Red Mountain Pass: Year-Round Activities and Scenic Views


Red Mountain Pass, situated at an elevation of 11,018 feet (3,358 m), is a stunning mountain pass in the San Juan Mountains of western Colorado. This breathtaking area attracts visitors from all over the United States and the world with its unique blend of scenic beauty, rich history, and outdoor activities.


  • Red Mountain Pass is renowned for its scenic drives, particularly along the Million Dollar Highway, offering unparalleled views of the San Juan Mountains.
  • The area is steeped in mining history, with numerous abandoned mines and ghost towns that provide a glimpse into Colorado's vibrant past.
  • Outdoor activities abound, from hiking and mountain biking in the summer to skiing and snowshoeing in the winter, making it a year-round destination for adventure enthusiasts.

Iconic Routes and Scenic Drives

The Million Dollar Highway

The Million Dollar Highway, a segment of U.S. Highway 550, is a 25-mile stretch that traverses Red Mountain Pass. This road is known for its steep cliffs, sharp turns, and lack of guardrails, offering an adrenaline-pumping experience for adventurous drivers. The journey rewards travelers with breathtaking views of the San Juan Mountains.

The San Juan Skyway

The San Juan Skyway is a 233-mile scenic byway loop that takes you through some of Colorado’s most picturesque towns and landscapes, including a segment through Red Mountain Pass. This route showcases the stunning beauty of the San Juan Mountains and the rich history of the region.

Historical Significance and Exploration

Mining Heritage

Red Mountain Pass and the surrounding area have a rich mining history dating back to the late 19th century. The Red Mountain Mining District, located north of the pass, experienced a silver boom from 1882 to 1893. Visitors can explore abandoned mines and ghost towns like Ironton and Red Mountain Town, which offer a glimpse into Colorado’s mining past.

Outdoor Adventures and Activities

Summer Activities

Red Mountain Pass offers a variety of summer activities for outdoor enthusiasts. Hikers can explore diverse trails, such as the Red Mountain #3 trail, which leads to the summit of Red Mountain #3 at 12,905 feet. The area also provides opportunities for mountain biking, fishing in mountain streams, and wildlife watching.

Winter Wonderland

In the winter, Red Mountain Pass transforms into a snowy paradise for winter sports enthusiasts. Backcountry skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing are popular activities in the area. The challenging terrain and stunning alpine scenery make it an ideal destination for adventurous winter explorers.

Safety and Conservation

Navigating the Pass Safely

When traversing the challenging roads and trails of Red Mountain Pass, it is crucial to prioritize safety and preparation. The Million Dollar Highway can be treacherous, especially during winter, due to its steep grade, sharp turns, and potential for avalanches. Always check weather conditions, ensure your vehicle is properly equipped, and drive cautiously.

Conservation Efforts

Preserving the natural beauty and historical significance of Red Mountain Pass is a priority for local communities and visitors alike. Practice responsible tourism by following Leave No Trace principles, respecting wildlife, and supporting local conservation initiatives.


What is the best time of year to visit Red Mountain Pass?

The best time to visit Red Mountain Pass depends on your preferred activities. Summer (July-September) is ideal for hiking, mountain biking, and scenic drives, while winter (December-March) is perfect for skiing, snowboarding, and other winter sports.

Are there any accommodations available near Red Mountain Pass?

Yes, there are several accommodation options near Red Mountain Pass. The nearby towns of Ouray and Silverton offer a variety of lodging, including hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, and vacation rentals.

What are the top safety tips for driving on the Million Dollar Highway?

When driving on the Million Dollar Highway, it is essential to take precautions. Drive slowly, be prepared for steep grades and sharp turns, and always check the weather and road conditions before embarking on your journey. It is also recommended to have a vehicle with good tires and brakes.

Can beginners participate in the outdoor activities offered around Red Mountain Pass?

While some outdoor activities around Red Mountain Pass may be more challenging, there are options suitable for beginners. Easier hiking trails, scenic drives, and guided tours are available for those new to outdoor adventures. It is always important to choose activities that match your skill level and experience.

How can visitors contribute to the conservation of Red Mountain Pass?

Visitors can contribute to the conservation of Red Mountain Pass by practicing responsible tourism. This includes following Leave No Trace principles, respecting wildlife and their habitats, staying on designated trails, and properly disposing of waste. Supporting local conservation organizations and initiatives is another way to help preserve this beautiful area.


About the author

James Ranson

I’m an editor, traveler, and fan of the great outdoors. I’ve been to all 48 continental US states, and my drives through Colorado’s rugged peaks and snowy forests (not to mention whiskey tastings in Denver!) still stand out in my memories. I’m excited to use my ten years of editing experience to develop engaging and informative guides and articles that enhance the outdoor experiences of both Colorado residents and visitors. Whether a piece is about exploring the best ski resorts, uncovering scenic trails for hiking, or finding the most inspiring drives through the Colorado Rockies, my aim is to provide comprehensive and accessible content that encourages adventure and exploration.