Million Dollar Hwy, SW Colorado

Looking south toward Red Mountain Pass (11,018 ft.). {{GFDL-self}} © Reed LeFevre July 26, 2005  Wikipedia photo
Looking south toward Red Mountain Pass (11,018 ft.). {{GFDL-self}} © Reed LeFevre July 26, 2005 Wikipedia photo

 

Southwest Colorado offers plenty of great riding, including US 550, aka the "Million Dollar Highway". The map also includes Colorado 149 north thru Creede.  Spend the night in Montrose, giving you time to explore the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, before continuing on to Ouray and Silverton on US 550.

 

Google map of southwest Colorado. Click the map to enlarge it.
Google map of southwest Colorado. Click the map to enlarge it.

"The Million Dollar Highway stretches for about 25 miles (40 km) in western Colorado and follows the route of U.S. 550 between Silverton and Ouray, Colorado. It is part of the San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway. Between Durango and Silverton the Skyway loosely parallels the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.

 

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 curves used to gain elevation, and again, narrow lanes for traffic—many cut directly into the sides of mountains. During this ascent, the remains of the Idarado Mine are visible. Travel north from Silverton to Ouray allows drivers to hug the inside of curves; travel south from Ouray to Silverton perches drivers on the vertiginous outside edge of the highway... 

 

 

The highway leaves Silverton and proceeds up Mineral Creek Valley before ascending to Red Mountain Pass (see above photo).  The ruins of the Longfellow Mine are visible along the way. The highway then goes through a series of steep grades and hairpin turns before reaching Lookout Point, which offers a view of the town of Ouray."  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U.S._Route_550


Chimney Rock National Monument between Durango and Pagosa Springs off US Hwy 160.
Chimney Rock National Monument between Durango and Pagosa Springs off US Hwy 160.

 

"This undiscovered gem is an intimate, off-the-beaten-path archaeological site located at the southern edge of the San Juan Mountains  in Southwestern Colorado... Chimney Rock covers seven square miles and preserves 200 ancient homes and ceremonial buildings, some of which have been excavated for viewing and exploration: a Great Kiva, a Pit House, a Multi-Family Dwelling, and a Chacoan-style Great House Pueblo. Chimney Rock is the highest in elevation of all the Chacoan sites, at about 7,000 feet above sea level. From the base, the hike to the top is just a half mile and it’s rewarded with dramatic 360-degree views of Colorado and New Mexico."  http://www.chimneyrockco.org/

 


"...Silverton’s biggest attraction is probably the coal-fired Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. The railroad line was constructed between Durango and Silverton in 1882 to haul silver and gold ore; today it hauls history buffs, curious families and tourists from around the world between the two towns. A ride aboard the chugging train’s vintage cars is both a step back in time, and a thrilling journey through the rugged Weminuche Wilderness, and along the precipitous Animas River canyon. Ride options vary; a one-way jaunt to Durango with a shuttle ride back is a great way to see the sights. The summer season runs May through October... The train is only one of the myriad ways to experience Silverton’s mining history. Others include: a tour of the Old Hundred Gold Mine , where passengers ride into the belly of Galena Mountain to watch mining equipment in action..."  https://www.5280.com/2018/02/first-timers-guide-silverton-colorado/

 

The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum in Durango has planes & autos, too.
The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum in Durango has planes & autos, too.

 

About 60 miles west of Pagosa Springs, "This historic train has been in continuous operation between Durango and Silverton since 1882, carrying passengers behind vintage steam locomotives and rolling stock indigenous to the line. It is a family-friendly ride sure to create memories that will last a lifetime while offering a view of Colorado's mountain splendor inaccessible by highway. Relive the sights and sounds of yesteryear for a spectacular journey on board the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad."  http://www.durangotrain.com/

 

Pagosa Springs, CO Wikipedia photo by Milan Suvajac - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0
Pagosa Springs, CO Wikipedia photo by Milan Suvajac - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

 

The World's Deepest Geothermal Hot Spring Record 

 

"On Saturday, August 20, 2011, a representative from the Guinness World Record traveled to Pagosa Springs, Colorado to oversee the measurement of the deepest geothermal hot spring, located at The Springs Resort and Spa.  It was measured by a plumb line that was capable of reaching a maximum depth of 1002 ft.  This was a new record category, so a minimum requirement had not yet been set.

The plumb line was lowered into the main hot spring, also known as the "mother spring", as everyone watched and waited in great anticipation.  After about ten minutes, the line ran out without hitting any obstacles, and a new Guiness World Record was set at 1002 ft.  What makest his record interesting is that no one really knows just how deep the hot spring is.  Every time the spring has been measured, the plumb line has run out before reaching the bottom.

 

The Great Pagosa Hot Springs was discovered hundreds of years ago by the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, and was respected for its rejuvenating and healing qualities. In the 1860's, the United States Army studied the medicinal effects of the springs, and the first bath house was built in 1881.  Currently The Springs is now a world-class resort that features numerous soaking pools that are fed by the mother spring. In addition, The Springs Resort is ecologically-forward; the mother spring provides the hot water for the hotel's property and the nearby San Juan River provides the cold water."  http://www.visitpagosasprings.com/things-to-do/activities/summer/hot-springs

 

Panorama at Pagosa Springs, CO Wikipedia photo by Gmhatfield
Panorama at Pagosa Springs, CO Wikipedia photo by Gmhatfield