Where Is The Red Mountain Pass?

Mining Ruins at Red Mountain Pass, Colorado, USA.
Mining Ruins at Red Mountain Pass, Colorado, USA.

The Red Mountain Pass is a mountain pass in the San Juan Mountains of western Colorado. The mountain pass, which has an elevation of 11,018 ft and ranks as one of the highest paved passes in Colorado, sits on a divide that separates San Juan and Ouray counties. The Red Mountain Pass is named after the Red Mountain, which is located on the northeast side of the pass. Additionally, the Red Mountain's name is derived from iron oxide laden rock that forms its slopes.

In addition to forming the boundary between San Juan County and Ouray County, the Red Mountain Pass also divides the watersheds of the Las Animas River and the Uncompahgre River, as well as the Uncompahgre and San Juan National Forests. The mountain pass is transversed by a segment of US Highway 550 that stretches from Silverton to Ouray and the Million Dollar Highway, which are part of the San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway.

Weather And Avalaches

Despite being among the most beautiful passes in the United States, the Red Mountain Pass is known to be treacherous during winter, especially due to its switchbacks and steep 8% grade on the north side facing Ouray. Frequent avalanches occur on the pass that can block the highway for extended periods of time. The lower segment of the pass towards Ouray is winding, narrow and has no shoulder. This section of the road was created by blasting near-vertical quartzite cliffs located hundreds of feet above the Uncompahgre River and the Red Mountain Creek.


The Red Mountain Mining District is located from the divide north to Ironton Park, and halfway down to Ouray. From 1882 until 189, the mining district was the site of a historic silver boom, together with the Guston, National Belle, and Yankee Girl mines. Head frames of the old workings can still be seen from the highway. The Idarado Mine, also known as the Treasury Tunnel, remained operational until the 1970s.


While the road is usually open throughout the year, it can occasionally be blocked by avalanches, and may be forced to close at any point during the year due to large rock slides or continuous falling rocks. Some sections of the road are steep and some have protections or guard rails.

The weather in the Red Mountain Pass is harsh and highly unpredictable, but its majestic scenery is unsurpassed, which has led to many people to refer to it as the American Alps. One of the most treacherous mountain roads in the United States, known as Black Bear Road, begins from Red Mountain Pass and terminates in Telluride, Colorado.


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