COOPER DISCOVERER - 5 People, 3 Generations 1 Vintage Jeep: Exploring San Juans


Independent Thinker
After years of coaxing, I convinced my parents to take a fall exploration trip with me, my wife and (now) my baby boy. The goal was to see the fall colors in their peak all through the state. I think the mission was a success. We visited Ouray, Silverton, Telluride and, after my parents went home, took the family to Glenwood Springs. In the process, we ran Corkscrew Gulch, Hurricane Pass, California Gulch, Last Dollar Road and explored up Coffee Pot road. It was a truly epic trip and my parents first time off pavement! Here's the report:

We left home and headed to Ouray. My goal was to show my folks great Colorado Fall color as well as some high mountain passes in the San Juans.

When we checked into the hotel, we learned that HWY 550 (the Million Dollar Highway) was going to be under construction starting in 2 days. So, we opted to head out towards Silverton the next morning.

In the morning we headed up 550 and stopped near Red Mountain Pass. Colors were in their peak.

We stopped and walked around, trying to find the Ghost Town of Ironton. We couldn't find it but we did enjoy exploring the mining structures along side the road.

We walked down the road a bit, just taking in the awesome colors and atmosphere.



Independent Thinker
After we finished exploring the Red Mountain Pass area, we headed up Corkscrew Gulch. This would be the first of three passes I had planned for the day.

We gained elevation quickly, but the Wagoneer's carb did great. No stuttering or any other drivability problems.

We reached the summit and enjoyed the view. Then we headed out to Hurricane Pass.

The entire trip to Hurricane Pass was above tree line but it was beautiful to see the mountains all around you.

From there, we headed towards California Pass. There was a great view point from this pass.

Proof we were there:

My family really enjoyed the high mountains and my parents took some time to explore around California Pass.

Coming down the back side, we stopped and investigated the Bagley Mill. This mill is really unique because it was designed and constructed as a kit in Leadville, then trucked up to the San Juans and bolted together. It's the only mill that was constructed that way.



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From there, we continued down to Animas Forks Ghost Town.

Some of the cabins have been maintained recently:

And some haven't... this one looked kind of spooky with the torn fabric hanging.

And that night we enjoyed the last moon of the tetrad. This picture doesn't have great focus but you can see the color pretty well.

DAY 2:

We hiked the Perimeter Trail in Ouray. The views were amazing and the trail was a lot of fun to hike!



Independent Thinker
DAY 3:

After the hike, we decided to take Last Dollar Road to Telluride. Apparently, John Wayne liked this area so much that he used it as the set for a lot of his movies. In fact, you can still see some of the buildings from the set of the original "True Grit" along side the road.

The trail started out quickly with big views and great color:

As the trail started to climb, it took us through the middle of the Aspen groves.

As we climbed, the color kept getting better.

Eventually, we climbed to the top of the pass and had a huge view to greet us. Really pictures can't capture the "bigness" of it.

Then we headed down the other side of the pass, transitioning from Aspen to Pine forest.



Independent Thinker
So, after finishing Last Dollar Road, we headed into Telluride itself. The colors were not quite at peak there, but that provided us with some variety.

We walked around the down town area first:

After that, we rode the free gondola up to the mountain village. The views were really good.

We enjoyed some lunch and some views from the top.

Random old phone booth:

Then we headed back.

The next day, we headed back home:

We dropped by parents off at the airport, after a great trip to the San Juans, but we had one more destination. We headed out to Glenwood Springs to meet my old college roommate and his wife for a few days.

Since he got a 4wd SUV, we ended up taking Coffee Pot Road up to the Flat Tops for some relaxation.

We found a nice camp spot and just hung out for a while:

My roommate decided it was time to make a camp fire, in the evening, so that's what we did.

At this point, we said our good bys and headed back to our daily life... waiting for a chance to have our next adventure.


Independent Thinker
Great pictures....the Silverton area is so great - Hurricane, Lake Como, etc. So beautiful. Thanks for posting this!
Thanks Wilbah,

It was a once in a lifetime trip, having both parents and kiddo there. Even though it wasn't a "hard core" trip, it really felt like we had an adventure exploring. So, I thought it was worth entering in the contest. Thanks again for the comment.


Independent Thinker
Broken photo links! Looking forward to the read.
I don't know what happened! Every link I've ever posted on from Photobucket account is broken and I can't get my account to pull up any of my photos! I hope I haven't lost 11 years worth of pictures...