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Aspens on Red Mountain Pass glow in the afternoon sun Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017, between Ouray and Silverton, Colo. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

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According to a report by the Durango Herald, a car went 130 feet off of Red Mountain Pass last Wednesday resulting in serious injuries to an unbelted passenger. The police report stated that the car landed upside down. The two people inside then had to wait hours in freezing temperatures for rescue. The road was closed during a period following the incident for vehicle recovery.

This is the second time a car has gone off of Red Mountain Pass this month, with the first time occurring on December 12, resulting in the death of the driver.

Red Mountain Pass is a notoriously dangerous stretch of road between Ouray and Silverton that winds up and down steep grades with a massive drop-off on one side. The drop is a sheer cliff in many parts. Because the road gets a lot of snow, guardrails are not present to allow plowing. The road is shut down when conditions are deemed too unsafe.

Because Red Mountain Pass connects Ouray to Silverton with a trip that takes roughly 45 minutes on a dry day, drivers prefer this route to the alternative – around four hours due to the rugged terrain, requiring travel through Durango. The road also attracts many during the summer months thanks to the stunning view, frequently called “the Million Dollar Highway.”

If you’re unfamiliar with driving on mountain roads, we recommend avoiding this drive – especially during the winter. While the road can be travelled with no issue, there is quite a bit of consequence for a mistake and the unnerving view of a cliff just inches from your wheelbase can be enough to cause panic in some.

It’s also worth mentioning that this road is quite prone to avalanche and mudslides due to the steep terrain above the pavement. Just earlier this year, the route was closed due to a mudslide.

Having driven this route during dusk, another thing to be aware of is wildlife that darts across the road. Because the road is so narrow and so windy, there’s not much time to react and not a spot for your swerve. It’s a beautiful drive that’s one-of-a-kind, but it’s also a drive that should be taken quite seriously.

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