For a day trip from Durango, drive north on HWY 550 ending in Silverton, CO or continue on an additional 24 miles to Ouray. The  12 mile stretch of highway between Red Mountain Pass and Ouray is  known as the Million Dollar Highway but the name commonly applies to the entire section of road between Durango and Ouray.  It is a section of the San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway.  Nobody knows for sure if the Million Dollar Highway gets the name from the original cost to build it back around the turn of the century, the million dollars in gold and silver likely found in the highway fill dirt, or the absolutely astounding million dollar Colorado mountain scenery.

The road traverses three mountain passes: Coal Bank, Molas, and Red Mountain, winding through spectacular alpine vistas rich in mining history. In good weather, allow about three hours driving time for the round trip to Silverton; add another 2-3 hours to extend the trip to Ouray.   The road is a well maintained paved highway and does not require an SUV or 4 wheel drive vehicle, but it can be challenging to drive.  In particular, the spectacular section from Red Mountain Pass to Ouray through the Uncompahgre Gorge is characterized by hairpin turns, steep cliffs and dropoffs lacking guard rails, with little or no road shoulder in places. 

  The trip is especially delightful in the Fall when the aspens are turning, after the first snow or a heavy powder dump, and pretty much anytime mid to late summer.  There are many attractions in Silverton and Ouray as well so see tripadvisor Silverton and Ouray for more info...Enjoy!