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Photographing the West podcast

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Jan 16, 2017

Best places to stay for fall color:

Ouray population 1,000, elevation 7,792 feet, distance from Denver 300 miles/5 ½ hours via US-285 S AND US-50 W. Or 332 miles via I-70 W and Hwy’s 50/550.  Centrally located for exploring in all directions.  In Ouray, there are many places to stay in many price ranges. Centrally located for exploring in all directions.  A cheaper alternative is camping in one of the many national forests in the area including the Uncompahgre and Rio Grande National Forests. This is dry camping with potable water and vault toilets only, but the price is right.  Usually around $10 per night or less with a senior pass.


Best places for landscapes:

o   Last Dollar Road: A dirt road variously classified as a 1 or 1-2 jeep road meaning beginner or beginner to intermediate.  Being a dirt road, a lot depends on weather.  Rain can convert a dirt road to a soggy mess. A high clearance vehicle is best. Jeep rentals are available in Ouray. From Ouray take Hwy 550 to Hwy 62 in Ridgeway turn left and stay on Hwy 62 until you see a sign for Last Dollar Road or T60 on your left.  Allow 2-3 hours for the drive to Telluride, more if you’re taking lots of photos. “Last Dollar Road passes spectacular aspen groves, big mountains, pioneer structures, split rail fences, and ranches” according to Bryan Maltais.

o   Owl Creek Pass Road or County Road 8 is an 18.5 mile out and back drive most easily picked up north of Ridgeway on your right opposite Ridgeway State Park. “A beautiful scenic road to travel in the fall, with Courthouse Mt. and Chimney Peak in the background.There is a overlook on the Ridgeway side, and if you are there at sundown and if it's clear, you can get some great shots of Chimney Peak and Courthouse Mt. with a pink hue. Also there is an opening beside the road, with Chimney Peak in the background that a scene from the movie True Grit, with John Wayne was filmed” according to Tom Moldenhauer on the All Trails website

o   Kebler Pass Road: County Road 12 reached in Crested Butte travels westward for 28 miles before reaching Hwy 133 where a left turn takes you to Hwy 92 and eventually to Hwy 50 the main east-west road.  Crested Butte Bryan Maltais reports “Kebler Pass Road is 28 miles of unending scenery through the West Elk Mountains. Much of the road travels through lush Aspen forest, and frequently opens up to expose vast scenes of mountains as far as the eye can see. The views are a nice mix of classic Colorado ridges (The Dyke and the Ruby Range) and also singular, eroded peaks like the Beckwith Peaks and Marcelina Mountain.” The Gunnison-Crested Butte website  describes it as follows: “This is just one segment of the West Elk Loop Scenic and Historic Byway, but is a popular fall drive on its own. The 30-mile Kebler Pass road follows Coal Creek west from Crested Butte and climbs gradually past the old Keystone Mine. The graveled road follows the old Rio Grande Railroad grade toward Kebler Pass and the once booming mining camps of Irwin and Ruby, the lumber camp of Telco, and the coal mining town of Floresta. At the top of the pass, a road forks left toward Ohio Pass and Gunnison and right toward Kebler Pass. Kebler Pass heads into the Anthracite Creek drainage and through incredible Aspen groves, meeting Highway 133 at the Paonia Dam. This is a popular route linking Crested Butte to roadways that travel to Aspen, passing through the charming towns of Redstone and Carbondale along the way”

o   Ohio Pass Road: Is a left turn off County Road 12 out of Crested Butte described above onto County Road 730.  This road takes you 23.5 miles to Gunnison, CO. The where to go Colorado website  describes it as: The most colorful autumn route between Gunnison and Crested Butte is the Ohio Pass Road. Not the most direct, fastest or smoothest but without a doubt the most vibrant. North of Gunnison the road follows the Ohio Creek Valley – hay fields, cattle ranches and more recently built ranchette homes. Aged willows grow close to the creek. Stacks of large hay rolls promise feed for livestock during the coming winter. At approximately fifteen miles deserted, decaying structures are all that remains of Baldwin, once a company town for one of the region’s largest coal mines. Peaks of the West Elk Wilderness and The Castles – eroded volcanic remains – rise to the west. The further along the road we travel the thicker the aspen – area has been blessed an abundance of the quaking trees. At 10,076 –ft, Ohio Pass is not above timberline; near the top, dense growths of ferns carpet the forest floor. This is also a great drive during wildflower season”

o   Dallas Divide: See Last Dollar Road above.

o   San Juan Skyway, not one road, but many roads forming a 234-mile loop constituting a Colorado Scenic Byway.  Map at

 How to travel:

If you don’t have a high clearance or 4X4 vehicle consider renting one.

Buy local jeep maps and bring a compass.

Dress in layers.  Carry a warm jacket or better yet a parka, a warm hat and gloves.

Carry emergency supplies of food in water in addition to your normal lunch, drinks and snacks.

Carry an extra gas can or two.

Let someone know where you’re going and when you’ll be back.

First aid kit in the vehicle.


Guidebooks for Colorado photography: Best guidebook is not a photographer’s guide but rather “Colorado Scenic Guide: Southern Region” by Lee Gregory.  There’s also a northern region guide.  Both are available at my A-store at no extra charge.

On line references: