Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Ouray’

Ouray, Silverton, and Million $$ highway

Ouray is an old (1870’s) Colorado mining town turned tourist town. Often called America’s Switzerland, it is located high in the mountains. Although it still has an active mine, most city revenues come from tourists. There are many cute and interesting cafes, restaurants and hotels in town.  We’ve sampled a few….

Likewise, Silverton owes its origins to silver mining. And, like Ouray, it exists today mainly due to tourists. This is helped because it is the end of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railway, which still uses steam locomotives and old rolling stock.  The train ride, starting in Durango, is a magnificent scenic tour of the Colorado high mountains.  Silverton’s entire downtown is registered as a National Historic Landmark.

To get from Silverton to Ouray, you have to take the “Million Dollar Highway”, so named because legend has it that cost a million dollars per mile to build. Another legend says that over a million dollars of gold is in the fill dirt used to construct it. In any case, better not be afraid of heights, because the road is narrow,with steep dropoffs, and many sharp curves, But it is a beautiful drive.

To get to Silverton, you have to cross several passes

To get to Silverton, you have to cross several passes

A view descending into Silverton

A view descending into Silverton

Downtown Silverton

Downtown Silverton

Yep, curvy road and big dropoffs!

Yep, curvy road and big dropoffs!

Downtown Ouray

Downtown Ouray

Hotel in Ouray

Hotel in Ouray

Water fall from way up high

Water fall from way up high

Mountains surrounding Ouray

Mountains surrounding Ouray

Million Dollar Highway, new snow

September 24, 2013 1 comment

The name “million dollar highway” is justified by it’s extensive views.  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 curves used to gain elevation, and again, narrow lanes for traffic—many cut directly into the sides of mountains.

Yesterday we drove to Ouray (from Durango) and were amazed at the views.   It was enhanced with the first snow fall of the season, adding to the scenic wonders.  And also the aspen tree color changes….

The road was first constructed as a toll road in the 1880 by Otto Mears to connect several mining towns..  Now, it is a scenic wonder, but you better be prepared especially south bound…. travel south from Ouray to Silverton perches drivers on the vertiginous outside edge of the highway.  Apart from one nervous incident with an oncoming truck, it was a pleasant drive.

A pirated image, showing the road surface.

This shows the type of road.  There were worse sections, but no way to take a picture

New snow on the mountains

New snow on the mountains

Mt. Engineer, where we hiked four days ago

Mt. Engineer, where we hiked four days ago

This is where we started our hike four days ago

This is where we started our hike four days ago

Scenic vistas

Scenic vistas

Scenic vistas

Scenic vistas

Scenic vistas

Scenic vistas

Whew--- more scenic vistas

Whew— more scenic vistas

Snow covered evergreen trees

Snow covered evergreen trees

Fall colors are really starting to show

Fall colors are really starting to show

This waterfall is right in one of the sharp bends, and has an overlook to view it... scary!

This waterfall is right in one of the sharp bends, and has an overlook to look down it… scary!

Quite a waterfall, right next to the road

Quite a waterfall, right next to the road

The town of Ouray, CO

The town of Ouray, CO

Aspen trees in all their fall glory

Aspen trees in all their fall glory

My favorite scene

My favorite scene

Lake reflections

Lake reflections

Reflections and colors

Reflections and colors

Winter is right around the corner

Winter is right around the corner