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Colorado 550 and 160


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We've done both with our 40' motorhome but then we've done a lot of mountain driving. If you haven't, you might want to park the RV around Durango Or Ouray, CO and drive the tow vehicle or toad on 550. It's a gorgeous drive but not for those not experienced a little with mountains. An easier way to get up to Ouray from the south is to take 145 north from Cortez. Be sure to visit Silverton - a neat old mining town.

 

Highway 160 is very easy from west to east until just past Pagosa Springs. Then you have to climb Wolf Creek Pass, certainly doable and multi-lanes but again, I don't know your experience. Many RVers drive both these highways.

 

Hwy 50 is also easy except you'll have Monarch Pass...not hairpin turns but it's steep for a few miles.

 

If you plan to drive in mountains consider purchasing the 'Mountain Directory for Truckers and RVers". It's an excellent resource. It comes in many formats and in either western or eastern states.

 

You really can't appreciate the western states unless you get into the mountains. Take it one drive at a time and you'll soon be a pro.

 

http://www.mountaindirectory.com/

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160 and 50 are pretty straightforward, just a bit of a climb & descent over their pass, no white knuckle sections.

the Red Mtn Pass section of 550 is the one that tends to raise your blood pressure, its worse for the passenger who looks straight down over the edge with no guardrail. the 145 alternate is a good option for those that don't like being on the edge.

all of them are great drives through the high country and in about 3 weeks they will be decked out for the annual fall colors show.

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So I can test my Google Earth Skills! Red Mtn Pass has only a hundred foot of elevation. Its two miles long and the only driving skill required I to keep the wheels with in the 12' lane. And keep the Wife looking through the Camera so she don't look down??

 

Well, I am not sure where you got 100' of elevation. As a Colorado resident with a lot of mountain driving experience here is my take. Unless you are out on the eastern plains you are either coming down off of one pass or another, or climbing to the summit of the next pass.

 

550 is a stunningly beautiful drive from Durango to Ouray. In the roughly 70 miles you will climb from about 6500' to 11,018' at the summit and then descend back to 7500' or so. On the north side of the summit is an 8% grade leading into some interesting hairpin turns. You are going to want to drive slow no matter what vehicle you use, RV or toad, and use your gears, not your brakes if possible, for maintaining that slow speed downhill.

 

Enjoy the drive, no matter which way you choose to do it as it is an area you won't soon forget!

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The 10mph & 15mph curves were not a problem at all in 2009. The pavement for those corners was extremely wide so there was no worry about driving over the center line. At the time we were driving a 40' diesel pusher towing a 4500 pound 2002 Blazer.

 

The key thing about driving this route is, when going down hill, go slow, get into a low gear so the engine does almost all of the braking and you don't have to apply the brakes more than once about every 40 seconds to 60 seconds and then apply them hard for no more than 6-10 seconds to drop your speed by about 15mph.

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To give some prospective of the road referred to in time lapse refer to these youtude video.

 

Denver to Cortez via Monark Pass

 

Four corners to Denver via Wolf Creek Pass

 

north side of Red Mtn Pass driving north. This may be real time

 

Years ago when I lived & worked in SW Colo As a rule at the peak of summer you could drive Durango - Mancos - Delores to Montrose faster than Straight north from Durango on Route 550 to Montrose. Construction and people stopping for pictures.

 

Enjoy as I can't go travel of that beautiful country as my wife don't like heights.

 

Clay

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I am on Durango to Ouray on 550 twice a year. Tricky in spots but there are plenty of passing zones for the Gotchas. It is one of the most beautiful drives you will ever make, rig, car or motorcycle. Work with the traffic, go slow and enjoy and you will be rewarded. The road is subject to rock slides, early snow, hail and lots of gawking tourists during the summer. I have traveled over it with a 26' 5r, a 36' 5r, a 40' mh and a 31' motorhome.

Driving techniques such as braking should be understood before you undertake this route. Wolf Creek Pass ,(160), is better built up, steeper and has multilanes where it counts. Same applies regarding brakes and patience. It is pretty but not 550 pretty IMHO. Hit the community swimming pool in Ouray, naturally heated and a piece of heaven in the American Swiss Alps.

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