We love Colorado with its rugged landscapes, some of the most breathtaking views, and scary roads. While Colorado does come with rough terrain, there of course is still a way to traverse most of the state. Still, drastic changes in elevations can cause unpredictable and fierce weather conditions that drivers must battle making. Nothing will have you white-knuckling your steering wheel more than going down a steep grade during treacherous weather.
If this thought has your stomach churning, you’re not alone. We’ve found 10 scary roads in Colorado that aren’t good for a Sunday drive, some we have even done with an RV! Yikes. Let’s take a look.
What Makes a Road Dangerous?
There are many reasons that roads can be dangerous, but one of the most common is their design. Sharp turns, drop-offs, and blind curves can make a road treacherous. Mountain passes and long steep grades strain a vehicle and lead to mechanical failures. This can cause a deadly situation.
Some roads have increased levels of traffic, which can add to a driver’s stress. People are more prone to make mistakes when stressed or anxious. It’s very easy for inexperienced drivers to underestimate the road’s dangers or conditions and exceed their driving abilities. Even veteran drivers can make costly mistakes when in a hurry or not paying attention.
Why Are Some of Colorado’s Roads so Challenging?
Driving across Colorado requires a trip up and over the massive Rocky Mountains. Drivers can go from 5,000 feet elevation just west of Denver to over 11,000 feet at the Eisenhower-Johnson Tunnels. You’ll need a good set of brakes and an engine and transmission in good condition.
These drastic changes in elevation with unpredictable weather are a recipe for disaster. Some of these scary roads in Colorado, despite their dangers, experience high volumes of traffic, especially during the holidays. Minor road accidents can quickly become very serious due to cliffs and massive drops off the side of the road.
We cannot stress enough the importance of safe driving. You must constantly remain alert and attentive when driving on a dangerous route. You and other drivers on the road want to arrive at your destination. So make sure you do your part and stay safe while driving on any dangerous and scary Colorado roads.
10 Scariest Roads in Colorado
Colorado has no shortage of scary roads. Seriously, you can practically throw a rock in any direction and hit one of them. Here are the 10 scariest roads in Colorado that you’ll likely want to take some time to prepare yourself mentally before heading out for a drive.
#1 Black Bear Pass
Black Bear Pass sits just outside of the popular town of Telluride. This road has a stretch of narrow and exposed switchbacks that is downhill-only and one-way. Don’t even dare try this road if you have never experienced rock crawling. And you must have a capable vehicle. This road has claimed many lives and rollover accidents are not uncommon. I wont lie, we have not attempted this road ourselves, its beyond our comfort level.
Most of the road is easy to moderate in difficulty. However, there is an extremely challenging mile stretch. This section of the road will seriously test the driver’s and vehicle’s abilities.
#2 Imogene Pass
The Imogene Pass is an unpaved, rough road that was once a well-traveled mining route. However, it opened as a four-wheel-drive road in 1966, and adventure seekers started driving it. You’ll find the pass on the way to Telluride from Ouray. However, be aware that you better give all of your focus and attention to driving if you try to take this road.
You can experience some incredible views, but beware that it can get cold and windy at 13,000 feet above sea level, even in the middle of summer. You just don’t know what kind of weather you’ll encounter while trying to conquer this pass. The road is 16 miles long and is not for beginners. The road is extremely narrow, and you’ll likely need to pass vehicles along the route.
Pro Tip: Spend the night at one of these 5 Best Ouray, Colorado RV Parks while driving through Colorado.
#3 Southern Passage
Highway 160 stretches across southern Colorado. If you travel this route, you’ll go through cities like Pagosa Springs, Durango, and many other quaint towns. You’ll love the views from over 10,000 feet, but your stomach may not appreciate the winding of the road or the very tight turns along the way. This road is incredibly challenging, and records show an unusually high number of high DUI arrests along it. Impaired driving is never good, but combine it with this scary Colorado road, and it won’t turn out well.
#4 The Million Dollar Highway
US 550 runs from Albuquerque, N.M., to Montrose, Colo., and several famous passes await drivers. A 25-mile stretch of highway from Ouray to Silverton, Colo., has received the nickname “The Million Dollar Highway.” This stretch requires conquering three mountain passes and dipping above and below 10,000 feet. The views here are worth a million bucks, but the road receives its nickname because it cost a million dollars to build in the 1880s.
While you might want to enjoy the views, you must use caution. Tight turns and cliffs line the highway. One mistake can be costly and potentially even fatal. You must inspect your vehicle and ensure that you are up for the challenge of The Million Dollar Highway.
#5 Pikes Peak Highway
Pikes Peak Highway has been responsible for at least seven known deaths. This road climbs to an insane elevation of 14,115 feet above sea level. The peak is home to the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, in which four of the seven deaths occurred during this competition. The highway is so dangerous that the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb has banned motorcycles from participating.
Combine sheer drop-offs and a 4,720-foot climb without a guard rail in sight, and you can quickly see how this road can be scary. The margin of error is practically zero. However, take in the view from the summit and prepare for the mandatory brake temperature checkpoint that awaits drivers halfway down the hill.
Regardless, most days going slow this can be an amazing drive for any vehicle!
#6 Mount Evans Scenic Byway
The Mount Evans Scenic Byway is only open during the summer and is a 28-mile paved road that takes travelers to the top of the 14,000+ foot Mount Evans. While the road is relatively safe and carved into the mountainside, looking out over the landscape can make your stomach churn. You’ll get a great view of the rocky peaks surrounding the area.
Look out for stray mountain goats and bighorn sheep that often graze on the side and may cross the road. Guardrails disappear, and you must focus when navigating the switchbacks. One simple mistake can be tragic on this scary Colorado road.
#7 Eisenhower Pass
While I-70 may be relatively flat as it stretches from Utah to Maryland, drivers must climb up and over the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. Heading west, drivers quickly gain elevation after departing from Denver. From Mile High City, it constantly climbs up to 11,518 feet at the Eisenhower Tunnel. Unpredictable weather while driving at 55 miles per hour can cause white-out conditions.
This road is not too scary for drivers, but terrifying for heavy vehicles. This pass is so long and steep it will put serious strain on your vehicle. If you plan to head west on I-70 through Colorado, ensure you and your vehicle can conquer Resort Gateway. Traveling this road will be necessary if you’re hoping to hit the slopes at any of the many famous ski resorts in Colorado.
Pro Tip: We uncovered 7 Amazing Reasons to Visit Colorado National Monument.
#9 Monarch Pass
Not too far from Pueblo and Colorado Springs is Monarch Mountain. This is a popular small mountain for skiing, but your adventures will start long before you hit the slopes. Getting to Monarch Mountain will require navigating the 11,312-foot Monarch Pass. You’ll see incredible views of the neighboring 12,000-foot snow-capped peaks. This winding and mountainous road can challenge experienced drivers. Road and weather conditions can change quickly, so stay alert while driving this scary road in Colorado.
#10 Oh-My-God Road
Any road with the name “Oh-My-God Road” is sure to be a scary one. The road is just over 7.5 miles long and runs from Idaho Springs to Central City, Colo. It receives its nickname from the road sections with 12% grade, no guard rails, and washed-out shoulders. To make matters worse, the road is only one and three quarters car widths wide. It’s mostly unpaved and has barely enough room for two cars to squeeze by each other. When driving at over 9,000 feet, passengers may have difficulty keeping their eyes open.
When Is the Safest Time to Have a Road Trip in Colorado?
The weather in Colorado can be unpredictable at any time of year. However, the best time for a road trip in Colorado is from late spring to early fall. Avoid driving scary roads in Colorado in winter. So, plan your road trip anytime between June and October; you can worry less about blizzards and white-out conditions, especially at high elevations.
Colorado has some incredible summer and fall weather. This makes it great for a road trip to national parks and the various outdoor adventure locations around the state. Bring your hiking boots and come prepared to enjoy some of the freshest air and beautiful scenery in the country.
Stay Safe While Driving Through Colorado’s Scariest Roads
While these may be the scariest roads in Colorado, they’re not impossible. If you have the right gear, driving experience, and watch the weather, you can enjoy these adventurous routes. Always take the proper precautions and take time to check your vehicle before heading out. You want you and your vehicle to be ready for whatever the roads throw your way.
Which of these roads will you need to conquer during your adventures? Tell us in the comments!
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