Red Mountain Pass in Colorado is a treacherous drive in the wintertime

Red Mountain Pass is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 3,358m (11,018ft) above sea level, located on the boundary of Ouray and San Juan counties, in the US state of Colorado. At this elevation, it is one of the highest paved passes in Colorado.

Red Mountain Pass

Is Red Mountain Pass challenging?

Set high in the San Juan Mountains on the southwestern part of Colorado, the road to the summit has some steep sections, and there are no protections or guardrails along some parts. Avalanches are frequent and can block the highway for some time. It’s one of the steepest paved mountain passes in Colorado. With winding curves, steep drop-offs, and no guardrails, this drive requires your full attention and is not for those who don't like mountain driving. It has a few switchbacks on the north approach.

What highway is Red Mountain Pass?

Located between Ouray and Silverton, the road through the summit is the iconic Million Dollar Highway (U.S. Highway 550). The pass is named for nearby Red Mountain, which is three peaks characterized by the reddish rock that forms their slopes. Black Bear Road, one of the most dangerous mountain roads in the United States, starts at Red Mountain Pass and ends at Telluride.

Is Red Mountain Pass open?

Though it is one of the higher passes in Colorado, the road is generally kept open in the winter months.

Is Red Mountain Pass worth it?

The drive offers stunning views, and the scenery of the San Juan’s is unsurpassed. 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 road is entirely paved, and chains or snow tires 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 through 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 is littered with markers of people who died up there. Even in the summer, you have to pay attention to all the switchbacks. Flash floods on top in the summer will bring down torrential rains and large chunks of flying rock.