Dare to drive the challenging Camp Bird Road in Colorado

Camp Bird Road is a picturesque mountain road with narrow shelf sections located southwest of Ouray County, in the U.S. state of Colorado. A 4WD vehicle and no fear of heights are recommended.

Camp Bird Road

How long is Camp Bird Road?

The road, also known as County Road 361, is totally unpaved with a compact dirt surface. It’s 8.20 km (5.1 miles) long, running east-southwest from Ouray (on Million Dollar Highway) to Camp Bird. Ouray is a town originally established by miners chasing silver and gold in the surrounding mountains, and Camp Bird is a famous and highly productive old gold mine located between Ouray and Telluride. It has been around since the mid-1800s and has produced well over a million troy ounces of gold. The mine is within the Sneffels-Red Mountain-Telluride mining district.

Is Camp Bird Road in CO open?

Located above Ouray in the San Juan Mountains, the first part of the road (the first 4 miles - to the Senator Creek area) is open year-round. The rest, marked by a winter gate, is only open during the summer months. The road provides access to Yankee Boy Basin and Imogene Pass and then down to Telluride. The road is exposed and can get very icy. There is an avalanche danger on the road.

When was Camp Bird Road in CO built?

Tucked away in the Uncompahgre National Forest, the road was built by Otto Mears as a toll road to service the mines and was finished in 1883. The road is named after a mining company called Camp Bird.

Is Camp Bird Road dangerous?

The narrow, picturesque mountain road is not easy. Avoid it if you have a fear of heights. This road becomes more and more "interesting" with each passing mile—turning from a graded dirt road into a slightly bumpy shelf road, finally ending up as a moderate 4WD road with some steep, rough, rutted sections that shouldn't be attempted by any low-clearance 2WD vehicles at all. The road gets rougher higher up. As you climb up Camp Bird Road, the trail gets a little steeper, but it's still not a difficult drive. The road is narrow at the higher sections, and passing other vehicles is nearly impossible, so be prepared that you can get stuck in traffic on summer weekends.

Do I need a 4WD vehicle to drive Camp Bird Road in CO?

High-clearance 4WDs are preferred, but any high-clearance vehicle is acceptable in good weather. Expect a rough road surface; mud and sand are possible but will be easily passable.

Is Camp Bird Road in Colorado steep?

It's a high mountain road, ending at 3,000m (9,842ft) above sea level. The road is very steep, with a 16% maximum gradient through some of the ramps. Starting at Ouray, the drive is 8.20 km (5.1 miles) long. Over this distance, the elevation gain is 592 meters. The average gradient is 7.21%.