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Alpine Loop Scenic Byway

Take a scenic drive through the American Switzerland

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Alpine Loop Scenic and Historic Byway is a spectacular 105-km (65-mi) drive through the San Juan Mountains of Southwestern Colorado. The road goes from Ouray to Lake City, and Silverton, crossing two high mountain passes such as Engineer Pass and Cinnamon Pass. A high clearance 4WD vehicle with a short wheelbase is recommended for this trip.

When is the Alpine Loop in Colorado open

Alpine Loop National Back Country Byway has a narrow window for visiting—from June to September when it's snow-free. During the rest of the year, the Alpine Loop is closed for traffic due to snow and avalanche hazards. For the latest updates, please check with the Colorado Department of Transportation.

How long does it take to drive the Alpine Loop in Colorado

Alpine Loop drive takes 4–6 hours to cover the distance between Ouray, Lake City, and Silverton. You'd better allow 7 hours to fully enjoy the scenic beauty, however. Colorado's Alpine Loop is affectionately called the "Switzerland of America" for a reason!

The Alpine Loop starts with the historic high-altitude town of Ouray. The area that used to be home for Ute Indians is known for its hot springs. From there the Alpine Loop navigates through mountain peaks of the Rockies, alpine meadows, and tundra. Engineer Pass with an altitude of 12,000 feet (3,657 m) is a great spot to marvel at 14,000-ers Uncompahgre and Wetterhorn. Cinnamon Pass offers the views of Handies, Sunshine, and Redcloud.

On your way through Colorado's Alpine Loop, you can visit ghost towns that were set up for mining. Silverton also was a mining town, but its mines are mostly closed. Lake City is another perfect stop on the Alpine Loop that offers views of granite cliffs and fall foliage in late summer and early autumn.

Alpine Loop camping

The cities along the way typically offer numerous RV-friendly camping opportunities. You can stay at Ouray KOA Campgrounds. Besides, Williams Creek and Mill Creek Campgrounds near Lake City are nestled just along the drive, which makes them particularly popular options. Also, Silverton has a couple of Silverton Lakes RV resorts to stay overnight. Lastly, you can browse the Alpine Loop map for available hotels nearby. Whichever option you prefer, make your reservations well beforehand.

Practical info

Is the Alpine Loop in Colorado open?

From June to September

How long does it take to drive the Alpine Loop in Colorado?

About 4–6 hours (allow 7 hours)

Can you camp on the Alpine Loop?

Yes, you'll find Mill Creek and Williams Creek Campgrounds along the drive, as well as several options in Ouray and Silverton.

Where is Alpine Loop Engineer Pass?

Engineer Pass is located in the San Juan Mountains near Ouray and makes up a part of Colorado's Alpine Loop.

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