The best beginner ski tour on Red Mountain Pass


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McMillan Peak, at an elevation of 12,804 feet, is the easiest and most accessible summit in the beautiful Red Mountain Pass corridor.

This peak sits near the top of the pass, which is also dubbed the “Million Dollar Highway,” for its stunning views and precipitous drop-offs.

From the parking lot at the top of the pass, powder meadows and glades abound, but the peaks themselves are jagged and difficult to climb.

McMillan peak is an exception, and can be climbed on skins in a couple of hours from the parking lot via Forest Service roads and gentle alpine slopes over the course of two miles. From the summit, skiers are treated to 360-degree views of the rugged San Juan Mountains, which are the youngest and wildest of Colorado’s ranges.

To the west, the 13,000-foot peaks across the highway catch winter storms, meaning Red Mountain Pass gets more snow than almost anywhere else in Colorado.

The backsides of these peaks drop down into Telluride, which is about seven miles away as the crow flies, but almost an hour away by car.

To the east, skiers look down upon Silverton Mountain ski area, which has only one ski lift and some of the most challenging lift-accessed skiing in North America.

In the distance to the Southeast, the 14,000-foot peaks of the Weminuche Wilderness split the sky, comprising the largest wilderness area in Colorado.

Most groups take between 1.5 and 3 hours to make it to the top, and another hour to ski down to the parking lot.

After completing the upper slopes descent, good tree skiing can be found nearby for more laps.

The Mountain Belle hut is located at treeline near the standard ascent route, and is a good option for large groups looking for rustic backcountry hut accommodations.

Alternatively, the Red Mountain Alpine Lodge, a full-service luxury hut, is located near the parking area.