Million Dollar Highway is the most beautiful road of America
In the US state of Colorado, there’s a special highway built in the late 1880s: the Million Dollar Highway. It's one of the nation’s most spectacular drives. You'll be on the "outside" for a while with a hell of a view to your right (let the passenger look. You'll want to watch the road). Forget standard driving safety measures like guardrails and shoulders.
How long is the Million Dollar Highway?
Tucked away in western Colorado, and part of the San Juan Skyway, the road is about 25 miles (40 km) long, running from Silverton to Ouray.
How long does it take to drive the Million Dollar Highway?
The stretch between Silverton and Ouray, the part everyone goes on about, is only 25 miles in length but takes about 42 minutes. Large RVs travel in both directions often.
Is the Million Dollar Highway open?
The road is typically open all year round, but winter weather may cause restrictions and closures due to dangerous weather conditions. It climbs up to 3 very high mountain passes. Coal Bank Pass (10,640 ft /3,240 m); Molas Pass (10,970 ft /3,340 m) and Red Mountain Pass (11,018 ft /3,358 m). Summer temperatures can range from 70–90 °F highs at the ends of the highway to 50–70 °F in the mountain passes. The snow season starts in October, and snow will often close the road in winter. Chains may be required to drive. The drive can be challenging during rainy days, and storms may create cascading waterfalls along the highway. It boasts North America's highest avalanche hazard (per mile). So, use caution and enjoy the magnificent scenery.
How dangerous is the Million Dollar Highway?
This road is not for the faint of heart. One mistake can have consequences. First time you drive it, it's a real breath taker. Lots of sweaty palms. You'll be on the "outside" for a while with a hell of a view to your right (let the passenger look. You'll want to watch the road). There are a number of turns around mountains that you'll take at 10 mph. Though the entire stretch has been called the Million Dollar Highway, it is really the twelve miles (19 km) south of Ouray through the Uncompahgre Gorge to the summit of Red Mountain Pass which gains the highway its name. This stretch through the gorge is challenging and potentially hazardous to drive; it is characterized by steep cliffs, narrow lanes, and a lack of guardrails; the ascent of Red Mountain Pass is marked with a number of hairpin "S" curves used to gain elevation, and again, narrow lanes for traffic—many cut directly into the sides of mountains. This highway has recently been on the news after a drastic increase in the number of truck accidents. However, most of the accidents have nothing to do with the road's age but the region's topographic conditions. Slight weather changes can cause the road to becoming extremely dangerous, mainly due to black ice.
How scary is the Million Dollar Highway to some drivers?
Enough that, on several occasions, there are drivers "frozen" in the middle of the road, unable to drive another foot. Driving south you'll be on the "outside" with no guardrails. Coming out of Silverton north there are several switchbacks. The 12 miles south of Ouray—particularly for Durango-bound drivers, who are exposed to the unprotected cliffsides—are steep, twisting and completely unforgiving of driver error. It's a harrowing and downright dangerous drive marked with narrow lanes (often shared by RVs), steep cliffs, sheer drop offs and zero guardrails. The road is fine as long as you don’t drive too fast for conditions. But if you do, the consequences are severe.
Why is it called the Million Dollar Highway?
The origin of the name is unclear. There are many legends, though, including that it cost a million dollars a mile to build it, and that its fill dirt contains a million dollars in gold ore. The original route was widened in the 1930's but was still dangerous and narrow. As the locals say, though, you'd have to "pay me a million dollars" to drive that stretch in the snow. Understandably so.
When was the Million Dollar Highway built?
Originally hand-carved by Russian immigrant Otto Mears in the 1880s, to transport ore from Silverton to the railroad in Ouray, it was first operated as a toll road. Today it is surely one of the most breathtaking, historic and amazing roads in the country.
Is Million Dollar Highway worth it?
It's one of the most scenic drives in the USA. Offering breathtaking mountain, valley and gorge views, the Million Dollar Highway is one of the most beloved roads in the country. The highway cut from the side of the mountain delivers jaw-dropping vista after vista. This classic stretch of two-lane blacktop snakes its way through the San Juan Mountains, the wildest and most rugged peaks in the Rockies. The countryside is decked in wildflowers during the spring, and sustains elk, mountain goats, black bears, and deer.