Silverton to Ouray
If the words “scenic, twisty and thrilling” rev your engine, then you’re ready to ride the breathtaking high mountain road of US 550 from the historic mountain town of Silverton to the picturesque mountain town of Ouray in the state of Colorado.
The Million Dollar Highway
US 550 from Silverton to Ouray – aka The Million Dollar Highway – goes over the impressive Red Mountain Pass (11,075 feet) and is one of the most spectacular roads we’ve ever ridden!
No one knows for sure exactly where the phrase came from – whether it’s the high cost to build the road due to cutting through the dangerous Red Mountain Pass, or the amount of gold and silver that’s still buried in the area, or the million-dollar views one experiences when traveling it – but whatever the case, it’s definitely a road worthy of riding.
Is It Dangerous?!
And if that’s not enough to put the kickstand up and head out, there’s the added intrigue that comes when, in 2013, USA Today reproduced a list which stated that the Million Dollar Highway was one of the “World’s Most Dangerous Roads”, alongside such notables as the Highway of Death in Iraq and the Death Road in Bolivia. And while that makes it a road not to be taken lightly and worthy of respect and caution, it also marks it as a road that just begs to be taken on.
Once out of Silverton, you’ll pass mines and ghost towns long since abandoned to the elements. Steep twists and turns will take you past rugged, forested mountains with breathtaking vistas around every turn. Stop at the scenic overlook of Bear Creek Falls, which blasts down hundreds of feet into Bear Creek
What! No Guardrails?!
Back on US 550, you’ll experience the thrill of a lifetime, because the next section of this winding ribbon of asphalt has literally been carved into the side of a mountain. I could have easily reached out and touched the walls as they swept past. Sweeping through the narrow Uncompahgre Gorge canyon, we traveled onward – noting the steep drop-off at the road’s edge where, hundreds of feet below, the Uncompahgre River raged.
Through the twists and turns of the road, the total lack of guardrails cries out to not let your own guard down for a minute. Guardrails, I’m told, have no place in an area that receives an abundance of snowfall with no place to put it.
Twisting down a maze of switchbacks, we eventually made our way into Ouray – exhilaration and disappointment commingled as we congratulated ourselves for surviving and wishing we could just turn the bikes around and tackle the road again going in the opposite direction.
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