Last Dollar Road in southwestern Colorado is an old wagon road that connects Telluride to Ridgway. It’s very scenic and very popular and is considered by many to be one of the prettiest roads in Colorado especially during the wildflower season and the Fall foliage season. Last Dollar Road is an easy and pleasant 4-wheel drive tour.
Last Dollar Road has a little bit of everything for the tourist. There’s large ranches, Aspen groves, dense forests, open meadows, a couple of streams to cross, and gorgeous views of the San Miguel Mountains. If you’re looking for scenery and beautiful mountain vistas, Last Dollar Road should be at the top of your list. Don’t forget to take your camera.
This road used to be traveled by the elite society of Telluride in wagons and horses. It was also a supply route from Ridgway to Telluride. Locals tell the story of an old farmer that used to charge people one dollar to travel this road and that’s how it became known as Last Dollar Road.
My husband and I recently drove Last Dollar Road and it’s about a two-hour drive along a dirt road. You definitely need 4-wheel drive on Last Dollar Road although some spots are graded very nicely. A word of caution: Do not drive Last Dollar Road if it’s raining or has just rained. The thick mud will stick to your wheels and it’s very slippery. For the most part, Last Dollar Road is best traveled in the summer and fall. The winter months and rainy spring months are not advisable. A high-clearance vehicle is needed as there’s rocky sections of road and several small streams to cross.
We began our trip to Last Dollar Road from Ridgway heading towards Telluride. We’ve heard from the locals that the best time to drive Last Dollar Road is in the afternoon. The afternoon sun glistens through the trees and shines on the mountains which makes it better for viewing and picture taking. As you get closer to Telluride, the mountain views are more frequent and breathtaking.
You’ll drive by several large and beautiful ranches at the beginning of Last Dollar Road. One of the prettiest is Last Dollar Ranch and the views are fantastic. There’s high alpine meadows here and during July at the height of wildflower season, this is a great area for viewing Colorado’s wildflowers.
Last Dollar Road has several Aspen stands, but there’s one in particular that is absolutely stunning. You’ll know it when you approach it. Make sure to stop, take pictures, and enjoy the natural beauty.
You’ll continue on a winding road passing fields and Aspen trees before entering a dense forest. Tall Ponderosa pines will block the sun and you’ll cross several very easy small streams. You’ll emerge on a mountainside and the views of the San Miguel Mountains and canyons deserve an exclamatory gasp!
Basically, Last Dollar Road is a peaceful scenic drive and very easy except when wet. It’s narrow in places and there’s only one scary part and that’s near the end of the drive on Last Dollar Road in Telluride. The scary part is on a narrow shelf that goes downhill for about a half mile. If you’re heading towards Telluride, then you’ll be hugging the mountainside as you drive this shelf. However, if you begin Last Dollar Road in Telluride then you’ll be driving up the shelf and hugging a steep cliff. Not a place I like to be which is why I recommend beginning the trip from Ridgway.
To reach Last Dollar Road from Ridgway, take Highway 62 heading southwest. About 12 miles down the road there’ll be a brown sign for Last Dollar Road and you’ll enter the dirt roadway on the left. It’s very visible and you can’t miss it. If you take this trip from Telluride, you’ll take Highway 145 and you’ll turn onto the road to Telluride Airport/Last Dollar Road. After about 2 miles, you’ll branch off to the right on Last Dollar Road.
Seeing Telluride Airport is another highlight of this tour. Telluride Airport is on top of a mountain and planes literally take off from a cliff. If you’re lucky enough to see a plane take off, you’ll understand why I don’t fly out of Telluride Airport. That’s another story.
Source: Personal Experience