Editor’s note: This is part of a sporadic series on scenic byways and highways in Southwest Colorado. All photos are from CDOT’s website and show some of the beauty of our part of the state.
Among the many features of the Alpine Loop are seven ghost towns and two alpine mountain passes. It’s one of Colorado’s many CDOT-designated scenic byways.
The entire drive along the byway takes 4-6 hours and covers 63 miles of beautiful alpine terrain.
From Delta and past Montrose, the easiest access to the Alpine Loop is just past Ouray on Highway 550. The Alpine Loop spits drivers back onto the highway near Silverton.
The two 12,000-foot passes are Cinnamon and Engineer, and they require a high-clearance four-wheel-drive vehicle. Along the loop, there are hiking and biking trails as well as spots to pitch a tent and camp, for those adventurous enough.
According to CDOT, the roads that make up the Alpine Loop are the first used by 19th-century miners to haul raw ore back to Silverton, Ouray and Lake City.
Obviously, there’s not much chance you’d make it far along the Alpine Loop right now, but with spring and summer just around the corner, the loop makes for a fun trip if you’re prepared. In addition to a capable vehicle, CDOT suggests a full tank of gas, extra food and water, and the normal emergency equipment one might need if they were to get stranded in the mountains.
Roads can be muddy, depending how much rain or snow the area has received, so it’s best to check with those who know, like the Ouray Visitor’s Center.