Alpine Loop Backcountry Byway

This is no ordinary backcountry journey. The alpine loop takes the spotlight as the most popular and most beautiful backcountry roads in America.

The alpine loop is 65 miles of old mule and horse-drawn wagon roads meandering thought the breathtaking mountains. It connects the small mountain towns of Ouray, Silverton and Lake City.

American Basin Along The Loop

From the lower elevations at Ouray, Colorado to the breathless heights of Engineer Pass at 12,800 feet, the loops cuts thought the heart of the San Juan Mountains.

It takes you above the tree line to the spectacular wildflowers of American Basin. You will feel the crisp bite of the pure, clear cool mountain air.On the loop you may even find yourself high above the clouds.

Your will see, mountains of wildflowers, waterfalls, and ghost towns, mills and mines scattered along your route.

There is a multitude of side trails leading to places with interesting names, like Corkscrew Gulch, Hurricane Pass, or Glacier Gulch.

Other narrow twisty side roads along The Alpine Loop lead to the ghost towns of Carson or Sherman and Animas forks.

Animas forks is my favorite ghost town. It sits on a hillside overlooking the junction of the three forks of the animas drainage.

It is fun to wander in and out of the old buildings and imagine what every day life was like back then.

Remnants of the hard rock mining history dot the landscape. Mines, mills, old rail beds, and aerial tramways tell the story of a hard hard life in a bygone era.

Animas Forks, Tellurium, Rose’s Cabin, Stoiber Mansion, Ute-Ulay, Otto Mears, Stony Pass, Alfred Packer….all names that help to tell the history of the story.

The Alpine Loop follows the route used by the prospector, miner and settlers that ventured in to the rugged San Juan to in the 1880’s to seek their fortune.

These Miners are Camped on King Solomon Mountain near North Star Lodes 1875

There are interpretive sign along the roads that explain the history and significance of the region. Depending the snow, the loop opens in late May or early June and close with the first big snowfall, usually in late October.

You will need a four-wheel drive vehicle or an ATV to travel these backcountry roads. You can rent a ATVs or jeep, in any of the three towns

The Alpine Loop is North America’s most magnificent backcountry byway and its a great way to spend a day in the mountains.