Colorado’s Scenic Million Dollar Highway: Silverton to Ouray
The scenic drive on Colorado’s Million Dollar Highway (U.S. Route 550), from Silverton to Ouray, just might be the most eye-popping, awe-inspiring drive we have ever taken.
From the historic mining town of Silverton, Colorado, the two-lane highway meanders through Mineral Creek Valley and then proceeds through a series of sharp grades and hairpin turns that will ultimately take you over three mountain passes before you reach Lookout Point, which looks down on the beautiful town of Ouray, considered by many to be the Switzerland of the US.
When you reach the summit of Red Mountain Pass, you will be standing at an elevation of 11,018 ft.
Legend has it that the name Million Dollar Highway comes from the 1920s cost to build the highway at over $1 million a mile. Others claim that the fill dirt used to make the road contains $1 million in gold ore; while still others claim the name stems from the panoramic million-dollar views.
Running north on the highway, the scariest part of the drive is encountered on the stretch of highway from the Red Mountain Pass through the Uncompahgre Gorge.
Here, you’ll encounter very narrow lanes, steep cliffs, and no guardrails. In fact, one misstep and you’re certain to find death in the yellowish waters of the Red Mountain Creek many, many, many feet below.
In fact, sadly, we found a granite marker (right) along the side of the highway as a monument to the snowplow drivers who catapulted to their deaths along this very stretch of highway.
In spite of a few butterfies in our stomachs from time to time when we peered over the cliffs, the road is very safe if you’re paying attention and maintaining a safe speed.
If you find yourself in the southwest corner of Colorado, we very highly recommend a drive on Colorado’s scenic Million Dollar Drive from Silverton to Ouray.
By the way, there’s a lot of fun places for lunch in Ouray. We opted for juicy home-cooked burgers at Maggies Kitchen. YUM!