Sunday, July 27, 2014

A Trip Over Ophir Pass

Jellystone Park of the Black Canyon
Montrose, CO
July 24, 2014

Heading south on Hwy 550...a view of the San Juans
We didn't waste anytime hitting the trails as we were up early Thursday morning and excited to be exploring new territory...the San Juan Mountains.

Looking back on Ouray as we ascended into the mountains.

We headed south on Hwy 550, first thru Ridgeway and then Lovely Ouray.

Our mouths dropped at the beauty all around us and we hadn't even hit the trail yet...once past Ouray this stretch of highway is called the Million Dollar Highway.

After about 18 miles, we turned right onto C.R. 8.

Guide to Colorado Backroads & 4-Wheel-Drive Trails is a great resource when deciding what trails to do.

Each trail is given a rating based on the hardest section of the trail. Ophir is rated moderate because of a narrow shelf section of trail on the west side of the pass...everything else is really easy to traverse.

I do the navigating...the guide is very simple to follow using waypoints and mileage.

The Ophir pass was originally established as a wagon road between the mines around Ophir and Telluride to Silverton. The trip west is a gradual climb with room for two vehicles to pass.
Views were spectacular as we wound our way thru forested land with streams and wildflowers in the Middle Mineral Creek area until it reaches the tree line and then continues to the rocky summit at 11, 789 feet.

It was almost a dramatic change in scenery once we reached the tree line. And the skies that had been blue off and on all morning were all gray here.
The summit is formed by Lookout Peak on the left and South Lookout Peak on the right. This trail is usually plowed the first of June. Its hard to believe that just a few weeks ago, this was all covered in white. The grass is so green and the patch of purple flowers were quite "showy".

There is room at the summit to park and explore the rocks. I  learned the hard way (last year in Moab) to always wear my hiking boots on these excursions...

Standing at the summit looking west was one of the most spectacular sights I think I have seen. The valley is formed by the Howard Fork of the San Miguel River. Past the valley, the distinctive volcanic peak of Lizard Head and three fourteeners can be seen on a clear day.

The trail down the west has one switchback just past the summit followed by a continuous run down the side of a slope. It is narrow...

looking down on Ophir...

At the foot of Ophir Pass is the town of Old Ophir. Gold was discovered in Ophir in 1875. Population grew quickly to about 500. But word of a silver strike in a nearby town caused miners to vacate. As it turned out, the silver deposits were short lived so miners returned to Ophir. The closest smelters were in Silverton...thus the Ophir Pass.

We did ride thru a crop of aspens and a thick ground cover of Queen Anne's Lace...standing tall among those beautiful trees.

Today Ophir is a community of summer homes. Unlicensed vehicles are not permitted to ride thru the town with its 10 mph speed limit. The streets were full of adults visiting and children playing.

From here the trail leads to Hwy 145. We had planned to also take the short 4.4 mile trail to Alta Lakes. But about the time we got to the highway, the sky let loose and it rained...a torrential down pour. We headed home instead.

Ophir Pass was without a doubt one of the most spectacular rides we have been on. As with most hikes or trails, you just have to be there to get the real picture as photographs just don't seem to show the grandeur....scanning the miles and miles of endless views, the smells of the damp forest, the waves of colors , even the sound of rocks crunching under our feet at the pass...all combined to make for a day full of  true happiness to be alive. 

Thanks for stopping by...until next time, 

happy trails!
Up next...Yankee Boy Basin


  1. You hit the jackpot with this one. There are definitely some good photos on this trip.

  2. More excellent pics, on another fantastic excursion.

  3. Gay, you are doing such a nice job planning our summer travels for next year:) What a great drive. I love the mountain range photos as the trail went down to the west. Can't wait to see what you find next!

  4. If it's any prettier in person than the photos, then it must be incredible! Was your trip in a jeep?

  5. Gosh, you drove right through town without stopping to meet up…You are going to stop by while you're in the Lovely Ouray area aren't you? :))
    We are having beer and pizza with RV'ers John and Joalenn Q. this evening at our Mine Shack…if you are free you are welcome to join us. I'll email you…
    Otherwise, maybe before you leave…
    Box Canyon Mark and Bobbie in Lovely Ouray

  6. I have not been on that specific road, but we were in that area late last June and OMG, it is spectacular! Your lovely photos brought back very special memories.

  7. Magnificent! Dramatic! Spectacular! I'd say you captured the grandeur of the Rockies quite well.

  8. I understand that pictures just don't do the beauty of nature justice but yours do an exceptionally good job. What a gorgeous, incredibly awesome drive.

  9. Wow, wow, wow. Your photos are incredible and make me really sorry we did not change our spring plans to include a visit to this lovely area. I can feel your excitement and "true happiness to be alive." Thanks for sharing your joy.

  10. Beautiful photos Gay!!!
    Such a gorgeous area of Colorado.
    Howard and I rode some of these roads with our dear friends Gay and Don years ago, They are both deceased and your blog reminds us of the good times we shared with them.

    Have fun creating wonderful memories to hold forever.