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Million $ Highway alternate and comparison to Trail Ridge Rd and other


jules2go
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This summer I'm going to be in the Durango/Telluride/Ouray/Silverton area and am worried about hyped-up scary stretch of 550. I wasn't able to drive on Trail Ridge Road a couple of years ago, was even hard for me to be a passenger. Because of that, I am thinking I just won't be able to do that 550 section from Silverton to Ouray. I'll be towing my 15 ft trailer, too. 

I'm looking at the map and see that I will not be able to get to Silverton, but I can go from Durango to Ouray, via Delores, and avoid the 550 Silverton/Ouray stretch. That would be 145 to 62 and then down to Ouray on 550. How is that route in terms of scary factor? I would then backtrack back up 550 and head north into other areas.

There is a significant road closure that I read about from Montrose to Gunnison so I'll avoid that. Are there any other scary roads to be aware of when plotting my way across that region? Or any other road issues in general? I'm aiming to get back to the Denver area after all that exploring is done. 

This plan is not set in stone by any means. I'm worried about the fires this summer, and might want to hold off and go in the spring another year, before things get too dry. 

Edited by jules2go
added blurb about fire season
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JMO, but anyone who finds 550 scary during Summer months, probably has no business driving in Colorado.  It's a commercial route and a super highway.  Now, in Winter during a snowstorm?  Well, that's different.

Just drive it in a natural way, looking out in front instead of over the edge.  You'll be fine.  I've driven some switchbacks in your part of the country which were more of a challenge.

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43 minutes ago, jules2go said:

hyped-up scary stretch of 550

That's it, it is hyped up over exaggerated. Tens of thousands of RV and semis drive that stretch of road each year. We have been over it both ways towing various RVs up to a 35 ft fiver repeatedly over the years. And I have seen zero wrecked vehicles at the bottom of the drop offs.

Just go and enjoy the great views, the road is well engineered and no problem to drive.

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JMO, but anyone who finds 550 scary during Summer months, probably has no business driving in Colorado. 

Ditto on that

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To say that a road is or isn't scary to drive is a very subjective thing. I would not consider Trail Ridge Road to be a particularly scary drive, but I have done a lot of mountain driving and much of that offroad and via 4WD. Having grown up in Kansas where there are no mountains, I do remember when a mountain highway would make my pulse race so I am not without empathy. What many of us consider to be scenic highways, you may be frightened by. While I would encourage you to do more mountain driving when weather is good as I am sure that you will gain confidence with practice, let me also suggest that you visit this website of pictures taken along that road. In that way you can make the judgement for yourself, rather than listen to us. 

hqdefault.jpg

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1 minute ago, Kirk W said:

To say that a road is or isn't scary to drive is a very subjective thing. 

 

Yes, I do agree it is subjective, thank you. I have looked at photos of it and I'm not sure it's one I want to try, which is why I was considering that alternate route. 

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If you are not comfortable with it the alternate route is a much less challenging drive.  I have driven semi's over through Silverton and I don't consider it easy.  It requires a lot of concentration to keep a big rig in your lane. The views are exceptional though so you may want to check it out without a trailer.  There are very few guard rails which can also bother less experienced mountain drivers.  If in doubt I would take the alternate route.

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As much as I believe that you could do it, I also realize that it may not be fun and enjoyment is an important part of the adventure. My suggestion is that you choose a day that you are feeling good and the weather is great, leave the RV behind and just go for a drive and ease into the more challenging roads. With a little bit of experience you will find the fear begins to subside. 

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21 minutes ago, Randyretired said:

If you are not comfortable with it the alternate route is a much less challenging drive.  

Going to Silverton is not something I feel that I must do, so I'm happy to take the other route to get to Ouray if it's easier. I'd like to see Ouray. Thank you. 

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Durango - Delores- Ouray is easier in many ways. The worse of road has a little shoulder and a white line marking the edge of the road, Also being north bound, your are next to the cliff not the canyon below.  I think it is a prettier route also. While your in the area Mesa Verde is a great place spend a day and you will find camping in the park, and several near Cortez.

See your from Asheville, My experience the Colorado Roads have better sight lines and wider corners. watch your speed as some times you may think driving the flat land but can be going down hill.

Clay

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33 minutes ago, ms60ocb said:

Durango - Delores- Ouray is easier in many ways. The worse of road has a little shoulder and a white line marking the edge of the road, Also being north bound, your are next to the cliff not the canyon below.  I think it is a prettier route also. While your in the area Mesa Verde is a great place spend a day and you will find camping in the park, and several near Cortez.

See your from Asheville, My experience the Colorado Roads have better sight lines and wider corners. watch your speed as some times you may think driving the flat land but can be going down hill.

Clay

Thank you for the suggestions about the route and Mesa Verde, and about speeds on the downhill. I very much want to see Mesa Verde, but have my dogs with me. Have a nice day. 

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Your planned alternate route on 145 will be just fine for you.  Although there is still elevation changes and you will still be in the 'big' mountains, there aren't the big drop-offs right next to the driving lane like you'd have on 550.  There will be a lot of forest terrain which will make you seem more 'closed in' and not wide open with drop-offs.

The summer road work on Hwy 50 east out of Montrose will not close the highway completely all the time.  Read up on the time which would be good for travel if you want to do something along that route.

We've driven Hwy 550 often in both directions between Durango and Ouray with our 40' motorhome towing the Jeep.... because that's where the good Jeeping is on the surrounding trails.  Naturally, the first time was tense as it would be for anyone but after that it got easier and easier.  Speed limits are very low so it's not fast driving. The area is absolutely gorgeous - one of our favorites.

You said you want to see Ouray.  If you'll be in the Durango area I'd really recommend you drive your truck from Durango to Silverton and experience Silverton which is much better than Ouray.  That drive isn't at all bad.  Silverton is so authentic for the mining era.  Your truck would definitely even be capable of driving a good, almost flat road out of Silverton to Animas Forks ghost town and perhaps a stop for a mine tour.  Your truck would also work on South Mineral Creek road - flat and well groomed. . a nice drive and some good boondocking spots along the way.  If you happen to be there on July 4 the celebration up there is terrific and the parade lots of fun.  Perhaps you could even take the Durango train up to Silverton for a day trip. I'd recommended returning on the optional bus as the train both ways is really a long day.  The train stops in Silverton for a quick lunch and perhaps poking into a shop or two.  Above all... take your small trailer up there and spend a few nights!

The harrowing drive for some is from Silverton to Ouray - about 25 miles.  Durango to Silverton really isn't bad.

I'd recommend you get the 'Mountain Directory for Truckers and RVers' if you want to read about the western highways you may be traveling.  6-8% grades are normal!  There are even interstates that have 6-7% grades.  Don't avoid all of them..... that's where the real beauty is!!

Also, if staying in Durango - Haviland Lake national forest campground just outside of Durango is very nice.  Reservations are needed and it even has about 10 electric sites.

Have a great trip!  By the time you're in that area you'll be a pro!

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If you can park for a couple days in Durango, there is a fabulous round trip Steam Locomotive ride from Durango to Silverton... Well worth the time.

https://www.durangotrain.com/

Edit:   Just noticed 2gypsies comment on the Durango & Silverton RR... I agree with them!

 

Edited by Jim & Alice
Late observation.
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2 hours ago, 2gypsies said:

Have a great trip!  By the time you're in that area you'll be a pro!

Thank you for these great ideas. I'd love to do some off-roading with my truck if I can get myself up there, and I'll look up those routes you mentioned. I am planning to be in Durango for awhile, so that's a great suggestion to just drive the truck up to Silverton and explore. I'll see if I can get any nights at Haviland. Thank you also for the encouragement. 

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I don't know if you have watched any of the youtude video's? There a number of then in the region. This video will show you desending in to Silvertown  at 11 minutes 30 seconds

 

And Delores to Telluride

Just search and watch where you want to drive. If you freeze from scary stop. Someone will get you down to level ground. Been there don't that

Clay

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2 hours ago, Jim & Alice said:

If you can park for a couple days in Durango, there is a fabulous round trip Steam Locomotive ride from Durango to Silverton... Well worth the time.

https://www.durangotrain.com/

Edit:   Just noticed 2gypsies comment on the Durango & Silverton RR... I agree with them!

 

The train would be a lot of fun. Thanks for the suggestion. 

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9 minutes ago, ms60ocb said:

I don't know if you have watched any of the youtude video's? There a number of then in the region. This video will show you desending in to Silvertown  at 11 minutes 30 seconds.

Clay, 

Thanks for the videos. I have watched some actually. I just watched these you posted, and it's that last part of going into Ouray from Silverton that I don't think I can do. I'll just go the Delores route I think. 

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  • 4 weeks later...
On 4/14/2021 at 7:41 PM, jules2go said:

I'll just go the Delores route I think. 

If Trail Ridge Road (Rocky Mountain NP) was too much for you, Highway 550 will definitely be too much.  However, the Dolores route isn't necessarily inferior when it comes to scenery.  Ralph Lauren's ranch is on Dallas Divide, between Placerville and Ridgway, and it's a spectacularly beautiful location--just what you would expect for a man with good taste and unlimited funds.  Every time I drive through there, I think, "What I wouldn't give..."

So don't "just go" the Dolores route--choose the Dolores route.

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10 hours ago, Blues said:

If Trail Ridge Road (Rocky Mountain NP) was too much for you, Highway 550 will definitely be too much.  However, the Dolores route isn't necessarily inferior when it comes to scenery.  Ralph Lauren's ranch is on Dallas Divide, between Placerville and Ridgway, and it's a spectacularly beautiful location--just what you would expect for a man with good taste and unlimited funds.  Every time I drive through there, I think, "What I wouldn't give..."

So don't "just go" the Dolores route--choose the Dolores route.

Thank you -- I will choose the Dolores route! And I'll be on the lookout for the Dallas Divide :)

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Comparing the two is just silly, the Trail Ridge Road:

Quote

Covering the 48 miles between Estes Park on the park's east side and Grand Lake on the west, Trail Ridge Road more than lives up to its advanced billing. Eleven miles of this high highway travel above treeline, the elevation near 11,500 feet where the park's evergreen forests come to a halt. As it winds across the tundra's vastness to its high point at 12,183 feet elevation, Trail Ridge Road (U.S. 34) offers visitors thrilling views, wildlife sightings and spectacular alpine wildflower exhibitions, all from the comfort of their car.

VS the 'million dollar Hwy' which has a couple of switchbacks.

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9 hours ago, agesilaus said:

Comparing the two is just silly, the Trail Ridge Road:

VS the 'million dollar Hwy' which has a couple of switchbacks.

It's the drop-offs that I worry about and being so close to the edge of the road without guardrails. Anyway, it's all good, I might end up going all the way on the Million, since I'll be going up to Silverton, who knows. Thanks everyone for replies. 

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8 minutes ago, Lou Schneider said:

If dropoffs scare you, be aware the train has a couple of places where the tracks go along similar terrain with sharp dropoffs next to the track.  Maybe switch to a seat on the uphill side of the car or don't look until you're past them.

I would have a panic attack! I won't be on that train this trip because I'll have my dogs with me. Thanks for the heads up on that, though. I wondered about it. 

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