Despite what you may think, drinking along the Million Dollar Highway is a terrific way to experience the San Juans and Southwestern Colorado. From the views to the brews, a beer or two is a decent reward for an adventure along this Colorado scenic roadway.
So grab your hiking shoes, camping gear, and a designated driver, and get ready to explore the breweries that call the Million Dollar Highway home.
What Is the Million Dollar Highway?
The Million Dollar Highway is a section of U.S. Highway 550 that runs through the San Juan Mountains in southwest Colorado.
There are several stories about how the highway got its name. One is the comparatively high cost of construction, which some estimated at $1 million in the 1920s. Another reason may be that the road was near many gold and silver mines.
Wherever it got its name, many consider the Million Dollar Highway one of the most scenic drives in the United States. Visitors know it for its sweeping mountain views and steep drop-offs.
It’s also one of the most dangerous roads in the country, especially during the cold and icy winter months. However, if you’re looking for an exhilarating driving experience, the Million Dollar Highway is worth checking out.
What Is the Most Scenic Part of the Million Dollar Highway?
While people may refer to the Million Dollar Highway because of the cost, it may also be because of the million-dollar views along the route from Silverton to Ouray.
While you will experience many spectacular views along the highway, one of the most scenic areas is Red Mountain Pass. Red Mountain Pass is the 11,018-foot summit of this section of U.S. Highway 550. It offers a glimpse into the area’s mining history with a view of the red rocks and jagged San Juans.
With a well-defined parking area that will fit most vehicles, trucks, and campers, it is worth your time to stop and soak in the history and beauty of the location. They will take your breath away.
Where Should I Stop on the Million Dollar Highway?
Besides stopping at Red Mountain Pass, there are many pull-offs and scenic views in both directions of the Million Dollar Highway. Coming from Silverton, as you start climbing this adventurous road, you’ll find a scenic parking area. It offers views of the surrounding canyon walls and a waterfall in the spring and early summer.
Driving past Silverton, you’ll come across small lakes and trailheads with parking access to enjoy the beauty above the highway. On your way down, find several pull-offs with picture-postcard views of Silverton, one of the most quaint mountain towns in Colorado.
It would be best if you stopped in Silverton, a town of about 600 full-time, year-round residents, and Ouray, or Colorado’s Little Switzerland. Both are like stepping back in time or wandering the Wild West. It has hiking trails, campgrounds, hot springs, gift shops, dining options, and what visitors know Colorado for; breweries.
We love a beverage stop on any road trip, so of course we also know how to drink your way through the Natchez Trace.
Breweries Along the Million Dollar Highway
With over 400 breweries in Colorado, many scatter throughout Colorado’s small mountain towns. Along the Million Dollar Highway, you won’t find one brewery; you’ll find five.
Appoint a designated driver because this brewery tour along the Million Dollar Highway will be like none you’ve ever experienced.
Red Mountain Brewing
400 Main St., Ouray, CO
About: With appetizers like Mushroom Toast, Mountain Mac and Cheese, and french fries, you won’t be hungry. However, you can’t stop there. From its cozy indoor bar and restaurant vibe to a beautiful patio dotted with red umbrellas, Red Mountain Brewing is an excellent brewery for a date or drink.
What to Order: As a bar, a brewery, and a restaurant, your dinner will be complete whether you order a whiskey, a cocktail, or a brew. Many recommend the burgers and the Mushroom Toast. While they only have limited house beers on tap, their selection of visiting taps and other drinks make for a fun place to experience food and fun in Ouray.
607 Main Street, Ouray, CO
About: Ouray Brewery is one of the most famous breweries in the state. They brew fantastic craft beers, but their patio makes the beer taste better. There is no better place to be than overlooking Main Street with a craft beer in hand.
For chilly winter days, their indoor taproom is just as incredible, especially if you’re lucky enough to snag one of their ski chairs at the bar.
Need food while drinking? Ouray Brewery has some of the best casual food in town.
What to Order: Grab a brew. Try one of their classics, like their San Juan IPA, or a rotating tap like their Summer Saison. Order a burger or a salad.
Whatever you choose, it’s going to be good. From a Thai Coconut Quinoa Salad to their Classic Brewery Burger with fries, they are big on quality food and beer.
Ourayle House (AKA Mr. Grumpypants Brewing Co.)
703 Main St., Ouray, CO
About: If you’re looking for a unique experience at a brewery, look no further. Mr. Grumpypants, owner and brewer, will tell you exactly how things are. It’s open erratically, so if you get a chance to visit him, do so.
Barbie dolls and other strange items don the walls of this cozy, dark mountain town brewery, along with signs of sarcastic sayings. Drinking a beer here is time well-spent, even if it’s sitting on the patio people-watching.
What to Order: The Smoked Brown Ale or Rad Mountain Red are a few popular beers on tap here but know what you want before you stroll up to the bar. Asking for size options here is always an adventure.
Our best advice when visiting this unique brewery is to go in with an open mind. You’ll get an interesting conversation with a good beer in a lovely mountain town.
Golden Block Brewery
1227 Greene St., Silverton, CO
About: Golden Block Brewery is an excellent place to grab a bite to eat and sip on some beer after meandering the streets of Silverton. Open in 2014; this family-owned and operated brewery is famous for its wood-fired brick oven handcrafted foods.
What to Order: Try their Red Ale, Kolsch, or any rotating seasonals to pair with one of their homemade specialty pizza, paninis, fresh salads, and breadsticks.
While the appetizers are delicious, you’ll want to make sure to save room for what you should be ordering; pizza. Specialty pies include BBQ and pulled pork, artichoke and chicken, or spinach and basil, to name a few. Are you hungry yet?
Avalanche Brewing Company
1151 Greene St., Silverton, CO
About: Inspired by the outdoors, the owners and brewmasters create a beer to help enhance your Silverton experience. Opened in 2011, Avalanche Brewing is best to enjoy after a day exploring the beautiful San Juans and Silverton area.
With around 15 beers on tap, artisan pizzas, and a decor that fits the mountains beautifully, this is a Colorado brewery at its core.
What to Order: Offering wraps, salads, tacos, and pizza, their award-winning menu is sure to please any palate. Their Thai Pie and their Cubano wrap are some of the best foods around for lunch or dinner!
Pair those with one of their 15 beers on tap, like their Sultan IPA, a traditional West Coast style, or their Ph’Delicious Oatmeal Stout for those chilly days, and you’ll be happy to be in Silverton at 9,318 feet.
Is the Million Dollar Highway Worth It?
There’s only one answer to the question of whether or not the Million Dollar Highway is worth it. When that answer involves views and brews, it is most definitely a resounding, “Yes!”
The San Juan Mountains in Southwestern Colorado offer some of the most stunning scenery, making for exciting outdoor adventures year-round. When you can find a patio to soak up the sun or a cozy taproom to gather in the warmth on a winter’s day, the brews are even sweeter.
Which of these breweries will you visit first?
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