Alpine Loop in CO is truly a backcountry experience
Alpine Loop is the name of a spectacular drive located in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado, USA. The road climbs up two 12,000-foot passes (Engineer Pass and Cinnamon Pass) and is recommended for high clearance four wheel drive with short wheel base.
What Is the Alpine Loop?
Tucked away in the southwestern part of Colorado, the rugged drive is the combination of two great 4x4 roads, Engineer Pass and Cinnamon Pass.
How long is the Alpine Loop in Colorado?
The Alpine Loop National Backcountry Scenic Byway is 101km (63 miles) long winding through the alpine terrain of the San Juan Mountains. It runs between the towns of Lake City, Ouray and Silverton. The roads were originally paths used by Native Americans and in the 19th-century, these trails were widened and used by miners, who carted their ore off to Silverton, Ouray, and Lake City in mule-drawn wagons. Rental services for off-highway vehicles are being offered by surrounding towns.
Is the Alpine Loop in Colorado open?
Set high in the San Juan Mountains, the road opens about late May/early June and closes in late October, depending on snow depths and damage from spring run-off. It can be muddy at other times.
Where is Alpine Loop in Colorado?
Running through San Juan, Hinsdale and Ouray counties, passenger cars, RV’s, camper vehicles and vans are not recommended. Semi-trucks with trailers are prohibited. About two thirds of the route is dirt road suitable for 2-wheel-drive cars, so everyone can experience a portion of this scenic area. But in order to traverse the entire route, if you want to cross Engineer Pass, Cinnamon Pass or Mineral Creek, you'll need a 4-wheel-drive, high clearance vehicle.
How long does it take to drive the Alpine Loop in Colorado?
To drive the road without stopping will take most people between 4 and 6 hours. The drive offers sweeping views. You can explore abandoned townsites, structures, and other former mining haunts - if you want to commune with ghosts of Colorado's rich past. Along the way you can fill your camera with unbelievable shots of soaring mountain peaks and seven ghost towns.
How hard is the Alpine Loop Colorado?
The drive is not easy. It has narrow parts, hairpin bends, rocks, and dangerous drop offs. Uphill traffic has right-of-way. Recommended if you are not afraid of heights. Stay on your side of the road on blind curves. Honk to warn on-coming traffic. The trail leaves pavement and people behind, crossing the remote, rugged, spectacular heart of the San Juan Mountains. It's demanding - the two 12,000-foot passes (Cinnamon and Engineer) require a high-clearance 4-wheel-drive vehicle - but the well-prepared motorist reaps unparalleled rewards: pristine mountain views, hiking and biking trails, great camping opportunities, and ample solitude. The place is now literally crawling with ATV’s, dirt bikes, and small 4x4 vehicles coming and going every which way. Remember to bring a full tank of gas and extra food/water.