Today we went to visit the town of Telluride. Now most people would take the easy highway route there and back. For us it was more about the journey than the destination. We have seen lots of ski towns so going to Telluride was really just an excuse to try some more 4wd mountain pass roads.
We drove down the Million Dollar Highway to head up the road to Ophir Pass. Coming back down we intersected Highway 145 to take us into Telluride. On the way back we took the Last Dollar Road up over another pass.
The 4wd drive roads brochure rates the roads on a scale of 1 to 5. Ophir Pass and Yankee Boy Basin, from the other day, are rated a 2 or moderate. The last Dollar Road is a 1 or easy. This doesn’t mean easy for any vehicle, it means easy if you have a high clearance 4wd car or truck.
Yesterday when I was renting the Jeep, the owner’s first suggestion was that I take this route in the Jeep. When I told her I already planned to do it in the CRV she gave me that look but said OK and gave me something a bit more difficult for tomorrow.
The weather today called for partly cloudy and a high risk of thunderstorms in the afternoon. We got away fairly early because I really didn’t want to be on Ophir pass in the rain. As you will see from the pictures, in the afternoon, it seemed to be raining all around us. We occasionally felt a few drops but that was all.
Heading south on the Million Dollar Highway again.
We love the look of the red mountains.
This guy is ready for anything. He has such big shocks that the cab even leaned over in the corners.
The lower part of the road to Ophir pass is steep but not too rough.
Again being the lightweight vehicle on the road I just put it into first gear and crawled up, letting the big guys by me whenever they caught up. Mostly Jeeps and motorcycles.
Quite a few shallow creeks to cross.
This gives you an idea of the road texture.
It is mostly single lane. We stopped at a few of the pullout to check out the view.
You can just barely see the T entrance to the road from the highway looking back far down in the valley
Getting up above 11,000 feet.
The top is in sight.
The reason that this road is called moderate is that for about 1 mile after the pass the road is even steeper, on a narrow ledge and covered in very sharp shale rock. Here we are parked at the top at 11,780 feet next to a huge pile of shale that had broken off the mountain.
This section was my biggest worry. I knew the CRV could handle the grade and the dips in the road but I was really worried about shredding the tires. In the end we and the tires survived but boy did I take it slow.
Still a lot of snow up here. They had to plow the road out to open it.
Just down from the top is an even more interesting snow bank.
Down we go.
A lot rougher.
You go down the wall above and then do a hairpin turn.
An amazing view of where you will be going.
The whole view.
Down we go. The top section here was the worst. It was really narrow and there were some deep dips. I worried about a blowout. How would I change a tire here?
To make it worse it is single lane almost all the way down to the far off trees. I could see someone down there waiting for me to finish so that he could come up. No pressure!
A huge sigh of relief once that was over but the view made it worth it.
Looking down on the village of Ophir.
After going through all that, just as we got close to Ophir, I scraped the protection bar that is across the front of the CRV in the dirt as we crossed this stream. It looked so innocuous but this edge had quite a drop.
They had some impressive speed bumps in town. I saw a local go over one in his truck and he had a few tires leave the ground. I was actually a bit worried about hanging up on them.
From here it is just a short bit of good road to the highway and then to Telluride.
It turned out that this weekend there is a huge bluegrass music festival in town.
Now Telluride is divided into two sections. The town is down in the valley floor and the village is the ski resort that is part way up one of the mountains. They are joined by a free gondola.
When we tried to get into town they said you could only park for 2 hours and that it would be hard to find a spot. They suggested parking in the village and taking the gondola down. Since riding the gondola was about the only thing we really wanted to do we headed up to the village. Parking there was pretty packed as well but we found a spot, with no time limit.
You first take one gondola that goes from the parking area across the village and then a second one that goes down to town.
It was hard to get a good picture through the messy plastic windows.
Leaving the village. You go up over the mountain before heading back down.
Lots of people camping for the festival.
We wandered around town for a while but bluegrass is not to our taste and all the stores are very expensive. Typical outdoor sports town. Mountain biking is big this time of year.
This was tempting.
Then we headed back to the car.
Just outside the top station Jennie found a garden.
Heading up Last Dollar Road. There is some serious money up in them thar hills.
The close up. Wow!
We passed a whole herd of mountain bikers slogging it up the road.
Rounding a corner to another kind of herd.
As we got closer a bunch started running across the road.
I just kept going slowly and they moved out of the way. We couldn’t figure out what there was to eat on the road. Maybe some salt in whatever they coated the road with.
After the multi million dollar homes ended the road got narrower, much rougher and worse, much less scenic.
There were some nice flower lined meadows.
There was a warning sign that if it got wet the road would be very slippery. I could easily see this section turning into a mess.
We stopped at one viewpoint.
As we were slowly moving along this popped out of the bushes and just walked up the road beside us.
Huge fields of lupines.
As we got closer to the highway back to Ridgway we could see some angry clouds in the distance.
Descending down into Ridgeway I saw a few bolts of lightning that seemed to hit in the mountains over Ouray. We never even got any rain back at the campground.