US Route 550 from central New Mexico through western Colorado has some of the most stunning scenery you will find anywhere in the United States. Only, that’s not the reason people know it as “the $1,000,000 Road.” This familiar name arises because locals saying you could pay them $1,000,000 and they would not drive that route after a snowstorm.
Part of the reason this highway from Ouray and Ironton is so dangerous is because of the breathtaking vistas that tempt drivers to turn their eyes from the road. However, it is also the case that there are no guardrails along the highway.
Just how dangerous is US 550?
While the dangers of the road are well known and it is not heavily traveled—and sparsely driven during the winter—there is an average of 40 accidents a year on this highway and about 7 fatalities annually. As careful as drivers may try to be, there is no protection from avalanches or mudslides. Often animals block the highway, causing drivers to swerve off of the road.
Why are there no guardrails?
Apart from the most serious snowstorms, this road stays open year-round. Guardrails would prevent snowplows from clearing the highway. It is essential when traveling this road to remember that Colorado weather can change momentarily, creating problems of ice and snowdrifts.
The most dangerous part of this road is 25 miles long but requires the better part of an hour to travel. The speed limit at most is 25 miles an hour and, at points, you must slow to 10 miles an hour.