Red Mountain Pass

Red Mountain Pass, a treacherous drive in the wintertime

Red Mountain Pass is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 3.358m (11,018ft) above the sea level, located in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado. The pass is traversed by the US 550 (Million Dollar Highway). At this elevation, the pass is one of the highest paved passes in Colorado.

The pass separates Ouray and San Juan counties.This road is usually open all year, but it can be closed anytime due to massive rock slides, continuous falling rocks and the amount of rubble, and when the access is not cleared of snow. The road includes some steep sections, and there are no protections or guard rails along some parts of the route. Avalanches are frequent, and can block the highway for some time.

What highway is Red Mountain Pass?

The pass sits on the way from Ouray and Silverton traversed by the Million Dollar Highway, U.S. Highway 550. The pass is named for nearby Red Mountain, which are three peaks characterized by the reddish rock that forms their slopes. With winding curves, steep dropoffs and no guard rails, this drive requires your full attention and is not for those who don't like mountain driving.

Is Red Mountain Pass open?

The weather on this zone is harsh and highly unpredictable and it does not take much time for the bright sun shine to change over to moderate to heavy snow fall. Though it is one of the higher passes in Colorado, it has only a few switchbacks on the north approach and is generally kept open in the winter months. The scenery of the San Juan’s is unsurpassed and many call this area the American Alps.

How dangerous is Red Mountain Pass?

The road on this pass is difficult and it’s a nightmare in the wet or dark (or both). The surface of the road is asphalt, and chains or snow tyres can be required throughout the year. The pass is known for being treacherous in the wintertime.  due to the steep 8% grade (slope) on the north side facing Ouray It winds up and down steep grades with a massive drop-off on one side. The drop is a sheer cliff in many parts. Because the road gets a lot of snow, guardrails are not present to allow plowing. This pass is a killer in winters and littered with markers of people who died up there. Even in the summer you have to pay attention in all the switchbacks. Flash floods on top in the summer will bring down torrential rains and large chunks of flying rock.
Black Bear Road, one of the most dangerous mountain roads in the United States, starts from Red Mountain Pass and ends at Telluride.