Today was a perfect day to take a jeep ride. Temperatures were in the upper 60’s and there was only a 10% chance of rain.
I decided to tackle Scotch Creek, which is a bit out of the way, but well worth it. The trailhead is about 45 minutes from Telluride, and it is a couple miles past Rico on highway 145. At the very beginning of the trail, there is a large sign that says vehicle access is restricted. I’m not really sure what that meant. My map clearly showed the trail as suitable for 4x4’s. However, anything but a high-clearance 4x4 would probably not make it.
The trail is quite narrow and there are limited places for vehicles to pass one another. Thankfully, we didn’t see another vehicle the entire time we were on the trail. The trail follows Scotch Creek up from roughly 8,500 feet in elevation to 10,500 feet. The canyon is fairly narrow, though occasionally opens up a bit to allow for small meadows near the creek.
I love the steepness and variety of the canyon’s rock walls. I also love the abundance of wildflowers. Today, we were blown about by an abundance of giant thistles. The flowers were popping and the insects were having a feast.
The trail gets steeper as it climbs up the side of the canyon. The road turns from rock to dirt, and when it turns to dirt, the potholes get huge. Once again, do not attempt this without a high clearance vehicle. I’ve taken this road once before when it was wet, and the dirt is treacherous. Today, however, the road was fine.
When you reach the top of the trail, you are confronted with the choice of going back towards Rico on the Barlow Creek trail or heading towards the Million Dollar Highway (Highway 550). We took the second choice.
It felt like 20 miles from the end of the Scotch Creek Trail to the intersection of the Million Dollar Highway. This road is a fairly smooth dirt and gravel road. Lots of people choose to camp along this road.
Heading north on the Million Dollar Highway, it takes about 30 minutes to reach Silverton, which is a great place to get a bite to eat before heading back to Telluride.
There are many choices for getting back to Telluride from Silverton. The smoothest is to get back on the Million Dollar highway and head for Ouray and come back on the highway. The most thrilling way is to take Black Bear Pass into Telluride. This pass is one of the toughest jeep trails in the area, so be prepared. We took Ophir Pass back to Telluride, which takes about an hour from Silverton.
There’s a fair amount of traffic on Ophir Pass at this time of year. One reason is that it is fairly tame as far as jeep roads go. Yes, a standard SUV would probably make it over this pass. Take you time if you wish, but please pull over if you are slow. It's not uncommon to see a bit of a traffic jam.
This whole trip, excluding a lunch stop, comfortably takes 5 hours and is a bit over 100 miles. It's one of my favorites.