Million Dollar Highway
The Million Dollar Highway, also known as U.S. Route 550, is a scenic and treacherous mountain road that runs through the heart of the San Juan Mountains in southwestern Colorado. With stunning views of towering peaks, deep gorges, and alpine meadows, the highway is a popular destination for adventure seekers, road trippers, and outdoor enthusiasts alike.
However, the road's narrow lanes, hairpin turns, and steep cliffs have also earned it a reputation as one of the most dangerous roads in America.
Learn the history of the highway
What is the Route?
The Million Dollar Highway, also known as U.S. Route 550, is a 25-mile stretch of highway that runs from Ouray to Silverton in southwestern Colorado. The highway was originally constructed in the late 19th century as a wagon trail to transport miners and supplies to the area's rich gold and silver mines. Today, the Million Dollar Highway is a popular scenic byway that winds its way through the San Juan Mountains, offering breathtaking views of jagged peaks, steep canyons, and cascading waterfalls.
If you start in Silverton the highway climbs up and over Red Mountain Pass, reaching an elevation of over 11,000 feet. The road is narrow and winding, with sharp curves and steep drop-offs, making it a challenging drive for even the most experienced drivers. As the road descends towards the town of Ouray, it passes through a series of switchbacks known as the Million Dollar Highway.
The highway passes through several historic mining towns, including Silverton, known for its well-preserved Victorian architecture, and the ghost town of Animas Forks, which was once a bustling mining community. Along the way, visitors can stop at scenic overlooks to take in the stunning mountain views, hike to waterfalls and alpine lakes, or go skiing and snowboarding at nearby ski resorts.
Despite its scenic beauty, the Million Dollar Highway is also notorious for its hair-raising twists and turns, narrow lanes, and steep drop-offs. Drivers are advised to use caution and be aware of changing weather conditions, as the road can become treacherous during winter storms. Nevertheless, for those who are up for the challenge, the Million Dollar Highway offers a thrilling and unforgettable driving experience through some of Colorado's most spectacular scenery.
Why is it called the million dollar highway?
Well, it depends on who you ask…
1) They say that is what it cost to build the highway back in the 1880s.
2) They say it was a toll road and that it cost a million dollars to use it.
3) The million dollar views, of course!
Is it dangerous?
Though it is labeled as one of the most dangerous roads in the United States, if you stick to the speed limit, stay within the lines, and be aware of your surroundings you will travel just fine. Campers, Semi-Trucks, and trucks with trailers travel this road frequently.
In the winter months, be sure to stay on top of what the weather will be. It is common for the Colorado Department of Transportation to close down the road for safety reasons.
Why are there no guardrails?
In the winter, they simply plow the snow off the side of the highway.
What a job!