When we were staying at the KOA in Ouray in the summer of 2019, one of our favorite adventures was driving Last Dollar Road from Ridgway to Telluride. One of our fellow workampers had done it a couple of weeks before and said we should definitely check it out. You can also drive it from Telluride to Ridgway depending on what starting point is closer to where you are staying.
There are much easier and faster ways to get from Ridgeway to Telluride but none are as amazing and scenic as Last Dollar Road. This off-road trail will require a 4-wheel drive vehicle with good clearance, tires that are in fairly good shape, and minimal knowledge of off-road driving.
We tried driving a lot of off-road trails while we were staying at the KOA and were able to do most in our Ford F-350. There were some sections of the trails we rode that became too narrow at some turns and those would have been for jeeps or shorter wheeled based vehicles.
This road was no problem for our truck. It featured some deep ruts, rocky sections, steep inclines, and mud. It was well signed and if you just took your time this trail was ok even for someone who has not driven off-road very much.
We entered from the Ridgway side. It started out wide and easy to navigate. We even ran into a couple who were out for a walk and chatted with them for a while. They told us about a project going on up the road to restore an old ranch house that was used in the movie True Grit. Just as they said it would be, we found the “True Grit” ranch down the road a bit.
There is one tricky part of this trail that might have you guessing which way to go. It’s a fork in the road and if you look to the right it’s a nice wide trail that looks easy to navigate while the one to the left dips down, curves, and is rocky. Guess which one you take?…lol. Yup, the one to the left.
Stay To The Left
As long as you stay to the left on that fork the rest of the road is well signed. As with any other forest access road the roads are very skinny and if someone is coming the other way it presents a challenge.
There are a few times when this happens and the only thing that can be done is that someone will have to back up a bit until they get to a spot in the road where they can move over. We found that everyone we encountered on the road was extremely courteous and knew what to do.
This road has numerous spots that you can pull off, get out and just enjoy the beautiful surroundings. There is one spot in particular that houses a wide open area that many vehicles can and do park in. It leads to an overlook that will just completely take your breath away.
We had gotten a later start so by the time we hit this point we were hungry. It turned out to be the perfect spot to drop the tailgate and have lunch.
How Did He Get Up Here?
Moving on from this point there were some additional pull-offs and at one point we even saw a small camper set up. We have no idea how he was even able to get there but what a great spot to camp!!!
The rest of the road weaves in and out of the mountains and at no point is the scenery disappointing. On one section nearing the end we came upon a spot that overlooked a field with hundreds of sheep. The road was not very wide at this point but we were able to get over enough so that other vehicles could pass.
Points Of Interest
- A View Of The Dallas Divide
- True Grit Ranch (Movie Starring John Wayne)
- Nice View Of Wilson Peak
As you near the end of the road you will notice more ranches. The strangest thing for us was after spending a few hours marveling at the beautiful scenery we all of a sudden came upon an airport. This airport is at the end of the road (or the beginning if you are entering from the Telluride side) and after a quick internet search we learned it was the Telluride Airport.
We are fairly new to the off-road scene but as time goes by we are enjoying it more and more. We discovered our new passion for off-roading too late to drive all the access trails in the San Juan Mountains but you can bet they are now on our radar to check out when we make any future trips back to the area.
As I stated earlier, this road is classified for beginners to intermediate drivers. We classify ourselves as beginners and had no problem. Some advice we could give to anyone setting out to drive this road would be:
- Make Sure Your Vehicle Is In Good Shape With Good Tires/Have A Spare
- Make Sure You Have A Full Tank Of Gas
- Do Not Attempt This Road After Heavy Rains
- Weather Can Change Rapidly At High Altitudes. Be Prepared By Watching The Sky And Weather Apps
- Bring Some Basic Tools
- Bring Food/Snacks/Water
- Bring A Camera (With A Zoom Lens)
Driving off-road presents some challenges but if you are prepared it can be a great way to get some spectacular views and have fun as is evident by this road. Last Dollar Road is definitely a road we would drive again the next time we are in the Ridgway area of Colorado.
Have you driven this road? If not, does it look like something you would be interested in doing? Let us know in the comments below.