Travel guide to the top of Coal Bank Pass in Colorado

Coal Bank Pass is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 3.243m (10,640ft) above sea level, located in San Juan County, in the U.S. state of Colorado.

Coal Bank Pass

Where is Coal Bank Pass?

The pass is located in the San Juan Mountains of western Colorado, to the south of Silverton.

Is the road to Coal Bank Pass paved?

The road to the summit is totally paved. It's called U.S. Highway 550 (Million Dollar Highway). It’s the southernmost – and slightly lower in elevation- of the three high-mountain passes on the road: Molas Pass (10,970 ft /3,340 m) and Red Mountain Pass (11,018 ft /3,358 m).

Is Coal Bank Pass challenging?

The drive is pretty defiant but easy for most passenger vehicles. The grades on the south face of this climb are much more reasonable than the north face. While the north side of Highway 550 is fairly gentle, the descent on the south side is very steep: the average gradient is 6.5% and hits an 8% of maximum gradient through some of the ramps. It has a runaway truck ramp for trucks that lose control. It is basically downhill the entire way to Durango.

Is Coal Bank Pass open?

Set high in the San Juan National Forest, the pass is open year-round, but it can be treacherous in winter due to the heavy snowfall. Winter weather causes restrictions and closures due to dangerous weather conditions. The scenery of the San Juan’s is unsurpassed and many call this area the American Alps.