Southwest Colorado Backcountry Driving Tour: Lime Creek Road
About 50 Miles South of Ouray, the Old Lime Creek Road Provides an Easy Forray into Backcountry Driving (4WD)
Drive the original US 550 through beautiful coniferous and aspen forests. In the fall, this road is a great fall foliage scenic drive and Colorado Color tour through shimmering aspen tree forests. Most of the road is quite easy, but, a high clearance vehicle is essential in some rocky sections.
Take US Forest Service Road 591 approximately three miles north of Purgatory Ski Area. This scenic drive in Southwest Colorado takes adventurers to Scout Lake, approximately 3 miles from this intersection. Scout Lake provides an incredible landscape for Plein Aire painters all summer long. The lake is full of blooming lilly pads in July and August and home to numerous ducks, geese and other water fowl. Past Scout Lake, the road becomes a wide shelf road, overlooking the beautiful Lime Creek Valley below. In sections, you will see remnants of the original US 550 through this area; notice the intracate rock and brick guard rails that were built in the 1930s through the Civilian Conservation Corps.
The Lime Creek Road lies on the edge of old Ute land, running along Lime Creek from the Upper Animas River Basin to the Silverton area. It was first used as a hunting trail by the Utes. Captain Charles Baker was one of the earliest prospectors to use the trail in 1860, prior to mineral prospecting rush of that decade. The trail was converted into a formal road in the late 1800s. It was used heavily by prospectors carrying gold and silver as well as early pioneers trying to access Silverton’s extremely profitable mining country. Even though this road may seem primitive and a bit treacherous by todays standards, it was still the easiest route to reach the Animas Valley. The other alternatives meant trekking the steep slopes of the Molas Divide or attempting the Animas Canyon. Imagine what it would have been like to ride the road in a horse drawn wagon!
This road rejoins the current US 550 12 miles later, about 11 miles south of Silverton on the slopes of Coal Bank Pass.