Best time to visit Colorado

Alpine Loop

Take a scenic drive through the American Switzerland

Alpine Loop in Colorado 2020 - Best Time
Photo by

Larry Lamsa

Alpine Loop Scenic and Historic Byway is a spectacular 101-km (63-mi) drive through the San Juan Mountains of Southwestern Colorado. The road goes up to two high mountain passes such as Engineer Pass and Cinnamon Pass. A high clearance 4WD vehicle with short wheelbase is recommended for this trip. Alpine Loop drive takes about 6 hours to cover the distance between Ouray, Lake City, and Silverton. Alpine Loop has a narrow window from June to September for visiting. During the rest of the year, it's closed for traffic due to snow and avalanche hazards.

Alpine Loop - Lake City 2020
Alpine Loop - Lake City

This excellent route often called the "Switzerland of America," 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 3.657 m (12,000 ft)is a great spot to marvel 14,000-ers Uncompahgre and Wetterhorn. Cinnamon Pass offers the views of Handies, Sunshine, and Redcloud.

Engineer Pass 2020
Engineer Pass
Cinnamon Pass 2020
Cinnamon Pass

On your way through 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 Alpine Loop that offers views of perfect granite cliffs and fall foliage in late summer and early autumn.