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Old 11-18-2011, 12:11 PM
 
Location: Western Colorado
41 posts, read 108,424 times
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I know that November isn't technically winter, but it is in the high Rockies! I'll be heading up to Montrose from Amarillo, Texas, in a week and a half, and I was curious about the best way to go. Google maps has me coming up either via Monarch Pass on US 50 or over Red Mountain Pass on US 550. If the weather turns out to be bad, which one would be the better choice? I'll be in my four wheel drive vehicle, but I'd still like to make the drive as painless as possible.

Thanks!
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Old 11-18-2011, 12:22 PM
 
Location: Littleton, CO
2,395 posts, read 4,164,293 times
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I would say Monarch pass, it's not too bad
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Old 11-18-2011, 12:50 PM
 
20,315 posts, read 37,820,570 times
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Here's a thread on winter driving over Red Mountain Pass on Rte-550.

Here's a thread on driving that highway, with a video.

Here's a photo of that road in winter....
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Old 11-18-2011, 12:58 PM
Status: "Not politically correct" (set 4 days ago)
 
Location: Western Colorado
10,552 posts, read 11,649,542 times
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Either one you can run into heavy snow, or bright sunshine. Monarch doesn't have the pucker factor Red Mountain does. There's a nice parking area, ski lift, gift shop on the top of Monarch, you can have your picture taken at the Continental Divide sign. You'll get light headed due to the altitude, but that's half the fun. Monarch is wider than Red Mountain and has wide passing lanes. You might actually have more issues over Cerro Summit just outside Montrose that Monarch Pass. If the snow is bad enough, CDOT will close the highway. Look at it as an adventure, watch the speed you'll be fine.

Check the road conditions here:

Road Conditions, Speeds, Travel Times, Traffic Cameras, Live Streaming Traffic Cameras, Road Closures and Road Work Information provided by Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) a branch of Colorado Department of Transportation
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Old 11-18-2011, 01:25 PM
 
Location: Colorado Springs
18,945 posts, read 8,893,958 times
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Admittedly, I haven't driven over either in the winter, but I have driven over both in summer. I wouldn't drive over US-550 in the winter unless it was a dire emergency.

A couple of months ago I was in Montrose and got to talking with a woman who used to drive a school bus down US-550. She said most of the drivers wouldn't even do it in the winter. A teacher who used to work in my school back East moved to Colorado a while back and was on US-550 on a fairly decent winter day and actually saw a car go over the edge.

My advice -- take US-50 and Monarch Pass or, perhaps even up to I-70. But again, I've not done the roads in the winter.
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Old 11-18-2011, 03:09 PM
 
Location: Na'alehu Hawaii/Buena Vista Colorado
4,629 posts, read 9,121,787 times
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Whichever way you go keep an eye on the weather. Be prepared to stop for the night if there's a winter storm warning posted. Also, you can get updated, real-time road conditions on the Colorado Department of Transportation website, which is Road Conditions, Speeds, Travel Times, Traffic Cameras, Live Streaming Traffic Cameras, Road Closures and Road Work Information provided by Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) a branch of Colorado Department of Transportation.
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Old 11-18-2011, 04:12 PM
 
8,317 posts, read 25,113,571 times
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My advice: 285 north out of New Mexico to CO114 west over Cochetopa Pass, thence west to US50. From there, west to Montrose. The caveats: NO route to Montrose is great under winter driving conditions and NONE of them should be attempted under winter driving conditions by drivers without winter driving experience. It's asking for trouble. Period. CO114 generally has better conditions than Monarch Pass, however, it is not plowed during the night (7 PM-5 AM), so that must be considered. It is also a lonely road in the winter--if having other people around on the road is a requirement to feel comfortable, then CO114 is not the route to take.

I do not recommend US550 in the winter to anyone but the most seasoned mountain winter drivers, based on my experience--I used to drive trucks and trailers over it in both winter and summer on a regular basis. It ain't for flatlanders.

One final note: for some inexplicable reason, November can have days upon days in the Colorado mountains without serious winter weather, but the Thanksgiving weekend seems to get a major winter storm in the mountains at one end of the weekend or the other just about every year. I remember a four-year stretch years ago when I drove in a God-awful mountain winter storm on the Sunday after Thanksgiving every year for that four years. Go figure.
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Old 11-18-2011, 08:21 PM
 
Location: Colorado Springs, CO
2,139 posts, read 5,488,436 times
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I had my worst winter driving experience on US50 in Feb. Pay attention to weather reports.
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Old 11-18-2011, 09:46 PM
 
Location: Sunnyvale, CA
4,888 posts, read 8,909,954 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by griff09m View Post
I know that November isn't technically winter, but it is in the high Rockies! I'll be heading up to Montrose from Amarillo, Texas, in a week and a half, and I was curious about the best way to go. Google maps has me coming up either via Monarch Pass on US 50 or over Red Mountain Pass on US 550. If the weather turns out to be bad, which one would be the better choice? I'll be in my four wheel drive vehicle, but I'd still like to make the drive as painless as possible.

Thanks!
Of the two, Monarch pass is preferable. It's much lower in elevation - meaning better weather conditions - and a wider road, meaning you have more margin for error. In fact if you take US50, Monarch will be the only pass you have to contend with.

(If you take US550 you are in the thick of it in the San Juan mountains and you have to deal with all kinds of stuff.)
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Old 11-19-2011, 12:47 AM
 
Location: Colorado Springs
18,945 posts, read 8,893,958 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 80skeys View Post
Of the two, Monarch pass is preferable. It's much lower in elevation - meaning better weather conditions - and a wider road, meaning you have more margin for error. In fact if you take US50, Monarch will be the only pass you have to contend with.

(If you take US550 you are in the thick of it in the San Juan mountains and you have to deal with all kinds of stuff.)
Yes, and at least there are guard rails (for what they're worth) at Monarch Pass, but very few on US-550. A friend of mine worked for CDOT for many years and told me the lack of guard rails on US-550 was because they would impede plowing the snow off the road. Yikes!
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