Driving the Million Dollar Highway: Montrose – Ridgway – Ouray – Silverton – Durango


Miles Driven Today:    127           Total Miles Driven:  5004

Our luck with the weather is holding!  Another brilliant sunny day – 19C – 26C depending on altitude and a blue, blue sky with a few fluffy clouds.

We headed off from Montrose at about 9am and turned south, on Highway 550, another road often claimed to be America’s Most Beautiful.  I am just running out of superlatives to be honest.  And I’m concerned no one is going to believe me!  I have to say that today’s drive rivals any of the others we’ve done this trip.  Maybe it’s the autumn colours…. maybe it’s the weather….  whatever it is… wow….. this was a stunning drive.  more info

It’s a two lane nearly all the way, many hairpins, many deep curves…. many peaks… deep valleys… huge 14000+ peaks, deep curves…. every corner draws a gasp….  the views are just astonishing.  I’m sure my photos don’t do it justice.  Well… they don’t….  I gave up after a while and determined we would drive this again before we left just so that I could take more photographs and try again to capture it.

We had a quick scoot through Ridgway – very cute, nice farmer’s market underway…. worth a few hours of a stop which we didn’t have.

On about another 30 minutes to Ouray!  Wow… Ouray…..  website A small,  historic western town set in a small box canyon and surrounded by 14000+ peaks.  Very colourful.  We pulled up on the main street, got out of the car and spent an hour or so exploring.  The shops and cafes were nice quality.  It’s not a tacky place at all.  Feels very expensive.  In fact looking in the realtors, you can buy here more cheaply than say Salida… or so it appeared.  We didn’t look that hard.  I bought myself a new sunhat.  The sun is so strong, you have to have one.  Bob’s nose is a bit red despite wearing his cap and I definitely felt the sun since losing my hat on the train the day before yesterday.  Pink cheeks!  Luckily the hat season here is changing from sunhats to woolly hats so I managed to find a straw hat at a reasonable price.  We bought coffees and started drinking them on outside tables but the sun drove us inside.

We drove on towards Silverton.  The road section between Ouray and Silverton was outstanding.  The aspen colours are extreme, and contrasted against the slopes of Red Mountain and the strangely yellow/orange Uncompahgre River.  I mean, it’s really orange as are the banks.  Not sure why but I wouldn’t drink it!!!  Apparently one translation of the name means “undrinkable”.    More huge peaks, more old mine workings – this was a huge gold/silver mining centre in the 1800s – all so incredibly picturesque.  Honestly, honestly, if you are a mountain person, you have to come here and drive this drive.  It’s amazing.

We had our lunch picnic somewhere on this stretch of the road.  Just beside a stream, looking up at the mountains and a light bite.

Silverton.  Bigger than Ouray.  More commercial but not ruined. website It is the northern terminus of the Durango – Silverton Railroad.  website  Which we are riding on Monday – a 30 year ambition on my part.   We parked up and spent a couple of hours shop fuddling and just exploring here.  There are a lot of mineral shops and mineral jewellery shops.  I would love to bring home one of the ammonites.  They are so stunning and reasonably priced.  But… our baggage is right on the edge.  I daren’t.

We got to Durango at about 4pm.  We’re staying at the Residence Inn on points for 5 nights so plenty of time to explore around here.  Really nice Residence Inn.  Unpacked everything!  Well… with the packing cubes, we just put them in the drawers and hang up the odd thing that needs it.  Everything is keeping so tidy.  We are now massive fans, will never travel without them again.  Had a bit of a rest then headed out to the centre of town.  Looked really nice and worth an explore in the next few days.  Our first destination was the small cinema, next to the historic railroad station.  We want to see Downton Abbey tomorrow night.  Couldn’t book the tickets online because the system wanted a zip code.  Got our seats anyway.    Later in the week we’ll go and see Ad Astra but we’ll go to the modern multiplex a couple of miles away for that.  I want to see it on a big screen.

Then on to Walmart to do a shop to take us through the next 7 days.  Job done!  About £100 for all our meals.  Back home and I cooked up these stonking great meatballs with spaghetti and sauce.  The meatballs were amazing.  We were stuffed and had to freeze at least half of them.  There’s another dinner in the pipeline then…..  the checkout girl at Walmart raved about the hot springs in her home town, Pagosa Springs, about an hour down the road.  Might have to spend one of our days there…. It does look good.

One comment

  1. Just a tip. Don’t pay for Ad Astra… We went and our cinema here had a major problem with software, so gave everyone free tickets. They were not worth it! Seriously!