Million Dollar Highway is a 25-mile stretch of U. S. Route 550 that runs through the San Juan Mountains, south from Ouray, Colorado to Silverton, Colorado. It's also part of the 236-mile San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway. Million Dollar Highway is considered one of the ten best scenic highways in the United States.
Construction of the Million Dollar Highway began in 1880. It was designed to connect gold and silver mines around Red Mountain to nearby towns. The highway changed hands a couple of times, and in 1924, the Colorado Department of Highways took over.
Traveling from Ouray to Silverton is considered a more, er, uncomfortable route than the drive from Silverton to Ouray. Starting in Ouray puts you in the outside lane for most of the ride, very close to mountains' steep drop offs. The section from Ouray to the Red Mountain Pass summit is a steep climb. Then, the road descends as you head to Silverton. In general, the most challenging part of the drive is from Uncompahgre Gorge to the Red Mountain Pass summit. This section has narrow lanes, hairpin curves, steep cliffs, and no guardrails.
The speed limit is typically between 25 mph and 10 mph (around some turns). Driving time, with no stops, is around 45 minutes. Note that there are no pit stops along Million Dollar Highway: no gas stations, no restrooms, no services. There are, however, fantastic views. Along this stretch of highway, you'll travel over Uncompahgre Gorge and across Red Mountain Pass. And you'll pass by historic sites, such as abandoned mines and ghost towns.