Friday, August 5, 2011

Trip to Telluride via Ophir Pass

One of my RVing friends who also recently came through the San Juans to do some 4-wheel drive trails, recommended that Ophir Pass was a bit easier than the Alpine Loop.  So, I decided to follow her advise and drive Ophir first to then determine if Alpine would be doable for my little Tracker.

If just driving paved highways from Silverton to Telluride, it’s about 75 miles.  But, if you have a 4WD vehicle, you can take the trail over Ophir Pass and do it in just 26 miles!

The trail starts out as a fairly easy gravel county road with wonderful mountain views:
I saw a few marmots along the way as well.  Fascinating little animals that make loud, high-pitched chirps that sound a little like a garbage truck backing up!

The most difficult part of the trail was just after the top of the pass, where after a few switchbacks, you had to drive across a long, narrow ledge on the side of the mountains.  My book said to carefully watch for oncoming drivers before starting down this section as there’d be nowhere to pass and one of you would need to back up…yikes!

At the top of the pass, I saw another 4WD parked and it happened to be another Suzuki.  It was the first one I’d seen, so I stopped to talk to the driver who was a very nice guy from Arkansas who looked a bit like Michael McDonald with silver hair and a silver beard.  He pointed out a red object in the sky that was a para-sailer who had just launched from the shelf road and was now gliding down into the valley!

We chatted about Suzukis and the local trails, and I was then on my way to drive the shelf road.  Thankfully….no oncoming drivers!  So, it turned out to be a very easy trail to drive.

The little town of Ophir is a collection of a few dozen cabins and newer log homes—sort of a suburb of Telluride, but residents certainly have a sense of humor!

Millie and I reached the paved Highway 145 to go north to Telluride, but decided to take another short 4WD drive trail to Alta Lakes before we got there.

Alta Lakes is a BLM campground above the old mining town of Alta.


The lakes were crystal clear and day was beginning to get hot and sunny.  That, of course, could only mean one thing…time to go swimming!

Great lunchtime picnic spot for all!

We then, finally, headed into the town of Telluride.  I had last been here a few years ago in the Fall when the aspens made the surrounding mountains truly spectacular.  But summer scenery here was not too shabby either… 2 large waterfalls are a prime feature.  One has a pumphouse that serves as the town’s main water supply.
Rather than take the highway all the way back to Silverton, I decided to take the 4WD trail called “Last Dollar Road” up to Dallas Divide and take the highway from there.   Last Dollar Road was the very first 4WD trail I’d ever driven a few years ago with my SUV (again during the Fall trip), and the aspens on their road were stunning at that time.  This summer trip was not quite as amazing, but still had some pretty views:

While driving through the aspen forest, I spotted a chubby bird (perhaps my “birdlady” follower Judy can identify it properly, but it appeared to be a grouse of some kind I believe).  It crossed the road and scampered up the hillside next to me and then began hollering quite loudly.

I thought it was a bit odd that a bird would want to scream at my yellow Tracker so much, so I looked around to see if it was yelling at something else.  Sure enough, she was!  Mama was calling for her 5 little “pre-teens” to get across the road post haste!

As she got them marching up the hill, she gave me one final careful look and they were then on their way into the forest again!IMG_5105

As I descended out of the forest, I drove through a couple of large ranches to reach the highway at the Dallas Divide near Ridgeway.  This one had lots of cattle and sheep:

And this one, the Double RL Ranch, happens to be where Ralph Lauren lives!  Quite a spectacular view he has, huh?


  1. Lynne,

    I believe you are right in that the bird is a Grouse. Jo and I have spent a lot of time in Colorado over the years, mostly boondocking in a National Forest campground between Cuchara and Stonewall, Colorado. We've seen those birds there as well.

    I just started looking at your blog. Good photos and a good sense of composure. While not "officially" following yet, I have you on my daily reading list.

  2. Thanks Terry-- wow, my bird-guessing must be improving! I'm not a birder, but other bloggers I've been reading who are have given me some good starting education over the past year or so I guess! Hope you and Jo are enjoying your new trailer and getting out to see lots of pretty things!

  3. I used to work at Skyline Guest Ranch, just off Hwy 145 and about 7 miles south of Telluride. It is no longer open but we used to do our Tuesday ride up to Alta Lakes. It will always be my favorite part of Colorado, and one of my favorite parts of the US.

    Seeing these photos and hearing about these places bring back a lot of memories. Can't wait to go back again.


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