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 the 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 the novice drivers. It's one of the highest roads of Colorado.
Can you drive Imogene Pass?
Tucked away 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. The views along the way are unbelievable. It 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. It’s recommended starting in Telluride: this allows you to drive downhill on the steeper, rockier north side.
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 the road 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. You’ll find historical mining towns along the way.
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 hairy at times. Don’t get over confident 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. 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. Experienced drivers only. 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 open?
Set high in the San Juan Mountains, 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: be sure you have the right vehicle and experience to attempt this drive.
Pic: Clint Mitchell