Red Mountain Pass
A little more than an hour from Telluride, Red Mountain Pass is the summit of the iconic “Million Dollar Highway” and the sight of unusual but spectacular red-drenched peaks.
- Red Mountain Pass is is a great scenic drive in winter or summer and can be reached from Telluride in one day.
- The pass is named for three peaks near the summit left red-colored from iron oxide rich rocks.
- A narrow canyon with steep cliffs separates the summit from Ouray, and may take your breath away as well.
Reaching a summit of 11,018 feet, Red Mountain Pass is an essential scenic drive for any visitor in winter or summer. The road approaching the summit seems more fantasy than fact, and the mysterious red peaks flanking the highway will leave you searching for answers and your camera.
From Telluride, head west on Highway 145 and then turn right onto Highway 62 at the dead end. At the stoplight in Ridgway turn right onto Highway 550. The ascent to the summit begins right after Ouray.
It is 62 miles to the summit of Red Mountain Pass, Colorado, from Telluride. It takes about 1 hour to reach Ouray from Telluride and it’s another half-hour to the summit of the pass.
The stretch of road from Ouray to the summit of the pass is impressive to say the least. There is a wealth of avalanche slide paths, and because snowplows need to move snow somewhere, there are no guardrails separating vehicles from the road and a 1,000-foot freefall. The sheer size of the cliffs and the handful of waterfalls make it tough to keep your eyes on the road despite the obvious danger.
The three main peaks at the summit of the pass—named Red Mountain 1, 2 and 3—are a stunning mix of red because of the rich deposits of iron oxide laden rock. Catch these peaks when the foliage is changing colors and you’ll see one of the most colorful and dramatic mountain landscapes anywhere.