I remember hearing somewhere that the road from Ouray to Telluride is very narrow and a bit hairy to navigate. Is this true?
If you are taking the main route. RT 550 - CO 62 - CO 145 , This is all paved and really no problem. However.... there is a more direct route over Imogene Pass (13,000'+ ft) that will definitely get you puckered. This a high clearance 4WD rd over amazing scenery. It is only available to do a few months in the summer. Maybe a wee bit into fall. This one is a bit hairy to navigate. Truly!!
Take the main route!
The main route from Ouray to Telluride is to go 550 north to Ridgway, then 62 west, then 145 to Telluride, as powderglut says. It is a very good paved 2 lane highway through rolling ranch land with awesome views of the San Juan mountains, then through a spectacular canyon of vermillion colored rocks to Telluride. The road through the canyon used to be just slightly "hairy" in spots, (but nothing like the section of Hwy 550 just south of Ouray) but in recent years they've done lots of improvements there to widen the road, add a climbing lane and pullouts, and add guard rails. So, no, there's no problem doing this drive. (Road work continues at the intersection of 62 and 145, but they do a good job of keeping traffic moving)
Relying on some mapping programs or GPS software is not recommended in parts of Colorado, as you may end up on some REALLY hairy drives not suitable for passenger cars. Even Priceline includes some hotels in Ouray when you do a Telluride search, stating that the distance is 20 miles or so, rather than the correct 50 or 60 miles by paved road.
The section just south of Ouray where the highway is built on a shelf along the Uncompahgre River Gorge is the part that people generally think of as "white knuckle" because of the steep dropoffs without guard rails and very narrow shoulders. It is still a paved, standard width two lane state highway, but it seems narrow because of the cliff walls above and below, plus the narrow shoulder. The good news is that that section is fairly flat. The section of road over Red Mountain Pass climbs up the pass with a series of tight hairpin turns. In good weather, and following posted speed limits, (and need I say free of alcohol, drugs, or sleep deprivation?) neither section is particularly dangerous unless you have trouble keeping your vehicle "between the lines." All along the highway between Ouray and Durango, you'll find similar sections of highway, with two more high passes to traverse. Keep in mind that you need to keep a watchful eye for deer and elk, as well as rocks in the roadway along steep slopes. In bad weather (heavy rain, snow, sleet, or icy conditions--or when avalanches are likely) the dangers magnify because there is so little margin for error...no gentle slopes if you slide off the highway.Edited: 01 November 2012, 18:58
Thanks for the detailed info!
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