Million dollar mountain views:
Creating riding memories for the entire family
Nestled in the middle of the San Juan Mountains in the southwest corner of Colorado, you will find the quaint little town of Silverton, with a full-time population of 534 residents. Silverton has become a Mecca for outdoor enthusiasts from all over North America. It is the perfect base camp for some of the best ATV riding you will find on the planet. With the city center at an elevation of 9,318 ft., all the adventures go up from there.
This is what sparked our interest to make the journey from Minnesota to Silverton. It’s 1,300 miles and 22 hours on the road and it was absolutely worth the drive. Waterfalls, wildlife and million-dollar mountain views from all seats in our side-by-side is what we came for and that is exactly what we got.
The biggest draw for off-roaders is the Alpine Loop. It’s roughly 65 miles long and crosses over multiple mountain passes that tickle 13,000 feet. Even in July there may be many feet of snow that in some spots the trail cuts righ
through. The route passes through ghost towns that were bustling at the height of the gold rush. One end of the Alpine Loop starts in Silverton and the other end brings you to the town of Lake City. This is the perfect distance to ride and be able to stop and get some fuel and a good meal.
In five days of riding, we were able to log just over 500 miles, with thousands of amazing views and millions of family memories.
In the middle of the Loop you run across the ghost town of Animas Forks, an old mining community that has many buildings still standing — the old stamping mill, the mine foreman’s house, even the old Animas Forks Jail. This and many other mines are open to walk through and take in the history.
Aside from the Alpine Loop, there are a dozen other trails that take you through the picturesque San Juan Mountains. Trails lead to turquoise mountain lakes, dozens of waterfalls, many snow covered peaks, even a trail that crosses the Rio Grande River on the way to Kite Lake. No matter if you’re a seasoned mountain rider or a first timer like I was, Silverton and the San Juan Mountains have a trail for everyone.
Colorado Permit Required
Out-of-state residents who bring OHVs into Colorado must purchase a Colorado Non-Resident OHV permit which is valid from the date of purchase through the following March 31. These permits can be purchased anywhere you get your hunting/fishing licenses in Colorado, via mail-in request, or you can order one online at cpwshop.com from April through December.
Once purchased, this sticker should be placed on the vehicle’s outside face of the right front fender or fork. Since this is only a one-time use permit, no renewal notice will be sent to non-resident permit holders; you must purchase a new permit each year you come to Colorado with your OHV. Find more details at the Colorado Parks & Wildlife website.
Our family’s journey started with loading up three ATVs into our trailer and heading southwest. Day one, we traveled through most of Minnesota, South Dakota, Nebraska and half of Colorado before we stopped for the night. Day two took us through a pass called “The Million Dollar Highway,” which is a stretch of road that ties the city of Ouray to Silverton. This road is not for the faint of heart! With 15 mph hairpin corners and topping three different mountain passes, the 25-mile stretch will test any trailer-puller’s skills. But one thing is for sure, the drive into Silverton is a trip in itself and a very good indication of what type of terrain you can expect to see. In five days of riding, we were able to log just over 500 miles, with thousands of amazing views and millions of family memories.