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Camp Bird Road

Camp Bird Road (officially Co Rd 361) is a short mountain road with a total length of 4.4 miles, located southwest of Ouray County, in Colorado, United States. The road is accessible from June until October. The road is very rough--only try driving it in a 2wd car, if you're planning to buy a new car.

The road starts in Ouray, a town originally established by miners chasing silver and gold in the surrounding mountains and finishes in Camp Bird, a famous and highly-productive old gold mine located between Ouray and Telluride, Colorado. The mine is within the Sneffels-Red Mountain-Telluride mining district in the San Juan Mountains. The Camp Bird Mine is a very famous gold mine that has been around since the mid 1800's and has produced well over a million troy ounces of gold! Camp Bird Road provides an access to Yankee Boy Basin and Imogene Pass. Starting at 7,800 feet above the sea level, the road climbs up to Yankee Boy (with a dead end at an elevation of over 12,500 feet), or over the Imogene Pass (at an elevation of 13,000ft) and then down to Telluride. 
Your wheels will be astounded at the wonderful views of the mountains spread out before you! They are terrible for drivers who are prone to vertigo. In many places the road is bordered by a drop of hundreds of meters (many hundreds of feet) unprotected by guardrails. This road, which 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.

This track can get very muddy and slippery after rain making it challenging to get through. During and after a storm the road may be impassable, even with a four-wheel-drive vehicle. Thunderstorm activity can quickly change unpaved roads to four-wheel-drive condition or make them impassable.  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 a traffic on summer weekends. Do not travel this pass in severe weather conditions. Avalanches, heavy snowfalls and landslides can occur anytime, being extremely dangerous due to frequent patches of ice. It has a well-deserved reputation for being dangerous because of unpredictable snowstorms and blizzards, and driving under these conditions, can be extremely challenging.  High-clearance 4WDs are preferred, but any high-clearance vehicle is acceptable. Expect a rough road surface; mud and sand are possible but will be easily passable. You may encounter rocks up to 6 inches in diameter, a loose road surface, and shelf roads, though these will be wide enough for passing or will have adequate pull-offs.
Pic: Clint Mitchell

 

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