Red Mountain Pass, a beautiful road in Colorado

red mountain pass
Red Mountain

Red Mountain Pass, is a pass in the Rocky Mountains, in the U.S. state of Colorado. It is located at an elevation of 3358 meters (11020 feet) above sea level on the border of Ouray and San Juan counties.

This pass also bounds the Uncompahgre National Forest and the San Juan National Forest.

Where is Red Mountain Pass in Colorado located?

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


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.

You can locate the road on the map below:


Enlarge the map

Facts about Red Mountain Pass road

Road description:

This road is paved. The road is a two-lines highway that is a 40 kilometers (25 miles) section of the US route 550 (also called the San Juan Highway).

The route to and from Red Mountain Pass features 8%+ grades, large cliffs, and beautiful sharp turns! The route is also known to be quite dangerous, with flash floods, falling rocks, and lots of snowfall.

History of the road:

At the beginning of the 1920’s the construction starts and the road was rebuilt in 1924 and then become part of the US Route 550

As the costs of the building were very high it was decided to make it a paid 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:

It can be definitely a great idea to drive the Donne If you are driving the San Juan Skyway, you should definitely take a look at the Million Dollar Highway you won’t regret it. Remember that it is considered as one the most dangerous road trip in Colorado with bad conditions especially in winter! But your reward will be a drive on one of the world’s best drives!

Pictures sources:  By Andreas F. Borchert, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2216582 /


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