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Old 04-20-2009, 10:25 AM
 
8,317 posts, read 25,840,928 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 80skeys View Post
The route which avoids mountain passes is:

- US 50 south to Montrose
- US 50 east to Gunnison
- Highway 114 southeast to Saguache
- Highway 285 south to Alamosa
- Highway 285 south to Santa Fe NM
- I-25 south to El Paso, Tx
- I-10 to Jct US-290
-US 290 to Austin

In Colorado, taking this route, you will go through two mountain passes. But they are hardly passes. The one outside Montrose is 8,000 feet and the other is 10,000 feet. Both are well maintained and no switchbacks.

Avoid Ouray-Durango. This has two steep mountain passes. One of which is "Red Mountain" at 12,000 feet with a no guardrail section and a steep drop off.
That's an OK route to Albuquerque, but much slower than the route suggested. Driven both routes plenty of times to compare. Cerro Summit and Cochetopa are mild passes as far as dropoffs, etc., but are both subject to potential winter driving conditions through May.
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Old 04-20-2009, 10:32 AM
 
20,896 posts, read 39,162,901 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chilaili View Post
Okay, I guess we'll risk it . I think going north we'll be on the inside track, next to the cliffs rather than on the outside looking down at the 1000ft drop? Please say yes
Yes, you'll be on the inside track. The day we drove it, there was almost no traffic. At one point there was a sheer drop off on left side and a sheer rock wall above us on the right side. I stopped, opened the sun roof, and looked straight up at the rock, for what seemed hundreds of feet straight up; nothing to stop any falling rock. There was a monument around the bend dedicated to several snow plow drivers who died when their truck slid over the edge.
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Old 04-20-2009, 10:36 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chilaili View Post
Well, now you and Double H have scared the bejesus out of me! I was planning to drive north along 550 the 2nd weekend of May to do the scenic drive from Durango to Montrose with my 70-year old mother in my 4WD Hyundai Tucson and despite lots of people telling me it's a glorious drive and I really should try it, I'm now getting a bit anxious. I live in Colorado and have driven on mountain roads around the Front Range but there are still times when I get nervous. So now what to do? Do we bite the bullet and take the drive for the experience or do we chicken out and go north another way? We have a hotel room booked in Gunnison so at some point we'll have to get over there whichever way we go.
It is a much more circuitous route, but you can drive from Durango to Gunnison via Dolores, then north on CO145 to Placerville, the CO62 to Ridgway to US550, then US550 to Montrose and east on US50. Lizard Head is no slouch of a pass, but much less harrowing than US550 from Durango to Ouray. Aside from the dropoffs and narrow road in places, the biggest risk on US550 in May is winter driving conditions (can and does happen) and rockslides. Rockslides are a common occurrence on that road during the spring melt--we can be talking Volkswagen-sized rocks or bigger. I've probably logged a 3/4's of a million miles driving in Colorado, much of it in the mountains. I have driven it over 500 times, at least, but I still treat the Million Dollar Highway with the utmost respect--it is a mountain highway like few others.
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Old 04-20-2009, 10:38 AM
 
Location: Colorado
4,308 posts, read 11,800,334 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike from back east View Post
Yes, you'll be on the inside track. The day we drove it, there was almost no traffic. At one point there was a sheer drop off on left side and a sheer rock wall above us on the right side. I stopped, opened the sun roof, and looked straight up at the rock, for what seemed hundreds of feet straight up; nothing to stop any falling rock. There was a monument around the bend dedicated to several snow plow drivers who died when their truck slid over the edge.
Okay! I'm not going to be some wimp who chickens out on seeing this part of Colorado just because the road might be a bit narrow and if I can drive Santa Fe to Longmont in my VW Cabrio during the 2nd blizzard of January 2007 without incident I can do 25 miles on bloody Highway 550 in the middle of May! Right?
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Old 04-20-2009, 10:43 AM
 
20,896 posts, read 39,162,901 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chilaili View Post
Okay! I'm not going to be some wimp who chickens out on seeing this part of Colorado just because the road might be a bit narrow and if I can drive Santa Fe to Longmont in my VW Cabrio during the 2nd blizzard of January 2007 without incident I can do 25 miles on bloody Highway 550 in the middle of May! Right?
Right you are.
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Old 04-20-2009, 11:04 AM
 
16,521 posts, read 20,964,213 times
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80's keys-whazzup? I thought real hard about that route, but the original poster is from northern Utah, I imagine Salt Lake or Ogden. Logistically, it makes more sense to go through Naturita, Cortez, and that route I suggested on route #2.

NOW! I go through that way you suggested every now and then. There are a few dropoffs at Cerro summit, but nothing like Red Mtn. Pass. I keep fishing gear in both vehicles as I stop for a little fishing at Blue Mesa! I always enjoy Gunnison (now that it is getting warmer anyway). And once you hit state hwy. 114 east of Gunnison and go south, you can make decent time-but not the first 10 miles. The good news is that going through that way there is very little traffic. just ranchers. And that is the bad news. CDOT's workyard in Saguache is staffed, but most of their road maintenance is in the valley. It has been a couple years since I've been through there but the road has been getting pretty rough, especially on the north side of Cochetopa pass. As you state the road being well maintained, I hope you are right. Road maintenence in the winter, however, has always been first rate through there, as it is in the other mountain areas. Once you get south of the pass, you can make good time. But watch for deer as I have had more close calls there than I care to admit.

Once you get to 285 at Saguache, you're running ok then to the state line. Going through NM, the road is good with no dropoffs, just not much in roadside services.

When I go through that way, I generally stay the night at Monte Vista, it's a nice town. And when going through Antonito, I definitely suggest the Cumbres Toltec train ride, it's really cool!

Last time I went through there, an awful of road construction was there near Espanola, north of Santa Fe. 285 shows a real pretty part of NM!

Last edited by DOUBLE H; 04-20-2009 at 11:23 AM..
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Old 04-20-2009, 02:01 PM
 
8,317 posts, read 25,840,928 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chilaili View Post
Okay! I'm not going to be some wimp who chickens out on seeing this part of Colorado just because the road might be a bit narrow and if I can drive Santa Fe to Longmont in my VW Cabrio during the 2nd blizzard of January 2007 without incident I can do 25 miles on bloody Highway 550 in the middle of May! Right?
They say one picture is worth a thousand words. US550 is the somewhat horizontal line in the photo. On most of this stretch there is no gaurdrail and the white line on the outside lane is painted on the very edge of the dropoff (which is as much as 800' in places). Now, imagine it if the road is snowpacked. Draw your own conclusions about being "up to it" or not.



How many highways can claim that, when a snowslide hit a plow years back, they didn't find the plow for a couple of weeks, and didn't find the driver (dead) until the snow melted in late spring? That's the Million Dollar Highway fer ya.

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3584/...4876b9d2_b.jpg

http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1251/...d12282e0_b.jpg
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Old 04-20-2009, 02:07 PM
 
Location: Sunnyvale, CA
5,809 posts, read 9,470,378 times
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Hey double h, what's going on.
They might have improved 114 recently, because I was through there a couple times this winter and it's in good shape. I think it would make a decent drive for the poster if she wants to see some nice parts of CO.

Speaking of Blue Mesa, the second time I drove through there I looked down and saw people sitting on chairs in the middle of the lake ice-fishing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DOUBLE H View Post
80's keys-whazzup? I thought real hard about that route, but the original poster is from northern Utah, I imagine Salt Lake or Ogden. Logistically, it makes more sense to go through Naturita, Cortez, and that route I suggested on route #2.

NOW! I go through that way you suggested every now and then. There are a few dropoffs at Cerro summit, but nothing like Red Mtn. Pass. I keep fishing gear in both vehicles as I stop for a little fishing at Blue Mesa! I always enjoy Gunnison (now that it is getting warmer anyway). And once you hit state hwy. 114 east of Gunnison and go south, you can make decent time-but not the first 10 miles. The good news is that going through that way there is very little traffic. just ranchers. And that is the bad news. CDOT's workyard in Saguache is staffed, but most of their road maintenance is in the valley. It has been a couple years since I've been through there but the road has been getting pretty rough, especially on the north side of Cochetopa pass. As you state the road being well maintained, I hope you are right. Road maintenence in the winter, however, has always been first rate through there, as it is in the other mountain areas. Once you get south of the pass, you can make good time. But watch for deer as I have had more close calls there than I care to admit.

Once you get to 285 at Saguache, you're running ok then to the state line. Going through NM, the road is good with no dropoffs, just not much in roadside services.

When I go through that way, I generally stay the night at Monte Vista, it's a nice town. And when going through Antonito, I definitely suggest the Cumbres Toltec train ride, it's really cool!

Last time I went through there, an awful of road construction was there near Espanola, north of Santa Fe. 285 shows a real pretty part of NM!
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Old 04-20-2009, 02:10 PM
 
Location: Sunnyvale, CA
5,809 posts, read 9,470,378 times
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I heard some time back, that Hwy 550 is the most avalanche-prone highway in the United States.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jazzlover View Post
How many highways can claim that, when a snowslide hit a plow years back, they didn't find the plow for a couple of weeks, and didn't find the driver (dead) until the snow melted in late spring? That's the Million Dollar Highway fer ya.
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Old 04-20-2009, 02:22 PM
 
Location: Colorado
4,308 posts, read 11,800,334 times
Reputation: 4425
Quote:
Originally Posted by jazzlover View Post
They say one picture is worth a thousand words. US550 is the somewhat horizontal line in the photo. On most of this stretch there is no gaurdrail and the white line on the outside lane is painted on the very edge of the dropoff (which is as much as 800' in places). Now, imagine it if the road is snowpacked. Draw your own conclusions about being "up to it" or not.

How many highways can claim that, when a snowslide hit a plow years back, they didn't find the plow for a couple of weeks, and didn't find the driver (dead) until the snow melted in late spring? That's the Million Dollar Highway fer ya.
What time of year is that photo from? Obviously if the road is snowed under then we won't be going that way - I'm not suicidal! We'll be keeping an eye on the weather reports and checking CDOT.com and there are a couple of alternate routes to take, even if it means going all the way back to Hwy 285 and heading north that way.
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