Colorado’s Alpine Loop Scenic Byway is a great drive that’s a must for adventurous RVers. In my last few bogs, I wrote about traveling the Million Dollar Highway from Ouray to Silverton. While the Million Dollar Highway is one route that’s worth a visit, part of our journey was taking in the drive off the highway to the Alpine Loop.
If you’re looking to explore this area, turn off at Hwy 550 approximately three miles south of Ouray.* This access point is for 4×4 vehicles only. But, two other roads allow you to proceed in 2WD vehicles. Additionally, nearly two thirds of the byway is primarily dirt. So, even if you don’t have a sturdy 4X4, you can still enjoy the scenery and historic stops.
Although this is not a true loop, it does encompass 63-plus miles of roads between Lake City, Ouray and Silverton. Depending on the winter snow melt, it typically opens in late May or early June. It closes in late October when winter arrives.
Ask locally about road conditions and plan accordingly. The network of roads comprising the loop were carved out of the rugged terrain by miners in the late 1880s, enabling them to transport ore and supplies by wagons. Today, most of the mines are no longer open but the roads still remain open to explore.
If you travel the Alpine Loop Scenic Byway off the 550 early in the season you can admire the wildflowers. When visiting in autumn, you can enjoy the multitude of fall colors. Highlights of the loop also include 12,000-foot Cinnamon and Engineer passes along with the ghost town of Animas Forks. Other abandoned settlements are here as well. If there`s time, RVers shouldn`t pass up Ouray, Colorado.
Dry Camp and Explore The Alpine Loop Scenic Byway
You can dry camp along much of the route if you have the right rigs (i.e. pop up campers on 4×4 trucks or Sportmobile Vans). Allow four to six hours to complete the loop. It takes much longer if you stop to explore. Touring the Alpine Loop Scenic Byway is just another adventure in RVing!
*Those looking to access the northwest leg of the byway off of Hwy 550 will find the turn off at N37° 59.316 W107° 38.981 They will also find a sign alerting them that this is one of the rougher sections of the byway and high clearance four-wheel drive is recommended.
Dave Helgeson’s many roles in the RV industry started before he even had a driver’s license. His grandparents and father owned an RV dealership before the term “RV” had been coined, and Dave played a pivotal role in nearly every position of an RV dealership. He and his wife Cheri launched their own RV dealership in the Pacific Northwest. The duo also spent 29 years overseeing regional RV shows. Dave has also served as President of a local chapter of the Recreational Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA), worked on the board of advisors for the RV Technician Program of a local technical college, and served as a board member of the Manufactured Home and RV Association. Dave’s reputation earned him the title of “The foremost expert on boondocking,” bestowed by RV industry icon, the late Gary Bunzer (The RV Doctor). When he’s not out boondocking, you’ll find Dave in the spotlight at RV shows across the country, giving seminars about all things RVing. He and Cheri currently roam in their fifth travel trailer, with Dave doing all the service, repair and modifications to his own unit.