The Alpine Loop Scenic Byway is a 4-wheel drive adventure route through historic mining country of the San Juan mountains. One of Colorado’s Scenic and Historic Byways, the Alpine Loop leaves pavement and people behind! Rough terrain and two 12,000-ft passes – Cinnamon and Engineer – require a high-clearance 4-wheel drive vehicle, but mining history, ghost towns, majestic alpine views with ample jeeping, hiking & camping opportunities make it well-worth the challenge. If you don’t have a 4WD vehicle, you can rent a jeep in Ouray ( “Switzerland of America” ) from a local provider by the day or by the week. They provide you with maps and information to make your tour a great one!
The Alpine Loop Scenic Byway is a 65 mile loop that meanders through BLM and USFS lands. Most of these roads are historic mining roads that have been enhanced to accommodate ATVs, dirt bikes and 4WD vehicles and connecting the towns of Silverton, Lake City and Ouray. Distances are short between the towns but plan to drive very slowly so an adventure on the Alpine Loop takes at least one full day. Many areas are only one car width wide. Cork Screw Gulch, south of Ouray on US Highway 550 by the ghost town of Ironton, is a great place to gain access to the Alpine Loop Scenic Byway. We sell maps and books to make your journey safer but you will be higher in altitude so plan on temperatures at least 20 degrees cooler than when in town and take plenty of water as well as sunscreen.
For those with only 2-wheeldrive, travel south on Highway 550 – the Million Dollar Highway – to Silverton and take the road up to Animas Forks ghost town. The road is pretty rough so plan to go very slowly. You won’t be sorry!
For more information on scenic drives around Ouray, Ridgway and nearby Southwest Colorado review our blog posts: