Photo by Taylor Bunner Photography
Million Dollar Highway
If you are anywhere near the Four Corners Region with a motorcycle and the need for an adrenaline rush then trekking the Million Dollar Highway is an absolute must. Its hairpin turns and breathtaking high altitude views are paved with history and excitement. The Million Dollar Highway has been rated one of the top roads to ride in North America with three mountain passes cliff drops with no guardrails, breathtaking scenery, mines, and hot springs. Built by Otto Mears in 1883 U.S. 550 is 25 miles of windy turns between Silverton and Ouray, Colorado passing through the San Juan Mountains.
Although the entire stretch has come to be known as the Million Dollar Highway, the twelve miles outside of Ouray through the Uncompahgre Gorge all the way to the top of Red Mountain Pass is how the road originally gained its name. The road through the Uncompahgre Gorge is riddled with challenges including steep cliffs with no guardrail, narrow roads and hairpin turns that cut directly into the side of the mountain. The Idarado Mine is easily visible on the roadside as bikers cruise by.
North of Durango, the Highway travels by Trimble Hot Springs and runs along the Animas River below the famed Hermosa Cliffs and continues near the Haviland and Electra Lakes. As riders enter the San Juan National Forest they pass by Twilight Peak and Engineer Mountain before reaching Coal Bank Passat an elevation of 10,640 ft. iders will travel higher to 10,970 ft. summiting over Molas Pass which offers stunning views of the Animas River and Molas Lake. On their way down to the town of Silverton they are surrounded by 13,000 ft. peaks.
From Silverton the road follows Mineral Creek Valley to the famed Red Mountain Pass at an elevation of 11,018 ft. with the tailings from the abandoned Longfellow Mine visible in the distance. Numerous hairpin turns and steep grades lead to Lookout Point that offers an expansive view of the town of Ouray.
There’s a lot of folklore surrounding the origin of the US. 550dubbed The Million Dollar Highway including “costing a million dollars a mile”, “not traveling it again for one million dollars” and “a million dollars worth of gold is encased under the pavement”. Regardless of what the truth is, the fact remains that riding it is pure gold.