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Local's Knowledge: Telluride Scenic Spring Drives

30 May 2014
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Insider Knowledge

The wild flowers are coming! WILD FLOWERS ARE COMING! Spring is in bloom and there is no better time to take a scenic drive through the San Juan Mountains. Whether you are driving at the edge of shearing cliffs, towering mountains, or the vast land, you are in for a treat with these scenic mountain drives.

Last Dollar Road

This back-country road allows for two-wheel vehicles with reasonable ground clearance to enjoy the mountain scenery normally reserved for more rugged drives. If the weather is wet, you could get stuck! This drive can be done in 2-3 hours, but you will want to allow at least 5-6 hours because you will want to stop each mile for pictures! Last dollar Road was once a supply route for miners stationed in Telluride, but today this road is a good introduction into off-roading, here in the San Juans. Last Dollar is definitely a safer alternative to Black Bear or Imogene.

Black Bear Pass

Black Bear Pass is a one-way four-wheel drive, known for its off-road trail, that zigzags through high-alpine meadows, narrow switchbacks and some of the most beautiful mountain landscapes. Black Bear Pass connects Red Mountain Pass and Telluride. It is a 12,840 foot summit with very tight cliffside switchbacks. If you do not get scared easily, I would so go for it, but drive slowly! The famous sign at the trailhead says it all: “YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE CRAZY TO DRIVE THIS ROAD – BUT IT HELPS.”

Ophir Pass

Ophir Pass links Telluride to Silverton, and is an easy-going, beautiful drive. This offers great views of Lizard Head Wilderness and the peaks of Red Mountain Pass. If it is a rainy day, four-wheel drive is required. It is also a great idea to drive a vehicle with some clearance.

San Juan Skyway

The San Juan Skyway is a 236-mile loop passing through Telluride, Durango, and Silverton. It traverses though towering mountain landscapes. A very impressive part of this drive would have to be the Million Dollar Highway that connects Ouray to Silverton, with high-alpine passes. You will notice on this drive that there are no guardrails; this is because of the reoccurring avalanche slides. The surrounding area of sheer cliffs and the handful of waterfalls that you encounter make it very hard to be able to keep your eyes on the road.

Imogene Pass

Being the highest mountain pass in the San Juan’s and the second highest mountain crossing that allows vehicles in the Colorado, Imogene Pass connects Telluride to Ouray. This road encounters the ghost town of Tomboy and the towering high-alpine ridgelines. As you reach the summit the road becomes very narrow and rocky. It is not recommended for drivers who are not experienced in off-roading.