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Alpine Loop

Delve into Colorado’s mining history

Mileage12 miles (19 km)
DurationThe duration is an estimate of a one-way drive and does not include any stops or side-trips.49 minutes
SeasonsThe seasons listed are the best seasons for this scenic drive. If Winter is not mentioned, the road may be closed during the winter.Summer, and Fall
RoadwaysForest Road 110
Gravel RoadsYes
ServicesThe cities or towns listed have either Food or Services such as gas, hotels, pharmacies, etc.Silverton, CO, Telluride, CO, and Ouray, CO
Rating
4.2 average from 5 votes
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Elevation Graph for Alpine Loop

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This gravel road excursion through a land of mountain peaks and the rich history of mining and logging as you travel from Silverton to the ghost town of Animas Forks is a perfect side-trip off the San Juan Skyway. The area between Silverton and Animas Forks, and the first part of Cinnamon Pass are easily traveled by most vehicles (described here), but most of the loop is accessible only by high-clearance, four-wheel drive. If you yearn for off-road adventure, the surrounding communities have vehicles for rent.

Silverton, nestled amid mountains.
Silverton, nestled amid mountains.

Following the Animas River, head east on CO-110 from Silverton where you will soon enter in the canyon walls. In Silverton, stop for a tour of Mayflower Gold Mill Tour (A1) which was operational for 61 years until 1991. Today, you can tour the old equipment and learn how gold, silver and other metals were extracted. (If you plan on seeing all of the historic attractions on this route, get the Heritage Pass which offers a discount for the Old Hundred Gold Mine Tour and adds the Mayflower Gold Mill and the Silverton Jail and Museum.) Spectacular scenery unfolds as you head towards Engineer Pass at more than 12,000 feet. Enjoy the winding road and breathtaking views of Precipice, Coxcomb, Wetterhorn and Matterhorn Peaks.

Continuing on CO-110, the canyon walls widen near Howardsville, a popular mining town for more than a hundred years. To the south of the town, is the Old Hundred Gold Mine (A2) where you can explore an underground mine and experience the thrill of panning for gold.

Continuing northward, the road climbs to Eureka, where the road narrows to one lane with plenty of turn-outs to enjoy the scenery. The road continues its climb until you arrive in Animas Forks, a fascinating ghost town with remnants of what was once a thriving mining town. Above the tree line, the picturesque wildflower fields and surrounding peaks make the gravel trek well worth it. Many different types of wildlife call this area home and if you look closely big horn sheep, moose, mountain lions, bobcats and bear may be spotted.

The official byway continues west on Country Road 3 towards Lake City, and loops back on Country Road 20 to Animas Forks for those interested and prepared for off-road adventure.

Our car-friendly road trip returns to Silverton by continuing onto Country Road 9, Country Road 19 and Country Road 10 which will lead back to CO-110. In Silverton, you can continue on the San Juan Skyway.

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