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Old 08-16-2012, 04:09 PM
 
97 posts, read 311,970 times
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Again thank you all so much for your insightful advices! i now revised my plan taking into your advices. I will leave our group tour from Grand Junction instead of Glennwood Springs since Grand Junction is closer to the San Juan area:

Day 1: Grand Junction -> Ouray ->Coal Bank Pass-> go back and stay at Ouray. (At first i thought to stop by at Black Canyon, but I guess I would not have time)

Day 2: Ouray ->Telluride -> Lizard Head Pass. Then go back ->Ridgway->Gunnison.

Day 3: Gunnison -> Ohio Pass -> CB -> Kebler Pass -> Carbondale

Day 4. Carbondale -> Aspen

Day 5. Aspen -> Independence Pass -> Mt Evans -> Denver

Day 6. Depart in the PM. (Need to get to the airport around the noon).

My questions:

1. is my plan too ambitious? is it optimal? any improvements/suggestions?

2. I read the Million Dollar Highway is dangerous, especially since it does not have rail. what do you think?

3. it takes about 3 hours from Grand Junction to either Coal Bank Pass or Lizard Head Pass, for just driving itself. I wonder if we would have enough time to look around on day 1 and day 2? Maybe I should skip Mt Evans, and spend 2 nights/3 days in San Juan area? I am stunned by the beauty of Ouray when seeing these pictures here:

However, I googled videos of "Million Dollar highway" (see the link here). Frankly, the view is decent, but is far from the stunning beauty in the photos above.. (it does not look like Switzerland at all to be honest based on the videos). I wonder why? Maybe the author of the photos went in Oct and it snowed? Without snow, would it look much more plain or the mountain top would still be covered by ice? Meanwhile, how likely will it snow in the San Juan area in late Sept? (I will drive a regular full size car in late Sept)

4. I heard Owl Creek Pass from Ridgway to Big Cimarron is a must. How is the road condition?.

5. I heard drivers in CO are very aggressive, no matter on highway or dirt road. Is that so?

6. How is the mobile phone signal on those back roads?

Many thanks again!
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Old 08-16-2012, 08:23 PM
 
2,253 posts, read 5,862,227 times
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Wink US 550, Ouray, etc.

The Million Dollar Highway (US 550) is no more dangerous than Independence Pass. With either there are opportunities to fly off into space, but both are routinely driven by tourists and all (edit: make that most) others with perfect safety.

If driving as far south as Coal Bank Pass, you may wish to continue on to at least the southern edge of San Juan County (being just north of that formally called Purgatory Ski Area). It is a lovely drive from Ouray to Durango, so you might consider remaining the night in Durango. Otherwise, Silverton might be far enough, having already traversed renowned Red Mountain Pass.

Ouray is a quaint town which enjoys a quite beautiful location within its box canyon. Probably still with its resident share of tourists come later September, but certainly warranting some time or the night spent. Some of the mountains rising up abruptly from the town tend to stair step, thus accentuated and all the more striking when it snows.

Colorado drivers seem reasonably sane, if more than a few speeding when they should not. Drive the posted speed limits on roads such as US 550 and you'll be fine. There will be occasional places to pull over, and advisable to do so if for some reason driving under the limits and otherwise impeding traffic.

Once there, one may well wish to spend more time enjoying the San Juan Mountains. Flexibility can be gained by not booking all in advance, but perhaps more on a night by night basis. Most decent lodging anymore offers wi-fi, so booking online towards the next evening should be simple. If tourists present, September is past peak season, and securing accommodation on relatively short notice should not be difficult.

Last edited by Idunn; 08-16-2012 at 09:40 PM..
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Old 08-16-2012, 09:28 PM
Status: "Not politically correct" (set 21 days ago)
 
Location: Western Colorado
10,643 posts, read 11,731,096 times
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You'll need a high clearance car or truck to drive to Owl Creek Pass, it's worth the trip. I also recommend Last Dollar Road. There's a CDOT gravel large pull off area on HWY 62 just outside of Ridgway, spetacular views of the San Juans. Also the drive on 550 over Red Mountain from Ouray to Silverton is beautiful in the fall. Have fun.
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Old 08-17-2012, 08:56 AM
 
352 posts, read 567,627 times
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Kebler Pass out of CB, Lizard Head Pass down through Rico from Telluride.
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Old 08-17-2012, 09:03 AM
 
Location: Na'alehu Hawaii/Buena Vista Colorado
4,648 posts, read 9,171,228 times
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You don't need to go Ohio pass to get from Gunnison to Crested Butte, unless you like driving on dirt roads more than paved highways. Ohio Pass road is pretty, with lots of aspen trees on both sides. But not WOW mountains views. There's a nice paved highway from Gunnison to CB that will save you time. BTW, when you get to CB, keep going to Mt. Crested Butte and, if you want some more fantastic scenery, keep going on the easy dirt road to Gothic. You will need to go back into the Town of CB to get to Kebler Pass.
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Old 08-17-2012, 09:03 AM
 
97 posts, read 311,970 times
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Thanks.. How is the road condition of Last Dollar Road?

I also heard that CR 7 (East Dallas Creek) is very nice in the fall ("The valley at the end is tremendous"). How is its condition? It's about 5 miles west of Ridgway

Thanks.
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Old 08-17-2012, 09:08 AM
 
97 posts, read 311,970 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dreaming of Hawaii View Post
You don't need to go Ohio pass to get from Gunnison to Crested Butte, unless you like driving on dirt roads more than paved highways. Ohio Pass road is pretty, with lots of aspen trees on both sides. But not WOW mountains views. There's a nice paved highway from Gunnison to CB that will save you time. BTW, when you get to CB, keep going to Mt. Crested Butte and, if you want some more fantastic scenery, keep going on the easy dirt road to Gothic. You will need to go back into the Town of CB to get to Kebler Pass.
Could you tell me the name of the "nice paved highway from Gunnison to CB"? Is it 135? I thought Ohio Pass is on 135? no?

Thanks.
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Old 08-17-2012, 09:48 AM
Status: "Not politically correct" (set 21 days ago)
 
Location: Western Colorado
10,643 posts, read 11,731,096 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sbbi98 View Post
Thanks.. How is the road condition of Last Dollar Road?

I also heard that CR 7 (East Dallas Creek) is very nice in the fall ("The valley at the end is tremendous"). How is its condition? It's about 5 miles west of Ridgway

Thanks.
Last Dollar Road, it all depends. It's either a very nice road that a regular car can handle, or you need a 4 wheel drive. If it rained, do not drive it. You can try it and always turn around. I've driven it in my Mustang (with a lot of odd looks) and have done fine.

CR7, I would suggest a 4wd.

Both are very nice, scenic drives through the back country.
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Old 08-17-2012, 11:20 AM
 
2,253 posts, read 5,862,227 times
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Wink Ohio Pass versus CO 135

Ohio Pass is not CO 135, that being a paved state highway taking a different route.

I have not driven over Ohio Pass, but the road is presumably dirt, with the designation of CO RD 730. That can be accessed shortly north of Gunnison, off of CO 135, just after crossing the river. Whereas CO 135 continues veering to the east before swinging in an arc west west to Crested Butte, CO RD 730 more directly heads north, veering somewhat northwest. It intersects CO RD 12 (that of Kebler Pass) a few miles west of Crested Butte.

The following map should help explain this:
Ohio Pass - Colorado - Map and Area Photos
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Old 08-17-2012, 01:11 PM
 
97 posts, read 311,970 times
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Thanks Idunn and Jim!!

In San Juan area, must we join a jeep tour to see the picturesque beauties? or riding on Million Dollar Highway would be fine?

If we rent a SUV instead of a regular full-size car, will it help for going into those dirt roads? I am not sure generally speaking if rental SUV is 4WD or 2WD, or if it has high clearance?

If we do need a jeep tour, could you recommend a decent jeep tour in San Juan area? How long/much does it normally take? What are the popular/good routes?

Thanks again!
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