First off, I wasn't sure if it was The Million Dollar Highway cause it cost that to build or because of the Million Dollar views. I had to look that up. And apparently, it's not clear why it's called The Million Dollar Highway - differing views state it's because it cost a million dollars per mile to build in the 1920's or that it's fill dirt contains a million dollars in gold ore (you can view the remains of the Idarado Mine along the road) or from someone who drove it in the summer and stated that they "wouldn't drive that road in the winter for a million dollars." Whatever the reason for the name, it's quite an incredible road.
The Million Dollar Highway stretches for about 25 miles from Silverton to Ouray. The 12 mile stretch through the Uncompaghre Pass is the most famous part of the road - holy switchbacks, Batman! There are steep cliffs, really narrow lanes and guess what? No guardrails! So basically, they use the switchbacks to gain elevation to get you through that mountain pass and then you curve your way back down again while looking down the sheer cliffs without guardrails. Easy peasy!
And just for fun - here's an old photo of it before paved roads - still no guardrails!
The road is actually kept open all year long but you will be required to have chains on your tires from the time that snow starts falling sometime in October. All I have to say is that I'm glad I was there in the summertime! I can't imagine driving it in the winter.
Consistently voted one of the top 10 scenic highways in the US, you'll want to pull over at every chance to view the majestic scenery. Along the way you'll see abandoned mine buildings from the area's heyday as a mining center, Lookout Point - where you can see all of the town of Ouray from up above and depending on the time of year, a few waterfalls including Bear Creek Falls which has a viewing stand where you can look down on the falls.
|Bear Creek Falls|
Anchoring the highway are two towns - Silverton and Ouray. We drove to Ouray first and stopped at Silverton on our way back. Ouray - I'm not sure of the pronunciation - I heard both Ooooray and You-ray - is known as the Switzerland of America. Besides it's location at the end of the mountain pass, Ouray is known for it's Hot Springs Pool. The day was quite hot so we weren't feeling a dip in the hot springs so we climbed the stairs for a rooftop visit to Ouray Brewing Company. And some of us enjoyed our short dessert break at Mouse's Chocolates & Coffee. Had we the time, we could've taken a four-wheel jeep tour - and had we planned in advance. Note for future - Book tours in advance!
|Ouray's Main Street|
|A Colorado flag planted in themountain|
|Ouray in the shadow of the mountains|
At the other end of the mountain pass is Silverton, known as the terminus for the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, an all day train excursion seeing the mountains of Southwest Colorado (Please be aware that you Must book this in advance - it sells out quickly and is one of the most popular, if not the most popular, things to do in Southwestern Colorado) Silverton is also known as an outdoor adventure sport lover's dream. Mountain biking on the old mining roads is the thing to do in summer - or you can four-wheel it, too. And there's hiking in nearby San Juan National Forest. Four miles outside of town is Molas Lake which is popular for alpine fishing.
|This is how high the snow can get!|
|Camping and fishing at Molas Lake|
For us, it was a day spent in the sheer beauty of Colorado. Way back in the day when I was in travel school learning to be a travel agent, one of my instructors was a train enthusiast. He spent a half- day teaching us about The Million Dollar Highway and the Silverton & Durango train. I've wanted to go since. And I was happy to finally fulfill that wish.
Wear your seatbelt, hang on tight and enjoy the ride!
This post is part of a link-up with: Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox, Weekend Travel Inspiration at Reflections Enroute and the Weekend Wanderlust Travel Blog Party!