Starts on CR30; 2.3 miles south of 2nd St in Lake City
This route is a relatively easy 4wd road; some portions are paved and large portions have a relatively smooth, wide, gravel surface. However, the moderately steep and rough approaches to the pass may challenge high clearance vehicles without lo range gearing.
Unlicensed vehicles are not allowed east of this point.
23 camp units, restrooms and drinking water
Climbs steeply to Carson ghost town.
22 camp units, restrooms and drinking water.
Site of a mining camp established in 1875 and destroyed by a flash flood.
A few cabins are all that remain of the former mining settlement.
One of the most scenic valleys in the San Juan Mountains. Mid-summer wildflower displays are spectacular.
One of the highest passes in the San Juans at 12,620'. Looking east, see Handies, Redcloud and Sunshine Peaks, three "fourteeners". Terrific vistas into the Animas Forks valley west of the pass.
The relatively well preserved Duncan/Walsh House and what is left of the Gold Prince Mill are the major structures remaining.
Starts at SH149 (Gunnison Ave) and 2nd St in Lake City.
This route is a relatively easy 4wd road; large portions have a relatively smooth, wide, gravel surface. However, the moderately steep and rough section west of the pass will challenge high clearance vehicles without lo range gearing.
Unlicensed vehicles are not allowed east of this point.
Moderately steep and rough. Provides access to Uncompaghre Peak TH. Dispersed camping. Horseback riding in the Uncompahgre Wilderness.
Short, steep trail to an overlook of the falls.
Roses Cabin was an overnight stage stop and included a bar, restaurant, and 22 small rooms on the second floor.
12,800 ft Spectacular vistas in all directions!
Again, spectacular vistas!
The Engineer Pass Rd to Ouray heads west. This is a difficult 4wd road. Lo range and experience required. Continue straight towards Animas Forks.
Bear east here to return to Lake City. May challenge vehicles without lo range gearing.
The relatively well preserved Duncan/Walsh House and what is left of the Gold Prince Mill are the major structures remaining.
Starts in the ghost town of Animas Forks and ends at US550 in Silverton.
This easy gravel route is not especially scenic, but does have a lot of mining history and remnants. It does connect to some interesting side roads.
This scenic road isn't technically difficult, but it does follow a very narrow shelf road. Caution is required!
The route heads west from the bridge in Animas Forks and travels up California Gulch past the Frisco Mines, cabins, run-down buildings, and abundant summer wildflowers. It then climbs along a shelf road to the pass. If you wish, take the short hike to the summit for 360° vistas.
The Cumberland Gulch route heads east up the gulch to a junction with the Stony Pass Rd at mile 1.7. From there it is 4.3 miles to Stony Pass or 2.9 miles to the end of the Cunningham Gulch road at a highpoint. Both roads offer some spectacular vistas of the surrounding countryside.
The Stony Pass road actually continues for more than 50 miles to connect with SH149 north of Creede. Because of some potentially dangerous creek crossings, I cannot recommend travel beyond the pass.
Ouray, surrounded on three sides with 13,000 ft peaks, is known for its large natural hot springs, picturesque Victorian architecture and the Ice Park.
From US550/6th St in Ouray, drive north 12 miles to CR10 and turn east. (1.8 miles past SH62 in Ridgway)
In good conditions, this easy dirt and gravel road can be driven by most passenger vehicles. It will take you up and through the Uncompahgre NF, crest Owl Creek Pass at 10,114 ft, pass Silver Jack Reservoir, and end at US-50 2.5 miles east of Cimarron.
The drive from Ouray to Ridgway along the Uncompahgre river is quite scenic and it's common to spot elk in this stretch.
Particularly appealing in late summer or early fall, when the aspens are turning. Great views of high and jagged Cimarron Ridge, the 12,152-foot monolith of Courthouse Mountain and 11,781-foot Chimney Rock. Just east of the pass, CR860 leads to some nice views of Turret Ridge and dispersed camping spots. Silver Jack Reservoir is nestled in an aspen forest and makes a great photo op when the leaves are turning.
Drive north from Ouray to Ridgway then west on SH62 about 10 miles. The highway has been reconfigured; the parking area is now east of the GPS location below.
Overlook of Mt Sneffels and its range.
You may wish to take a short walk west of the parking area to get a terrific vista of Mt Sneffels with the rail fence in the foreground. Fall foliage can add lots of color to the scene.
About 2 miles west of the photo op location, Last Dollar road (described in detail in the Telluride Area) heads south. There is a field of sunflowers a few miles down the road with the Sneffels range in the background; a fine photo op!
Sh62 continues another 11 miles past Last Dollar Rd to its junction with SH145 in Placerville.
Head south out of Ouray. Near the end of the first switchback, turn right towards Camp Bird Mine and the falls. Drive past the falls entrance and follow the road towards the mine.
The road to Camp Bird Mine is well maintained gravel. Here, the route becomes CR26 and begins to take on the character of a 4wd road as it climbs up into the canyon, becoming progressively steeper and rougher. The upper reaches may challenge vehicles without lo range gearing.
This is my favorite easy 4wd road in all of Colorado. The scenery is spectacular!
Camping in the two campgrounds only—no dispersed camping allowed along the route.
8 designated campsites with tent pads and fire rings/grills. Port-a-potties available, no water.
9 designated campsites with tent pads and fire rings/grills. A vault restroom and trash service is available, no water.
Shortly after passing the Camp Bird Mine entrance, the road will climb onto a shelf with an area of cliffs on the north side. During the winter months, this is a world renowned area for ice climbing. Huge "icicles" are formed by springs above the cliffs and it is quite a sight to see climbers scaling the ice with a drop of several hundred feet into the canyon below. A fairly unique photo op!
The road travels under the cliff in a sort of tunnel; it's open on the canyon side. At a pullout just after the "tunnel", there is a very nice photo op looking back down the canyon with the stream cascading below you.
CAUTION: Experienced drivers only. This somewhat difficult 4wd road is one of the top scenic routes in Colorado. Spectacular vistas, abundant summer wildflowers, and challenging obstacles (for stock vehicles) make it hard to beat!
CAUTION: Experienced drivers only. This somewhat difficult 4wd road switchbacks up and over a ridge along a narrow shelf road then down into Governor Basin. The basin is surrounded by a very jagged and rough ridge of peaks, the Saint Sophia Ridge. Very impressive! Great area for summer wildflowers also.
Rumor has it that these waterfalls were the inspiration for those on the Coors beer label. Whether that is true or not, they are certainly photogenic!
You may or may not be able to drive to the TH; a chain gate may be closed. Blue Lakes Trail takes you up to Blue Lake Pass at 13,000 feet, where views of the Upper Blue Lake 1,270 feet below and the surrounding mountains are magnificent. If you begin at the TH, the distance to the top of the pass will be 1.0 mile with an elevation gain of 600 feet.
Starts at the top of Red Mountain Pass turning east off of US-550 just beyond the Red Mountain Pass sign.
This easy route (CAUTION: If there has been heavy rain it can be pretty mucky!) leads you past the St. Paul Lodge for back-country skiers and along a winding ledge on the west side of the mountain range. You will pass areas with mining remnants, the largest of which is the site of the Brooklyn Mine.
This is a beautiful, easy 4wd route with panoramic views of the infamous Black Bear Pass route, the Bullion King Basin, Red Mountain and lots of beautiful flowers during the summer wildflower season.
From 6th St in Ouray, drive south 18 miles to CR8 to the west.
The route starts out as a wide, easy gravel road and winds through forested land in the Middle Mineral Creek area until it reaches tree line and continues to the rocky summit at 11,789 ft. The road descending into the valley is a long shelf road, narrow and very rocky in spots. It then enters a forested area before reaching the small town of Ophir and continuing on as a wide, easy gravel road to the intersection with US145.
The views to the west from the pass into the valley are what make this route special. Lookout Peak towers 3,000 feet above the road. Past the valley the distinctive volcanic peak of Lizard Head, and three fourteeners can be seen — Mount Wilson, Wilson Peak and El Diente. The Ophir Needles can be seen at the far end on the north ridge. Simply spectacular!
Starts at 6th St in Ouray and heads south to Durango.
The Million Dollar Hwy is the portion of the Skyway from Ouray over Red Mountain Pass to Silverton. The Skyway continues over Molas Pass then Coal Bank Pass and this section ends at US160 in Durango. See the Telluride > SH145 section to complete the loop.
The start of the Yankee Boy Basin route. See its tab for more details.
Drive up the road towards the campground for great vistas of the town of Ouray spread out below the mountains above it. Baby Bathtubs and the Portland Trail TH's.
The northern terminus of the Brooklyn Rd route. See its tab for more details.
This section of the Million Dollar Hwy traveling along the gulch and the Uncompahgre River up to Red Mountain Pass is simply spectacular! Fall foliage can be impressive and I have seen Rocky Mountain goats on the cliffs along the highway. The Yankee Girl Headframe stands tall in the Red Mountain Mining District at mile 11.3 with some great vistas north into the gorge nearby.
The southern terminus of the Brooklyn Rd route. See its tab for more details.
Try the 4 mile, easy drive to the top of the pass for some spectacular vistas. See its tab for more details.
4 miles west on CR7, a 2wd road to the campground and 4wd beyond. The trail, strenuous and steep, leads up above timberline to high alpine lakes surrounded by meadows of wildflowers and rocky peaks.
This active mining town is also the northern terminus of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and the southern gateway to Animas Forks ghost town and the Alpine Loop Backcountry Byway. See the Alpine Loop section for more details. The town is a National Historic District and still has the feel of the mining era. Silverton's business section was built in the late 1800s and unlike many other mining towns, never experienced a major fire. The "other side" of town was centered on Blair Street. At one time, this notorious street was home to forty saloons and brothels and nearly half of these buildings are still standing today.
10,899 ft. The area has many lakes and hiking trails to be explored; one can even walk part of the 470+miles Colorado Trail that crosses over Molas Pass on its way to Denver. Little Molas Lake CG is about 1 mile west of US-550 on Molas Pass just north of and on the other side of the Molas Overlook. This lake is particularly scenic.
From Molas Pass the fantastic vistas continue as the road reaches Coal Bank Pass at 10,660 ft and begins to drop into the Animas valley passing Durango Mtn Resort. There are spectacular views of Pigeon and Turret Mountains that rise to 13,000 feet, and three fourteeners; Windom, Eolus, and Sunlight. The highway then parallels the Animas River (Early explorers named it El Rio de las Animas Perdidas, River of Lost Souls.) to the junction with US160 in Durango.
The Winter Photographer's Train & Night Shoot offers a very unique opportunity to photograph a flanger train (used to clear the tracks of snow) in the winter wilderness between Durango and Cascade Canyon.
Telluride is a National Historic District located in a box canyon surrounded by towering peaks. Telluride also hosts music, art, film, food, balloon, hang gliding, mushroom, and photography events and festivals.
From Denver via US285 to US50 to US550 to SH62 to SH145(Colo. Ave)/Aspen St in Telluride.
The highway winds its way along the San Miguel River to SH62 just west of Placerville.
Great photo ops!
Great fall foliage and vistas of Mt Wilson and the Sneffels range.
See the SH145 South tab.
beehive structures that were once used in the early parts of the smelting process This relatively easy gravel road provides access to the Lizard Head Wilderness and the Rock of Ages Trail to the summit of Mt Wilson. Great fall foliage and vistas of the peaks. Kayakers often put into the San Miguel River under the bridge. Watch for photo ops of the kayakers on the river along the highway to Fall Creek Rd.
A mile west of Sawpit, this relatively easy gravel road leads to Woods Lake CG. It has 3 loops with 41 campsites, including one loop set up for horses. Popular takeout spot for kayakers on the San Miguel River.
The campground, nestled in a dense aspen forest and surrounded by dramatic mountain views, is an excellent base camp for hikers and equestrians to access the Lizard Head Wilderness via the Lone Cone Trail or Woods Lake Trail. Mountain bikers and motorcyclists can access the Wilson Mesa Trail, and fishing opportunites are within walking distance.
Junction with SH62 just west of Placerville. It's 34 miles northeast then south to Ouray from here.
From SH145 (Colorado Ave) and Aspen St in Telluride, drive east 3.8 miles to the parking area at the base of the Falls.
Primarily pavement, the last mile is a portion of the Black Bear Pass Rd, a difficult and dangerous 4wd road, and includes a couple of steep and sharp switchbacks. Most passenger vehicles can reach the Falls, high clearance would be desirable.
A 365 ft free falling waterfall at the end of the box canyon overlooking Telluride. It's fascinating to watch the water come off the top and shear apart to form the appearance of folds and pleats in a veil. The mist at the bottom is quite refreshing on a hot summer day! It is about a mile and three more switchbacks to the top of the Falls, high clearance required. Vehicle travel proceeding up is prohibited beyond this point.
From SH145 (Colo. Ave) and Aspen St in Telluride, drive west about 3 miles and turn north towards the airport.
A great alternative to the highway between Ridgway and Telluride, Last Dollar Road is an easy dirt road passable by most 2wd vehicles. CAUTION!: After heavy rains, it can be very muddy and deep ruts can be found long after it's dried. Much of the road roams through ranchland and old growth apsen groves.
Last Dollar Road has abundant wildflowers through early summer, great fall color and stunning mountain views.
Shortly after starting the route, watch for some old ranch buildings which make a great foreground for Mt Wilson in the distance. At mile 8 there is a nice dispersed camping spot with some great vistas. You will reach the high point, 10,600 ft, around mile 10.3 and there is an overlook of the vermillion cliffs above SH145 and Sawpit at mile 11.5. Shortly after this point, the road enters the aspens and is quite beautiful in the fall. After dropping out of the forest it will wind through open ranchland toward its junction with SH62, two miles west of the Dallas Divide. A few miles before the highway, large fields of sunflowers can be found, in season, with the Mt Sneffels range in the background.
From Aspen St in Telluride, drive west 3.4 miles to the junction of SH145 S.
The All American Road is the highest designation, given by the US DOT and was awarded to the San Juan Skyway because of the rich experience in culture, archaeology, history, scenery, and recreation the road offers to visitors. This skyway was one of the first six roads in the United States to receive this designation.
Great summer wildflowers.
Great fall foliage and vistas. See the Ouray > Ophir Pass Rd above.
The old railroad grade on the east side of the scenic Trout Lake is groomed for approximately 4.9 km (one way) to the top of Lizard Head Pass, providing excellent intermediate cross country skiing terrain. There's plenty of terrain to explore on snowshoes, too. Dogs permitted.
This small mountain town has many historic buildings, some remaining from the mining boom of the 1880's. A Rio Grande Southern water tank that still stands along the well-preserved railroad grade at the original Rico depot site alongside the Dolores River. And some beehive shaped coke ovens used in the early parts of the smelting process.
Anasazi Heritage Center has interactive exhibits and offers an introduction to the nearby Canyons of the Ancients National Monument. Also located on the museum's grounds are two 12th century pueblos. These pueblos are named after the Spanish friars, Escalante and Dominguez, who traveled through the area in 1776.
Fishing in the McPhee Reservoir, Groundhog Lake, Narraguinnep and Summit Reservoirs, the Dolores and West Fork Rivers and several creeks. Wildlife is abundant in the area.
Cortez Cultural Center contains a wealth of information on archaeology and American Indian culture. Nearby Hovenweep National Monument is located along the border between southeast Utah and southwest Colorado, just north and west of Cortez, Colorado.
See the Mesa Verde tab in the Southern section.
From US160/SH184 in Mancos, travel north on SH 184 for 2.5 miles to CR40. Turn right (north) on CR40 and continue 2.5 miles to the trailhead parking lot. 9 mi of maintained skate and classic trails with an additional 9 mi of unmaintained trails.
Travel 1/4 mile north on Highway 184, then turn right on West Mancos Road (Forest Road 561) and travel 10.0 miles to the overlook, another 0.5 mi to the campground. Most of the road is unpaved but has a good gravel surface. The campground has a corral for horses and is a hub for many trails in the area.
With more than 1,000 miles of trails surrounding Durango, eight bike shops and many bike events, it's arguably the mecca of mountain biking.
The Victorian charm of downtown streets lined with restored historical landmarks creates photo ops, or for the more active types, there are guided rafting trips down the Animas River
Enjoy a ride on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, a historical steam powered railroad founded in 1881 to serve the booming mining industry. This authentically restored train now carries more than 200,000 passengers annually along the Animas River through the San Juan Forest to the historic town of Silverton.
From SH145/SH145 S, drive 5.3 mi south to the Alta Lakes Rd and turn east.
This slightly rough, but easy 4wd road leads to the 1870s mining town of Alta (on the National Register of Historic Places) in 3.8 miles. Another 0.4 miles takes you to a spur road into the Gold King Basin and the Alta Lakes are just 0.3 miles beyond the spur.
The ghost town of Alta has some relatively well preserved buildings, includng an old boarding house, and some outstanding views of the Lizard Head and Mt Wilson. The Alta Lakes are 3 small lakes at an elevation of 11,300 ft with a dispersed camping area and a hiking trail around the lakes. Fishing, canoeing, picnicing, and scenic views in a lovely alpine setting. Terrific summer wildflower displays in Gold King Basin. There are also some nice vistas of the Ophir Needles.
The park is located in the southwest corner of the state and, from Denver, is reached via US-285 and US-160.
Mesa Verde offers a spectacular look into the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo people who made it their home for over 700 years, from A.D. 600 to A.D. 1300. Today, the park protects over 4,000 known archeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings.
You will first need to purchase a tour ticket. Ranger-guided tours are offered seasonally, and allow you to hike into and experience these Ancestral Puebloan sites.
Most of the cliff dwellings are best photographed in mid-to-late afternoon, with Balcony House being the exception. Close your lens down at least 1/2 stop and bracket your settings on Cliff Palace exposures.
A 6-mile driving tour with short, paved trails to twelve easily-accessible sites, including surface dwellings and cliff dwelling overlooks. Highlights include Sun Point Overlook, Square Tower House, and views of Cliff Palace from Sun Point and Sun Temple stops. Overlooks also found on the 6-mile Cliff Palace Loop Road. Open 8 a.m. to sunset.
Trail begins at the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum. Rangers are on-site to answer questions.
Far View House plus four other villages and a dry reservoir along the unpaved trail. Four miles (6.4km) north of the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum. Open 8 a.m. to sunset.
From Denver, take the scenic route; US285 south, then SH17 south, then CR6 east from Mosca.
Plan to hike on the dunes in morning or evening to avoid afternoon storms, and to avoid the hot mid-day sand surface.
Explore any part of the 30 square mile dunefield you wish; there are no designated trails in the sand. The "High Dune" is about 650 feet high. Cross the flats and zigzag up the ridgelines to reach it. The 360 degree view is inspirational. From High Dune, the skyrising dune you see to the west is the spectacular Star Dune, rising 750 feet. It is the tallest dune in North America. To reach it from High Dune, journey another mile and a half up and down across the dunes to its summit.
Summer sledding on the dunes would create some great photo ops!
Driving this road requires high clearance 4-wheel drive. Small SUV's are not recommended. The rugged road takes you through soft sand around the eastern side of the dunefield, up through a forested mountain canyon, then over 10,000' Medano Pass, eventually joining Highway 69 in 22 miles. A scenic drive any time of the year, it is especially spectacular in fall. Creek crossings can be hazardous in spring and the road is closed when winter conditions create hazards.
Simply driving to the trailhead provides an excellent view of the entire dunefield and San Luis Valley, especially at sunrise or sunset. However, the hike to the falls requires wading over slippery rocks into a rock crevasse. From the Visitor Center, drive south about 8 miles, then turn left (east) onto a gravel road. Drive about 3.5 miles to the trailhead. To view the falls, hike about 1/2 mile, cross the creek, then scramble up the rocks and stream into a crevasse where the 25 ft. high falls cascade onto a ledge.
From Denver via US285, US50 and SH347 to the park. SH347 is 57 miles west of Gunnison.
The Black Canyon is so named on account of its steepness. As a result, the canyon walls are most often in shadow, causing the rocky walls to appear black. At its narrowest point the canyon is only 40 ft across at the river and 1100 ft at the rim. The Painted Wall is the highest cliff in Colorado. From river to rim it stands at 2250 feet.
The South Rim Drive is 7 miles from Tomichi Point to High Point, and has 12 overlooks. Most are reached by walking a short trail. Allow 2-3 hours to view several overlooks. Those with limited time should consider stopping at Gunnison Point, Chasm View, Painted Wall and Sunset View. The South Rim Visitor Center is located at Gunnison Point.
Moderate - 1 mile round trip
Trailhead is near the entrance to Campground Loop C and ends at the Tomichi Point Overlook. This self-guided nature trail takes you along a relatively flat path following the rim of the canyon. This trail allows many excellent views of the Gunnison River as well as the sheer walls of the canyon.
Strenuous - 2 miles round trip
The trail begins near the Visitor Center. Go a short distance to the Oak Flat Loop/River Access sign and follow the trail which leads right. Descend through a grove of aspen to another signed junction. Turn left here to continue on the Oak Flat Loop. The trail meanders through a thicket of oak scrub (Gambel oak) passing near a rock outcrop. The trail then heads west where it begins its ascent to an unmarked overlook offering spectacular views downstream. Pets are not allowed.
Easy - 2/3 mile round trip
At the end are two overlooks offering breathtaking views of the river over 2,000 feet below. Also visible is the famous Painted Wall, the tallest cliff in Colorado (2,250 ft.), as well as rock islands jutting up from the depths of the canyon.
Those wishing to drive to the Gunnison River may do so by taking the East Portal Road. This provides access into Curecanti National Recreation Area where camping, picnicking and fishing are available. East Portal Road is closed in winter. The road is extremely steep (16% grades) with hairpin curves. Vehicles with an overall length (including trailer) greater than 22 feet are prohibited.
Start at the Blue Mesa Reservoir and US50 junction. Follow SH149 south for 117 miles to South Fork.
This route heads south from US50 and follows along the Lake Fork of the Gunnison River into Lake City. It then climbs up and over Spring Creek Pass and shadows the upper reaches of the Rio Grande to its end at the junction with US160 in South Fork.
Besides the natural wonders along the route, the heights around Creede and Lake City remain strewn with abandoned mining structures, most of them accessible via rugged backcountry roads.
Most passenger vehicles should be able to reach Whitmore Falls.
Head west on 2nd St in Lake City towards Engineer Pass about 11 miles. Park near the sign and take the short, but steep, trail down to the Falls overlook. Beautiful scenery; fishing and camping along Hensen Creek; old mining remnants; this is a road worth exploring!
Most passenger vehicles should be able to reach the fork beyond Mill Creek CG.
The Cinnamon Pass Rd (CR30) begins 2.3 miles south of 2nd St in Lake City. Drive past Lake San Cristobal, Castle Lakes CG, the Wager Gulch 4wd road to Carson City, and Mill Creek CG to the Shelf Rd fork at mile 12. Beautiful scenery; fishing and camping; old mining remnants; this is another road worth exploring!
At the summit of Slumgullion (11,530 ft), take a hike out along the ridge and catch some of the terrific vistas. The Slumgullion mudslide began some 700 years ago and slumped several miles down the steep mountainside. The earthflow blocked the Lake Fork of the Gunnison River and created Lake San Cristobal, Colorado's second largest natural lake.
The Falls would be spectacular in any setting, but the fact that the surrounding land is flat and covered with prairie grasses makes its presence here seem extraordinary. Located on a high bench above the Rio Grande, Clear Creek crashes a little more than 100 feet to the canyon below.
3.6 miles past the North Falls road, turn into the Silver Thread CG and drive to the far end where you'll see a small sign saying "falls". A short walk takes you to a viewing area for the falls.