U.S. route 550 from Silverton to Ouray is a two lane road frequently called the Million Dollar Highway. Though the entire stretch, 23 miles, has been called the Million Dollar Highway, it is really the twelve miles south of Ouray through the Uncompahgre Gorge to the summit of Red Mountain Pass which gains the highway its name. This stretch through the gorge is challenging and potentially hazardous to drive; it is characterized by steep cliffs, narrow lanes, and a lack of guardrails and shoulders; the ascent of Red Mountain Pass (11,018 ft) is marked with a number of hairpin “S” curves used to gain elevation, and again, narrow lanes for traffic—many cut directly into the sides of mountains. Travel north from Silverton to Ouray allows drivers to hug the inside of curves. The “S” curves have to be navigated very carefully as any vehicle larger than a car cannot stay in their lane and complete the turn. Very scenic and very challenging. One guy who drove the highway told me not to worry because if you were to run off the side that you would starve to death before you hit bottom.
There are several legends, though, including that it cost a million dollars a mile to build in the 1920s, and that its fill dirt contains a million dollars in gold ore.
The 23 mile drive took us almost an hour. It was quite challenging and very scenic.