***NOTE: Check out my magazine feature about adventuring through Colorado's sky-scraping San Juan Mountains in Mercedes-Benz's exclusive Gelaendewagen (a.k.a. G-Wagen) SUV.
LOCATION Between Ouray and Telluride, in the San Juan Mountains. Uncompahgre National Forest. Ouray and San Miguel counties. Google Map
|G Wagens on Imogene Pass|
DIFFICULTY Moderate. Rocky with stretches of narrow shelf road and drop-offs. It’s busy, as well, so remember that uphill traffic has the right of way. The road is usually open by July 4.
TIME & DISTANCE 3 hours; about 19 miles.
MAPS Trails Illustrated No. 141 (Silverton, Ouray, etc.). Uncompahgre National Forest. Benchmark Maps' Colorado Road & Recreation Atlas, p. 110 (3-C).
INFORMATION Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests, Ouray and Norwood ranger districts. Montrose Public Lands Center.
|The road can be busy.|
REST STOPS There are many places to stop. The top of the pass, with its terrific mountain views, is a popular place and can be crowded. People like to take photos at the pass sign, so if it’s a busy day, don’t hog it. At the Ouray end, visit Box Canyon Falls and Park [N38°01.071′ W107°40.752′], near U.S. 550.THE DRIVE Several rich mines kept the lower portions of this road busy. Above Telluride was the Smuggler-Union silver and gold mine and, in Savage Basin, the mine and town of Tomboy [N37°56.212′ W107°45.260′], among the richest gold operations in North America between the 1880s and 1920s. Almost 1,000 people lived there in its heyday. Today you’ll see efforts to control its polluted runoff. Above Ouray were Camp Bird and, farther up, Upper Camp Bird, both named for food-stealing Canada Jays. Estimates of that operation’s gold production run as high as $50 million.
|Imogene Pass Road from Telluride|
From Telluride, the narrow, rocky road switchbacks up the forested canyon wall above town, passes through Penn Tunnel [N37°56.408′ W107°46.357′], bored through solid rock, then edges along a narrow shelf with an unnerving drop-off. About 5 miles from Telluride you will reach Tomboy. The pass is another 1.5 miles or so.
|Climbing from Camp Bird|
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