Any Colorado native knows the Million Dollar Highway is one of the most breathtaking, yet dangerous roads in the state. Red Mountain Pass is one of the most well known (and also most dangerous) sections of this highway here in Colorado. Despite its dangers, however, it is not only beautiful, but also a stretch of road with quite a bit more history than you may think!
About the Pass
Located right here in the San Juan Mountain Range, Red Mountain Pass reaches an elevation of 11,018 feet. This means it is one of the highest highway elevations in Colorado.
Throughout your entire drive, you will be surrounded by pines or aspens and towering mountains that many call the American Alps. You’ll pass by Red Mountain, a landmark known for the iron oxide rock that forms along the slopes of the mountain. The view is particularly beautiful in the fall, but make sure you’re watching the weather!
Rock slides are incredibly common along this part of the highway. Because of this, the pass closes from time to time so officials are able to take care of the rock damage. The pass will also sometimes close due to heavy amounts of uncleared snow.
The weather overall is unpredictable for the most part as well. Although it’s highly unlikely in the summer, any other time of the year can go from sunny skies to heavy snowfall in a matter of minutes.
When driving, there are very few guardrails along the road. Because there are some portions of the pass that bring you near steep hills or cliffs, it is important to practice extreme care while driving. Luckily, you will not have to drive through many switchbacks as you go over the pass until you reach the upper portions.
History of the Pass
Red Mountain Pass was constructed with the rest of the Million Dollar Highway, which was built in 1883 by a man named Otto Mears. The area around the pass, however, is what holds the most history.
The nearby area is home to the Red Mountain Mining District, which contains several mines that are now mostly available as hiking locations. The mines throughout this district offer exciting history about the silver boom that started in 1882 and took place for a little over a decade.