We will start by addressing the drive through the high mountain passes of CO. It is a topic that people have asked about, and is discussed on many forums, with regards to towing up and down. The truck handled these without any issue. We were able to climb at a good pace, and felt safe heading down as well. We had ideal road conditions, and drove at a pace that we were comfortable with. The three most challenging drives that we did were: Durango to Silverton (Molas Pass @ 10,910′), Silverton to Ouray (Red Mountain Pass @ 11,018′) and Montrose to Salida (Monarch Pass @ 11,312′).
However, these drives will test those who are afraid of heights. There are sharp turns with steep drop-offs, and no guard rails in places. My opinion is that they are listed in order from scariest to easiest. Some say Monarch Pass is the scariest, but I was pretty much fine the entire drive. The truck didn’t sound like it was working too hard and we made it to 11,300 ft. in no time (Continental Divide gondola ride is at the top). On the other hand, the drive from Durango to Silverton had me almost hyperventilating. Kevin loved the drive and said it was absolutely beautiful. I trust his word. Silverton to Ouray was a bit scary, but going north you are along the inside wall for most of the drive which alleviates some anxiety. For those of you who are not scared of heights, you are in for some beautiful drives.
Our stop in Silverton came earlier than expected, and lasted longer than we thought is would. We chose Silverton because we thought that it would be easy to get to Telluride, Ouray, and Montrose all within a short drive. We read that Silverton’s boondocking spots can get crowded in the summer, but in May, there were very few people braving the cold of the high country. When we arrived at Anvil Campground, we fell in love with the spot at the very end. With some technical maneuvers, Kevin was able to back in. This became home for 8 nights.
From Silverton, go north on 550 for about a mile, and then take a left onto 585. There are four campsites that are free; Kendall, Anvil, Sultan, and Golden. Kendall and Golden are huge and it doesn’t really have individual spots. Sultan is small, and looks like one big group site along the creek. We chose Anvil after passing it up initially. Our goal had been Sultan, just across the creek, but it was occupied. Kevin scouted Anvil to make sure that there is room to turn around. This area has individual spots, with 1 good turn around spot. The spots are smaller for the most part, and are good for vans or tents. There is room for about 4 larger rigs. Most have fire pits made of rocks by other campers. Our spot at the very end was secluded, private, and had awesome views of the creek and mountains. Kevin was a champ and backed in the fifth wheel almost the entire road. You could not turn around in our spot.
There are a couple campgrounds for full hookups in Silverton, but they are really expensive! $40+ a night. Silverton is a small town, with one gas station, and only one place to buy propane. There is a brewery, liquor store and small market. We learned that in CO you can only buy 3.2 beer in grocery stores. No liquor.
We had 4G LTE with 3 bars of service at our spot, so no need to go to town for wifi.
On May 26, 2016 we happily sat through a thick snow storm. It was beautiful to say the least.
After a couple of days of hanging out around the coach, we decided to head into town to check out the brewery. Upon exiting our camp area, we noticed a few cars parked along the road. We had heard that someone had spotted moose a week ago, but we had given up hope that we would see them. Turns out we were luckier than we thought. Along the side of the road was a family of three. It was the first time I had ever seen moose in the wild. I couldn’t help but sit there and stare.
I was standing there taking pictures next to another couple. Being a bit nosy, I looked over to see their pictures on their phone, and saw a MN license in her phone case. So, out of character, I said hello. Thirty minutes later we were having beers with them in town and had plans to hike the next day.
The areas we visited:
Silverton has one main street. Main Street.
We suggest stopping at the visitor center first, which is on your right as you come in from Durango. The highway turns off into main street, with the train station just up the road. Restaurants, shops and tours line the streets.
The big hike in Silverton is Ice Lake Trail. Here is our post: Ice Lake Trail
We wanted to do the Arrastra Gulch to Silver Lake Trail, but didn’t get the chance. It is supposed to be a well preserved abandoned mine. People have actually not looted the area so you will find, machinery, clothes and kitchenware. So if anyone gets to it please let me know if you liked it.
We were lucky enough to be there the weekend of the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic. It’s a 50-mile bike race from Durango to Silverton. I can’t imagine racing on the road that caused me so much anxiety driving on over Molas Pass. The race ends in Silverton which is at 9,300. We love going to races, and get emotional watching people finish. It reminds me of the moment I finished my first marathon and every race after that. Every minute, every second of training pays off. It is one of the best feelings in the world.
We used this as a not so centralized place to get to Telluride. From Silverton you can take Ophir pass, if you have 4×4 and no fear of heights and drop off cliffs. It was closed when we were there so we took the long way around and it still only took us about an hour and 40 minutes. You go over Red Mountain Pass, which is the Million Dollar Highway. It’s a beautiful drive.
Once we got to Telluride we researched Bear Creek Falls and Bridal Veil Falls Trail. At the top of Bridal Veil Falls is a hydroelectric power plant that was built in 1907. In the 1990s ice climbers were able to climb the falls and it was considered “the most difficult waterfall ice climb in North America.” You go all the way through town and you keep going pass the mill on the left and you will see a parking lot. You can keep driving if you have a 4×4 vehicle, but we stopped to make the walk a little longer. It’s a 5 mile round trip to Bridal Veil Falls. There is a cave at the bottom of the falls and you can actually hike some switchbacks to the top during the summer or very experienced hikers in the winter.
After the hike we got lunch at Brown Dog Pizza in downtown Telluride. I can see the appeal to this town, even given its isolation. There are a lot of boutiques, coffee shops, galleries and restaurants. The gondolas were not going, which we were bummed because you can take a free gondola ride with your dogs up to Mountain Village. You can also drive there, the turn off is just before you get into town and is a 2-mile drive. We saw elk as we were leaving:
It was a short trip to Telluride, but I am glad that we were able to go. It was beautiful and had a carefree feeling to it. There were tons of hiking trails, rivers, and bike paths to go on. Within a couple miles of Telluride there were lakes and back country spots. Even in May, there were still people back country skiing.
We did all of our errands in Montrose. UPS Center to pick up our solar connectors, propane, laundry, Walmart, Petco, Liquor store, Wendy’s for a chocolate frostie (necessity), and the post office. Imagine driving an hour and a half to do a list of errands all in one place. Life is much different for us now.
We had driven through Ouray twice and decided, eh, that’s good enough. We didn’t have any plans on stopping or going for a special day trip until we met Adam and Kristen while viewing the moose. They invited us to a hike that they were planning on doing, and again, why not? We had no plans, and nowhere else that we needed to be.
See the separate post for the hike and brewery we stopped at: Hike and a Pint
We loved the area and will hopefully be back soon!