How to Drive in the Mountains in Colorado
Ouray, Colorado is a tiny, picturesque Victorian village nestled into a valley surrounded by rugged alpine peaks rising from the very edges of the town. Getting to Ouray is most of the fun and there are many scenic drives in the area but if you haven't driven in the mountains before, here are some tips to help you enjoy the alpine driving experience.
- Monitor your temperature gauge in the vehicle to make sure you don't overheat
- Turn off your A/C and roll down the windows when on the steep roads on warm days
- Be alert and anticipate the movement of other traffic around you based on the other vehicles speed.
When going up, the car engine is very taxed, especially if you are trying to maintain the speed limit of 65 miles per hour. If you have a 4 cylinder engine in your car, you will probably need to be in the right lane and you won't be going the speed limit as the car cannot go that fast on those grades. If you have A/C and it is summer, you may want to turn it off to give your car more power. Going up, it is always good to watch the temperature gauge since some very hot days can make it harder to cool the engine. If you have a 6 cylinder car or a V8, then, you will be able to go drive your vehicle at or near the speed limit going uphill. I still suggest you monitor the temperature gauge. If you are towing ANYTHING, then it is even harder on the vehicle. Stay right and go slow. Big semi trucks are a bit of an impediment as they only go 20 miles an hour on those grades when full so be sure to look ahead of you and be alert.
- Downshift rather than use your brakes
- Don't go faster going down than you can going up
- Keep plenty of distance between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you
When going down a hill, the biggest concern is riding the brakes. If you keep your foot on the brake the whole time, the brakes get hot and will lose some ability to work. Plan to downshift to help control your speed. Automatics typically have Low 2 and Low 1 gears. Of course you can use your brakes, just don't use them all the time. If you start to smell them, it is wise to pull over and let them cool off if you have a long way to go. Be careful of dropping into first gear as that is hard on transmissions if you are going too fast. Let the weight of the car get you down; don't use the gas pedal very much on the steeps. Keep plenty of distance in front of you and the next car and be aware. Take your time. You will be fine.
Whether or not you are driving on paved roads or dirt roads, the concepts are the same but the traction of the tires is not. Drive even slower on dirt roads and be mindful of the weather conditions around you. Roads that seem dry and safe can quickly become slippery when wet and storms can sneak up on you.