Ouray, Colorado and the Million Dollar Highway

Mountain Views along the Million Dollar hwy between Silverton and Ouray Colorado.

In my previous post, I reported that Shannon had tested positive for Covid on day 3 of our trip to the Comb Ridge/ Butler Wash. We altered our original outdoor camping plans, and instead, camped out in the Stone Lizard Lodge for 3 nights while Shannon was down. All links and info in my previous post (linked). 2 days before we needed to be at the airport in Denver, we decided to start back in that direction. Shannon suggested we take the scenic route through the Million Dollar Highway, (info linked) which runs through the beautiful and scenic Durango, Colorado, Silverton, Colorado, and on into Ouray, Colorado. Neither of us had ever been here before!

The winding US highway 550 is also known as The Million Dollar Highway, running all the way from New Mexico to Colorado. Part of the San Juan Skyway, this highway was built in the late 1880’s, and it is one of the most spectacular drives in the USA. The Million Dollar Highway section connects Ouray and Silverton and is lined with many small adventure towns and ghost mining villages.

From this link, “Offering breathtaking mountain, valley and gorge views, the Million Dollar Highway cost a reported million dollars a mile to build. The road winds and clings to the mountain providing dramatic views at every turn. Part of the San Juan Skyway Colorado Scenic Byway.”

We set out from Blanding, and made a quick gasoline stop and scenic drive through Durango, Colorado (about 125 miles/2 hours on 2 lane roads). I’m sorry to say that I have no photos of Durango. The drive from Durango to Silverton, is about 48 miles, and takes about an hour.

I had no idea what to expect, but was completely delighted by Silverton Colorado (linked). It is adorable! “Silverton is a National Historic Landmark, part of the San Juan Skyway (with the Million Dollar Highway connecting Silverton to Ouray), home to Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop, and the summer destination for the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad train ride.” The train ride from Durango to Silverton (linked) is supposed to be fantastic. We’ve talked about it many times, and particularly the access from the train to hike the Chicago Basin (linked). This trip however, we settled for lunch at the adorable Avalance Brewing Company (linked)

From Silverton, the drive is only about 23 miles to Ouray, but due to the snow and ice on the roads, and the 25mph speed limit, it took us about an hour. I could have driven it 10 more times in a row – it was absolutely spectacular at every turn.

The Idarado mine (linked) tressel is visible from the road on the San Juan Skyway section of the Million Dollar Highway

After that hour-long beautiful drive, we rounded a hairpin turn, and arrived at my new favorite city, Ouray, Colorado.

Beautiful mountains completely surround this idyllic town

As Shannon was still not feeling great, we decided to look for somewhere to stay here in Ouray so that he could get back in a bed, I was very excited to check out some of the adorable shops we’d passed on the way in. I shopped for hours and could have carried on if I hadn’t reached closing time. `As it happens, there’s lots to do and see in Ouray, Colorado (linked)

We found the greatest place to stay in Ouray, the Ouray Inn (linked), and I’m excited to tell about it because it was perfect. When we got there, there was a man out scraping the ice off of the parking lot. He and his dog greeted us, and walked us in to get us checked in. I noticed his photo with a wife and children behind the front desk and inquired about his family. I was immediately smitten with this adorable family:

They’ve since had another baby who is now about 9 months old I believe?
What a fun bunch!

I also loved it that they displayed information about the original owners, and a little bit of history about the Inn. It is always nice to see that an important history isn’t lost, but respected and carried on. It seems that this Inn has been family-owned all along.

After a long afternoon nap, Shannon felt well enough to go on a short walk after dark, and we were absolutely gobsmacked at the incredible beauty of the moonlight from the full moon that lit the mountains in front of us.

That’s moonlight – it was full dark.
Absolutely gorgeous view from our balcony.

Shannon mentioned that hearing the wind in the mountain behind the inn, which towered high above it just behind, reminded him of listening to the same sound near Crater Lake when he Hiked the Four-Pass Loop (linked) back in 2019. Listening to that sound here from the inn is one of his favorite memories of both of those trips.

About 3am, Shannon shook me awake and said “come look at this” (as a reminder, if you’re viewing this post in email, you won’t be able to see the videos play – they’ll only play from the website)

it was snowing buckets, and looked like it had been snowing for hours!

The video above was about 3am, and when we woke up around 7am, it was still coming down

Like a kid on Christmas morning! We were thrilled!
I could not wait to get out in this beautiful snow!

Being from Alabama, we don’t get to see this kind of snow often if ever. Maybe once every 25 years. Shannon and I both love it, and it surely does make for some beautiful scenery.

The mountain behind the Inn, so beautiful in the snow!

Shannon still wasn’t feeling great still, but I had been feeling great this whole time and had decided that my magical immune system was en pointe! It wasn’t until I went out into the snow and walked around for a while and came back inside that I realized that I was starting to feel bad. In fact, about the time I said it out loud, “I’m not feeling great.” I had a dizzy spell, and realized that I was ” a little warm”. As we packed up for the drive back to Denver.

Driving out of Ouray, and past the hot springs

The drive from Ouray to Denver took us through many snowy passes, and although it was beautiful, it was slow going.

As we’d now passed the exit for Vail about 3 times (in August and this trip), and it’s a place I’ve always wanted to see, I asked if we could get off at the exit and drive through – and he was only too happy to oblige.

Completely un-planned, this turned out to be one of my favorite parts of our trip. Particularly the time spent in Ouray. Not only do we fully intend to return, but we have not ruled out moving there someday. (Surely there are places to sail nearby?) From the link I shared above, the adventures in and around Ouray include; Ice climbing, Box Canyon hiking, Ghost towns, Hot springs, Gold Mountain climbing, off-road adventures, and much more.

Needless to say, upon return home, my Covid test was also positive. I felt very fortunate to be symptom free until the day we left though, and was glad that Shannon had started feeling much better on our travel day. It was still a great trip and we can’t wait to go back!

One thought on “Ouray, Colorado and the Million Dollar Highway

  1. With a name like Million Dollar Highway, you know it’s going to be good. It looks like an incredibly scenic drive, especially in the winter with all that snow covering the mountains, even if it meant having to drive slower because of the ice. And wow that’s a lot of snow that you got overnight! Sorry to hear that COVID got you too.


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