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Driving from Durango to Ouray and/or Ouray to Durango

Pewaukee, Wisconsin
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Driving from Durango to Ouray and/or Ouray to Durango

Okay, I'm going to change my screen name to neurotic mom. It's the middle of the night and I'm a nervous wreck over driving US 550. My family has decided against the Durango Train (my safe choice) and would prefer to drive to Ouray, stopping to hike along the way. I am terrified of the drive. We will be camping in Durango (after already camping 2 nights at Mesa Verde). Would it be safer to do the loop: Durango, Silverton, Ouray, Telluride, to Durango rather than driving both ways on 550 from Durango to Ouray then back to Durango.

A huge thank you to anyone kind enough to respond!!!!

Ohio
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1. Re: Driving from Durango to Ouray and/or Ouray to Durango

it is perfectly safe either way-- we drove from Durango to Ouray up 550, then went across 62 to 145 to end up in Cortez for the night. The San Juan Skyway is beautiful. I saw the reviews that thought the drive was "scary" Had me nervous, too, since I am terrified of heights. No worries-- If I love the trip and am not nervous...ANYONE can do it, trust me! :) The road is narrow, sure-- lots of curves-- but the road is driven slowly and it just is NOT scary at all. No scary drop offs...Go up and come back the same way if you like (to and from Durango) or if you are coming from Mesa Verde, you could take our route in reverse and end up in Durango and not have to back track.

Seriously-- relax. Let me know and I can send you some photos taken from the San Juan skyway. Maybe help to ease your mind? It is absolutely beautiful.

Denver, Colorado
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2. Re: Driving from Durango to Ouray and/or Ouray to Durango

I'm going to disagree with the previous response. I've lived and driven in the Colorado mountains for the past 22 years. The road from Ouray to Silverton is the only paved road in the state that makes me nervous. So if you're losing sleep over it, it means the drive is probably beyond your comfort level. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that. So why risk ruining the fun of what could otherwise be a great vacation?

If I were you, I'd just skip Ouray altogether. It's a nice town, but not a must-see. You could go from Durango up to Silverton instead, and have more time to get out and hike around. (I assume you're talking about a one day road trip starting and stopping at Durango)

But to answer the question you asked, no it's no "safer" to do that big loop than to drive up to Ouray and back. Both ways are equally "safe" so decide based on what's going to be most enjoyable.

By the way, I hope you get a chance to visit Pagosa Springs to soak at the hot springs. Those are the best commercial hot springs in the state, in my opinion.

WestSlope,CO
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3. Re: Driving from Durango to Ouray and/or Ouray to Durango

If you have the time, I would do the loop just for the scenery from Ridgway to Dolores. Beautiful. Spectacular view of the San Juan Mountains from Dallas Divide.

The road between Durango and Ouray is just as safe in either direction, so I wouldn't choose to do the loop on that basis. That said, some people feel like the section just south of Ouray has the highest "white knuckle" factor and driving it south to north you are on the mountain side of the road rather than the dropoff side so it may feel safer.

If you were the driver and were terrified I might suggest you not do it, but since you aren't the driver and the person who's doing the driving is okay with it, I'd say go for it. I think you'll be glad you did.

Ouray, Colorado
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4. Re: Driving from Durango to Ouray and/or Ouray to Durango

How long do you have to do the drive? Is this a day trip?

If you do the entire loop, you can get out and walk around in Silverton. Drive onto Ouray. Stay the night if you can. They have a great hot springs, a couple of waterfalls and some easy hiking in town. Ouray has a USFS campground called the Amphitheater and there is an RV park with camping called the Four J. Their phone number is 970.325.4418

Next day, head to Telluride and park in Mountain Village. Take the free gondola around the mountain and down into the town of Telluride. Walk around or find some great hiking trails either on the mountain above treeline (get off gondola at the top) and visit the nature center or take one of the numerous trails in town.

Just some thoughts...

WestSlope,CO
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5. Re: Driving from Durango to Ouray and/or Ouray to Durango

ritmom2, have you watched any videos of the drive? TA DE SusieLou found this one on YouTube of a nervous passenger. Other posts said they found it helpful to see the video. www.youtube.com/watch…

Denver, Colorado
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6. Re: Driving from Durango to Ouray and/or Ouray to Durango

I couldn't stand to watch the whole thing. And I definitely wouldn't try to drive a huge RV up and down that road. But my last experience on that road was in a blizzard with 30 foot visibility and 4 to 8 inches of snow on the road. There's definitely an advantage to not being able to see very far down the sides of the canyon! :-)

Ohio
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7. Re: Driving from Durango to Ouray and/or Ouray to Durango

oh my! No wonder you hate that road. I cannot even imagine trying to manage it with no visibility and snow! No, no-- I loved the drive BUT it was sunny and 50 degrees. Not a road I'd love after dark, with snow or poor visibility for any other reason. And I also would not tackle it in an RV. Maybe I should've been more clear and point those criteria out. :)

Anthem, Arizona
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8. Re: Driving from Durango to Ouray and/or Ouray to Durango

I guess it would be a lot different if you were driving a huge RV or some other large vehicle, but in August of 2005 my hubby & I were rushing down this highway (north to south) from Montrose to Durango trying to get to Durango in time for an ATV tour (which we didn't make, btw). We were on our motorcycles, but I don't recall being scared at any point along the way even though it rained on us off and on throughout the whole ride.

I do remember wishing we had more time to stop or slow down to enjoy the scenery. This July we'll have another chance, but this time riding south to north. We're really looking forward to it! :^)

Pewaukee, Wisconsin
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9. Re: Driving from Durango to Ouray and/or Ouray to Durango

Thank you for all of your input. We tow a pop-up camper and will definitely be leaving it in Durango. My husband is much more confident about driving this road, so maybe we'll go up to Silverton, hike around, and drive back. I know thinking about it is worse than doing it, so I really appreciate the input from you experts!

Fruita, Colorado
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10. Re: Driving from Durango to Ouray and/or Ouray to Durango

Please don't worry yourself sick over this - it is a unique drive - not for everyone. We all need to know our limits. The drive from Durango to Silverton is nice enough, has some good photo opportunities, and the town of Silverton is quite historic and often an overlooked gem. And the Durango train is so great - people come from all over to ride that plus it is very safe. I hope you get some sleep and have a great trip.