Scenic drives come in all shapes and sizes near Telluride, with some mountain passes creeping along narrow and rocky ridgelines and other roads offering perfect road conditions and outstanding scenery.
Black Bear Pass is one-way four-wheel drive road zigzagging through high-alpine meadows, narrow switchbacks and some of the most beautiful mountain landscapes in the lower 48. The famous sign at the trailhead says it all: “YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE CRAZY TO DRIVE THIS ROAD - BUT IT HELPS.”
Once upon a time Last Dollar Road was a critical supply route for miners stationed in Telluride. Today, the mountain road offers a good introduction to off-road driving in the San Juans, and only requires four-wheel capability in wet conditions. A safe alternative to the hardcore Black Bear and Imogene four-wheel passes, Last Dollar Road is a scenic and worthwhile trip out of Telluride.
Ophir Pass is an easy-going dirt road linking Telluride to Silverton with great views of Lizard Head Wilderness and the red-drenched peaks of Red Mountain Pass. Four-wheel drive isn’t required unless conditions are wet, but it is a good idea to have a vehicle with some clearance.
This 236-mile loop through the San Juans passes through Telluride, Durango and Silverton while traversing high-alpine passes and stunning mountain landscapes. The most impressive stretch may be the Million Dollar Highway connecting Ouray to Silverton. The wealth of avalanche slide paths means 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.
Connecting Telluride to Ouray, Imogene Pass is the highest mountain pass in the San Juans and the second highest vehicular mountain crossing in Colorado. The road crosses spectacular high-alpine ridgelines and the ghost town of Tomboy. The road becomes narrow and rocky toward the summit and is not recommended for inexperienced off-road drivers.