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Denver to Telluride

Denver, Colorado
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Denver to Telluride

I am planning for driving to Telluride for this long weekend in July... wondering which route is safer as this the first time I am planning to drive in Rockies. Three options are given from google map. 1st. I70 and US 50 2nd. US 285 and US50 3rd. US50

Any suggestion will be helpful. Thanks.

Park City, Utah
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1. Re: Denver to Telluride

Any of them should be fine, especially in the summertime. Each of them involves a mountain pass, but they're not difficult. If you come in from the north you'll go over a pass near Silverton or from the east after Pagosa Springs. While it's longer by probably an hour, maybe the I-70 route would give you a higher comfort level although you still need to go over Red Mountain Pass. It's quite a spectacular highway.

WestSlope,CO
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2. Re: Denver to Telluride

You don't need to go over Red Mountain Pass (550) to get to Telluride coming from either the north (Ridgway) or the south (Durango). That would really be the long way around coming from the north and it would definitely be the most "white knuckle" route. It is a paved standard width highway but there are quite a few stretches with little or no shoulder, steep dropoffs and no guardrails. But Telluride is on the other "leg" of the San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway, Highway 62 from Ridgway and 145 to Telluride; or 160>145 should you choose to go through Durango.

To get to Montrose/Ridgway, you have several choices. Do you prefer to drive on 4 lane highways most of the way or are you okay with 2 lane? Interstate 70 (Vail Pass) and Hwy 50 south to Montrose will give you 4 lane all the way to Montrose. Hwy 285 and 50 west to Montrose is a good two lane highway with several passing lanes, wide shoulders for the most part, many guardrails, and nothing really scary. That route takes you over Monarch Pass. The I70 route is a little longer in miles but takes about the same amount of time because it is 4 lane most of the way, with higher speed limits.

I like to go south at Glenwood Springs to Carbondale and Redstone, then over McClure Pass and on to Hotchkiss and Delta to Montrose, etc. (I don't like scary mountain drives, and I'm okay with McClure)

The slightly longer "southern" route would take you to Durango via Wolf Creek Pass and Pagosa Springs. From Durango you could choose to go to Silverton and Ouray to get to Ridgway, but I wouldn't recommend it for a beginning mountain driver. Better to go to Mancos, Dolores, Rico to get to Telluride from that direction.

You may want to take one route to Telluride and another route home.

Montrose, Colorado
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3. Re: Denver to Telluride

I'm not sure I follow TumbleweedandCactus's reply. You don't go over Red Mountain pass either or the two most common routes, nor do you go through Silverton.

You two main choices are to drive west on 1-70 to Grand Junction (or cut off in Clifton right before you get to GJ) and head south on US50 through Montrose, then south on US550, turn Right at Ridgway and then continue on to Telluride by turning left on 145.

Or, you can leave the Denver area and head southwest on Hwy 285. This highway goes through Salida, where you take a right on US50. Then through Gunnison and down to Montrose where you take a left and then, as above, through Ridgway .. .

The advantage of the i-70 route is that it is a major interstate hwy and there are lots of places to stop (Starbucks, outlet stores, Costco, Sams, etc) along the way. There will be lots of other vehicles on the road. The drive past Vail, and through Glenwood Canyon is pretty.

The advantage of 285 route is that there is almost nothing except highway. It's mostly 2 or 4 lanes. There aren't as many cars and if you get behind someone slow, you have to negotiate passing them. It's very pretty. You do go over Monarch pass before you get to Gunnison. It's curvy and can be slow. If I don't have to stop for anything (at Costco) I prefer this route.

They really will take about the same amount of time, it's just personal preference.

All other routes (going south before you head west) aren't good choices for a long weekend. They would be better if you were trying to sightsee in SW Colorado before heading towards Telluride. If that were the case, and you were visiting Mesa Verde, for example, then you would approach Telluride heading north and could go over Red Mountain pass through Silverton. Maybe that's what TumbleweedandCactus was thinking of.

Montrose, Colorado
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4. Re: Denver to Telluride

I took so long to compose my answer, I see missWestSlope answered in the meantime. I love that she added the option of cutting over at McClure pass. We are actually doing part of that drive today for our weekend adventure and I confess that I haven't ever driven it.

Telluride...
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5. Re: Denver to Telluride

"Driving through the rockies" is no more dangerous than driving anywhere else. Just because you can see mountains while you are driving does NOT make it inherently unsafe.

Pass it on....

Edited: 10:45 am, June 24, 2011
WestSlope,CO
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6. Re: Denver to Telluride

Very true, Ttown! Personally, I'd much rather drive between Denver and Telluride than between Denver and Fort Collins or pretty much anywhere in Denver! The rules of the road are much the same as they are anywhere else! Stay between the lines, watch the speed limit, don't pass in a no passing zone, pull off when safe to do so if you are going slower and have a line of cars behind you, don't stop in the middle of the road to take a picture....(yes, that has happened in front of me several times)

But I understand being a little apprehensive when driving on unfamiliar roads, and knowing that some roads may be twistier and windier and steeper or without guard rails with steep drop offs, and knowing that mapping sites sometimes route people over extreme 4 wheel drive trails, and that we have a state highway that is an unpaved dirt road...well, let's just say I don't mind answering questions about roads and routes. Heck, I saw a site just the other day that said an RV park in Ouray was five miles from Telluride. :-0

Denver, Colorado
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7. Re: Denver to Telluride

thank you so much for your reply guys...one another thing..We want to spend 3 days in telluride n also want to go to silverton, ouray,durango. Is there any way to go to silverton without driving by ourselves? we dont want to drive on million dollar highway...means any bus service?

how is road condition from telluride to ouray and telluride to durango?

Edited: 4:22 pm, June 24, 2011
8. Re: Denver to Telluride

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WestSlope,CO
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9. Re: Denver to Telluride

You can ride the train from Durango to Silverton! I believe there's daily bus service with Greyhound/TNMO and there could be a shuttle but I'm not sure about that. There are a number of jeep tour companies.

From Ouray, there are a number of jeep tour companies, as well.

The highways I described in post 2 above as being the "other leg of the San Juan Skyway" between Durango and Mancos/Cortez/Dolores/ Rico/ Telluride/Ridgway/Ouray are good paved standard width highways with decent shoulders. On the few places where there are some dropoffs, there are either good shoulders or guardrails. I don't think you'll have a problem driving that route. I get anxious when driving the section of highway just south of Ouray, but Ridgway to Telluride to Durango is not a problem for me so I don't hesitate to tell you that you'll be okay. You do need to obey posted speed limits and slow down even more if it is raining or near dusk due to the greater possibility of animals on the road. Pull off when it is safe to do so if you find you have cars lining up behind you. Do keep an eye out for rocks on the road in sections where you're driving along a mountainside, esp. if it has been raining, but by and large you are in rolling hills and farm and ranch country. In the more mountainous sections, the road is just not as intimidating, IMO, as the stretch just south of Ouray and a couple of other sections between Durango and Ouray.

WestSlope,CO
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10. Re: Denver to Telluride

I like Ttown's suggestion of the Ophir Pass jeep tour from Telluride to Silverton and back.