Corkscrew Gulch & Hurricane Pass
The San Juan Mountains, Colorado
After inhaling some breakfast burritos, we set out to drive the Million Dollar Highway (Route 550) that connects Ouray and Durango. The highway was originally built in 1883 as a simple toll way between Ouray and the now abandoned town of Ironton before eventually being extended to Silverton and Durango. It’s a narrow 2-lane highway winding through the Uncompaghre Gorge and climbing up Red Mountain Pass at 11,018′. As for the “Million Dollar Highway” name, there’s various theories behind the origin – Maybe the road cost a million dollars a mile to build, the land could have been purchased for a million dollars, or the fill dirt used to build the highway might contain one million dollars in gold ore. Whatever the story is, the scenery is really spectacular.
Earlier that morning while getting coffee at jeep rental shop, I asked them that if they were to run one offroad trail in a brand new stock Trail Rated Grand Cherokee, what would it be? They ended up giving us five different options right off the highway that could essentially be run in a loop.
We began the climb right out of the Ironton Site along 550 and headed East into Corkscrew Gulch, quickly realizing we were in for a hell of a day – after about 5 minutes of driving through the woods, we broke into a clearing and were staring up at some gnarly, narrow, and very tight switchbacks. The road wasn’t rough or technical, but it was incredibly intimidating with the drops.
We luckily ended up leap-frogging the whole trail with 3 other jeeps who happened to be locals from Ouray – it was a nice sense of relative security not only having other people out there, but one of them driving a basic, stock Wrangler with the same junk tires as I had.
An incredible start to the day…