowboard fan you will be very happy: near Silverton, you will find a non-common ski resort. Indeed, Silverton Mountain is a ski resort with only one lift and a huge area of off freeride skiing. You even can practice heliskiing there. Also, if you have a 4×4 car you can drive through the Imogene Pass, but check the details before!

If you want a more habitual place to ski, you should consider the Telluride ski resort. It is not on the One Million Dollar highway, but quite close to it.

How to get to the Red Mountain Pass ?

In order to drive the Million Dollar Highway, you should drive the San Juan Skyway (the US route 550). The section named the Million Dollar Highway started in Silverton and ends in Ouray in Colorado. If you are coming from Denver you can also make a detour via the Loveland Pass which is quite amazing by the way! Then, you can drive through the Monarch Pass.

You visualize how to get there on this map of the drive:

Is Red Mountain Pass road Open right now ?

The road is open all year round. However, the Red Mountain Pass weather conditions can be very hard, especially in winter or during rainy days: slippery road and low visibility are common on the road. Also, the area is known for having some avalanches quite often and there is always a risk that it can pass through the road itself.

We also advise checking in advance if the road is open before going there.

A preview of this legendary road:

You can also explore this road without going there. You can obviously try to find a link to a Red Mountain Pass webcam, or you can see this YouTube video that shows this road:

The Red Mountain Pass is a must-see if you’re driving through the Rocky Mountains. Despite its reputation as one of Colorado’s most difficult roads, especially in bad weather, the drive promises to be an unforgettable experience, with breathtaking views of towering cliffs, steep grades, and sharp turns. So, if you’re looking for adventure, pack your adventurous spirit and prepare for a breathtaking drive on the Red Mountain Pass, one of the world’s most beautiful and challenging road trips.

Pictures sources:  By Andreas F. Borchert, CC BY-SA 4.0, /

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