Conquer the Thrilling Imogene Pass: A High Mountain Adventure in Colorado

Imogene Pass is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 4,012m (13,162ft) above sea level located on the boundary of San Miguel and Ouray counties, in the U.S. state of Colorado. The road is accessible by four-wheel-drive vehicles and is not for novice drivers. It's one of the highest roads in Colorado.

Imogene Pass

Can you drive Imogene Pass?

Set high on the southwest part of Colorado, the road to the summit is totally unpaved. It’s called Imogene Pass Road. The drive demands 100% concentration.

When was the road to Imogene Pass built?

The first road through the summit was built in 1880 as a well-traveled mining road and opened as a 4WD road in 1966. It’s named after Imogene Richardson, who was the wife of a Camp Bird Mine owner.

How long is Imogene Pass?

The pass is 26.23km (16.3 miles) long, running from Ouray (the county seat of Ouray County) on the Million Dollar Highway to Telluride (the county seat of San Miguel County). From Ouray, the road turns off to Yankee Boy Basin above the Camp Bird Mine near the ghost town of Sneffels southwest of Ouray and climbs through Imogene Basin to the summit. From Telluride, the road takes off north of downtown and climbs past the ghost town of Tomboy through Savage Basin to the summit. It’s recommended to start in Telluride: this allows you to drive downhill on the steeper, rockier north side.

How long does it take to drive over Imogene Pass?

To drive the road without stopping will take most people between 2.5 and 3.5 hours.

Can you do Imogene Pass with 2WD?

This gravel road is not for beginners and is hairy at times. Don’t get overconfident, though. Expect some steep parts. Do not take this trip lightly. The road is rocky, steep, and narrow in places, and passing can be dangerous, warn Denver car accident lawyers. A rugged off-road 4×4 with plenty of clearance and high sidewall tires is definitely required. 2WD and low-clearance vehicles should not attempt to drive over Imogene Pass. Only experienced drivers should attempt it. Don’t get in a hurry, watch your lines, and drive carefully. It would be pretty easy to accidentally drive off the side, and it would be a fatal mistake. The road is very narrow in parts, and be prepared to deal with vehicles passing in the other direction. The drive itself can be intimidating at times, depending on your skills and comfort with heights and exposure.

Is Imogene Pass worth it?

Set high in the San Juan Mountains, the views along the way are unbelievable. You’ll find historical mining towns along the way.

Is Imogene Pass open?

This road is usually impassable from late October through late June or early July. Adverse weather conditions are common. The weather can become cold and windy in the middle of summer. Watch out for summer thunderstorms. Keep an eye on the skies. The pass is above timberline, with little protection from the weather, and storms can be sudden and violent in the San Juans. Be careful with water hazards: make sure you have the right vehicle and experience to attempt this drive.
Pic: Clint Mitchell