Colorado’s highways are renowned for offering some of the most breathtaking and historic journeys in the United States. US550, also known as the Million Dollar Highway, stands out as a scenic marvel that weaves through the heart of the state’s rugged terrain. This highway, connecting the towns of Montrose and Durango, offers stunning views, a rich history, and numerous landmarks that tell tales of the past.
A Glimpse into History: The Million Dollar Highway’s Origins
The Million Dollar Highway owes its name to the extravagant cost of its construction. Initially built in the late 19th century, the highway was part of a more extensive network of roads connecting mining communities during the Colorado mining boom. The section between Ouray and Silverton considered the most awe-inspiring part of the journey, gained its fame due to the challenging engineering required to carve a road into the steep mountainsides.
Landmarks Along the Way: Unveiling the Treasures
Red Mountain Pass: As you depart from Ouray, the Red Mountain Pass welcomes you with its striking beauty and red-hued rocks. This pass stands at over 11,000 feet, offering panoramic views of the San Juan Mountains.
Ouray: Known as the “Switzerland of America,” Ouray is a charming mountain town that serves as the northern gateway to the Million Dollar Highway. Surrounded by towering peaks, Ouray offers hot springs, outdoor activities, and a glimpse into the area’s mining past.
Box Canyon Falls: While in Ouray, visit the Box Canyon Falls Park, where a short hike leads you to the magnificent Box Canyon Falls. The waterfall crashes through a narrow granite canyon, creating a mesmerizing spectacle.
Silverton: This former silver mining camp is steeped in history and preserved in time. With its well-preserved Victorian architecture and lively Main Street, Silverton offers a chance to step back in time and experience the Old West.
Sultan Mountain: As you continue south, you’ll pass by Sultan Mountain, which played a significant role in the area’s mining history. Its slopes were once home to bustling mining operations.
Molas Pass: This scenic overlook provides stunning vistas of the Animas River Valley and the surrounding mountains. It’s a perfect spot to capture breathtaking photos and take in the grandeur of the landscape.
Durango: The southern endpoint of the Million Dollar Highway, Durango, is a vibrant town known for its historic downtown, steam-powered train, and outdoor recreational opportunities.
Along the way, you might also come across another landmark in one of the best dispensaries in the nation, like the Ridgway marijuana dispensary.
Navigating the Highway: Tips for a Memorable Journey
Weather Awareness: Due to its elevation and mountainous terrain, weather conditions can change rapidly. Be prepared for sudden weather changes, especially in the colder months.
Take Your Time: The Million Dollar Highway is only about 25 miles long, but its winding roads and scenic stops are best enjoyed leisurely. Take your time to absorb the beauty around you.
Photography and Views: Numerous turnouts along the highway offer picture-perfect opportunities. Keep your camera ready to capture the breathtaking vistas.
Vehicle Maintenance: Ensure your vehicle is in good condition, especially if you’re driving during winter when road conditions can be challenging.
A Road Less Traveled: The Million Dollar Highway Experience
Driving along US550, the Million Dollar Highway is a journey that combines history, natural wonders, and a touch of adventure. As you wind through the rugged mountains, you’ll immerse yourself in the stories of Colorado’s past while captivated by the stunning landscapes surrounding you. Whether you’re a history buff, an avid photographer, or simply a traveller seeking new experiences, the Million Dollar Highway promises an unforgettable adventure through the heart of Colorado’s beauty and heritage