Another Trip Over the Last Dollar Road to Telluride

Ridgway, CO

Two weeks ago we left Ridgway State Park after a four day stay.  During our time there we drove a one lane dirt road up over the mountains from Telluride back to the highway leading to Ridgway.  Now that the leaves are changing colors, especially at high elevations, we decided to return to Ridgway and do that drive again.  While it is only 20 miles from where we were staying in Montrose back to Ridgway, and we were already planning to go right by the state park when we moved the motorhome over the mountains to Cortez, CO,  we decided to stop at the state park for a quick two night stay and a return drive over the Last Dollar Road.

View of the San Juan Mountains from near Ridgway, CO

The next day we headed south on US 550 to Ridgway, where we turned west on CO 62.  From Ridgway we drove 12 miles on CO 62 and turned south on the Last Dollar Road.  The dirt road is well maintained for 2.5 miles as it rolls through beautiful ranch country.  The bright colors of the Aspens brightened up the scenery.

About a mile south of  the highway we pulled over next to a driveway to wash the bugs off the windshield.  As we looked at the nearby house being renovated we noticed a sign on the fence.

How cool!  A John Wayne movie filmed right here.

The movie site from further down the road

We continued along the road while enjoying the beautiful vistas surrounding us.

Soon the Last Dollar Road makes a left turn and is no longer maintained.  While the road is a bit rough we didn’t need four wheel drive, but a bit of high clearance is needed.

We crossed over the highest point on the road (around 10,000′) and headed down toward Telluride, again taking in the beautiful views.

After about 20 miles, the Last Dollar Road goes by the Telluride airport and meets the main road into the town.

Looking west into Telluride

Downtown Telluride

We drove straight through the town to the end of of what is a box canyon.  At that point the road becomes dirt and makes its way steeply up the face of the canyon in a series of sharp switchbacks.  You can see the road zigzagging up the canyon in the green on the left of the photo below.

Our goal was to drive up the road to where you have to turn around (it becomes one way) near an old power plant building next to Bridle Veil Falls.

The white dot center left is the power plant

Getting closer, Bridle Veil Falls gives off a cool cloud of mist

Looking up at the power plant and the falls

Made it to the top!

Looking back toward Telluride

The road up to the power plant definitely requires four wheel drive and high clearance.  The road is steep and the switchback turns are very sharp.  Those with a fear of heights should not attempt this drive.  If you don’t have the proper vehicle or don’t like heights you can park below and hike up the road 1.8 miles, something many people did.

We drove back through Telluride and turned south onto CO 145 at the traffic circle.  From there it was two miles steeply uphill to a left turn leading into the community of Mountain Village.  There you can park for free in a parking garage and take two gondolas up over the mountain and back down into Telluride.  We did this ride two weeks ago, but that was before the leaves changed colors.

The first gondola takes you on a fairly level ride from the parking garage into the main area of Mountain Village.

The second gondola takes you up to the top of the San Sophia Overlook (10,540 ft.) then down steeply into Telluride

Looking down into Telluride

Moving through the San Sophia Station at the peak of the mountain

Heading back down to Mountain Village

The Telluride airport in the distance

The next morning we left Ridgway State Park and headed south.  Our route would follow the same one we took back from Telluride yesterday, but we would continue past Mountain Village on CO 145 to Cortez, CO about 115 miles from Ridgway.  Since the route would take us up and over Lizard Head Pass (10,222′) we decided to lighten the load on the motorhome and have Pam drive the Jeep following John in the motorhome.

The light traffic and slow speeds allowed both of us (the Jeep driver more than the motorhome driver) to enjoy the spectacular beauty all around us.

Trout Lake

 

We arrived at our destination, West View RV in Cortez, and set up for a two night stay.  We’re here for a one day visit to Mesa Verdi National Park.

More on that later . . .

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10 Responses to Another Trip Over the Last Dollar Road to Telluride

  1. phyllis says:

    Fabulous pictures…..thank you!

  2. Joe Taylor says:

    Oh wow! What a difference a couple of weeks makes! The colors are gorgeous! That is so cool about the ranch and John Wayne’s movie “True Grit”. And even more cool the owner has decided to renovate…what a beautiful property! As many times as we have been to Telluride, we have never ridden the gondola…next time! Gay

  3. The scenery is beautiful and the fall colors are breathtaking. What a great place to be this time of year.

  4. pmbweaver says:

    What a beautiful post. I love all the photos.
    Telluride is exactly like I remember it, only it had rained when we were there and the road was very muddy and scary. You took gorgeous photos from the gondola, but you will never catch me on that thing! I think you were very smart to drive separate though that pass. Keep enjoying the good life.

  5. geogypsy2u says:

    Another beautiful road trip. Enjoy Mesa Verde.

  6. Jeff Pierce says:

    What a difference! The aspen are really putting on a show.
    Looking forward to your side trips at Mesa Verde.

  7. John Pickard says:

    So nice to see that part of the country again. We were there several years ago. Great memories! Thanks!

  8. Wow and Wow! And no I won’t drive that mountain road, one because I wont be able to take pictures and 2 Im not a good mountain driver 🙂 You brought back to life what we saw last year. Amazing aspens gold!

  9. It was definitely worth it for you guys to go back! What beautiful drives!

  10. Laurel says:

    Simply amazing what a difference two weeks makes! I’m so glad you went back and did that drive again and shared it with us. And the gondola ride! The golden aspens are just stunning. I’ve decided I will be brave and do that gondola ride when we go there. 🙂

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