Top 5 Reasons Why Silverton, Colorado Should Be Your Next Adventure Destination
family fun • travel • road trips & staycations
If you're looking for adventure then Silverton, Colorado should be at the top of your list. The legendary scenery has always been there of course, but a new endeavor called Polaris Adventures is changing the way we see it. Rock Pirates Backcountry Adventures is the Polaris Adventures outfitter in Silverton. They provide a simple one-stop rental shop of everything you'll need to get out, up, and into some of the most beautiful places on Earth.
I first discovered Polaris Adventures last fall on a quick press trip to Daniels Summit, Utah. My son and I drove Polaris RZR side-by-sides and in 24 hours had more fun than any father and son should legally be allowed to have on a school day. So when Polaris Adventures invited me again—this time for a multi-day trip to Silverton, Colorado—I didn't hesitate to say yes. This time we would not only be driving the exciting Polaris RZRs but also the new Polaris Slingshot open-air roadsters over some of the most scenic mountain highways in the country.
My son wasn't available this time, so I grabbed my buddy Bruce and we hit the road to Silverton, Colorado for an adventure of a lifetime.
Adventure Reason #1: The Million Dollar Highway
What a way to start an adventure. If you're from somewhere on the East Coast a name like Million Dollar Highway might frighten you because it's most likely referring to the toll you'll have to pay. That's not the case here in the West. Considered one of the most spectacular drives in the U.S., the Million Dollar Highway was built in the 1880s and its name refers to the original cost of building it.
If you've never driven the stretch between Ouray and Silverton then you're in for a real treat. In fact, I had so much fun that I'm going back again next week—this time with my wife on a road rally with several hundred Mini Coopers. The highway passes through the Uncompahgre Gorge to the summit of Red Mountain Pass. It features steep cliffs and spectacular views, but also narrow and winding lanes with no guardrails. One stretch in particular is certain to make even the most experienced drivers' knees weak. The climb to Red Mountain Pass is marked with hairpin curves and even more narrow lanes cut directly into the sides of mountains, and tops out at over 11,000 feet. The remains of the Idarado Mine are visible throughout the drive and provide a fascinating glimpse into the determination and hardships of the miners from years gone by.
Adventure Reason #2: The Town of Silverton
The mountain town of Silverton in an adventure in and of itself. It sits at 9300 feet in elevation and at about 1874 in historical eras. What you find in Silverton still looks and feels much like it did when it was an active mining town in the 19th Century. Consisting of less than one square mile in area and a population of only 500 people Silverton feels frozen in time. The tourism industry has yet to take over Silverton and it feels much like it must have over a century ago. The architecture remains true to its roots and the uncrowded and pedestrian-friendly streets are still unpaved with the exception of Main Street.
Establishments with names like the Bent Elbow restaurant, Handlebars Saloon, and the Grand Imperial Hotel are among the can't-miss local treasures. In its heyday Blair Street (also known as Notorious Blair Street) was home to 32 saloons, gambling halls, and brothels in a short three-block stretch. Gambling men such as Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp are said to have played ultimate texas holdem here. The tour guides at Rock Pirates Backcountry Adventures offer a much deeper and thorough history of Silverton and the surrounding area than I could ever hope to provide here. As much as we enjoyed the scenery and the off roading, the stories and legends we heard were a huge part of the success of this trip.
Adventure Reason #3: Rock Pirates Adventures and the Welcoming OHV Culture
Speaking of adventure, in a nod to the unparalleled backcountry that can be reached from Silverton, voters passed a ballot measure in 2014 to allow OHVs and unlicensed dirt bikes to operated on town streets. Visitors can now park their trailers and equipment and use their side-by-sides and ATVs as their primary transportation around town. They can then travel uninterrupted up to the Animas Forks, over the popular Alpine Loop, and over many other popular passes and areas.
Silverton not only caters to, but also celebrates off-road culture. Signs in businesses and along roads thanking and encouraging off roaders are commonplace throughout Silverton. It's such a refreshing contrast to the limitations and restrictions I'm used to seeing elsewhere (♪♬ signs, signs, everywhere a sign ♫). It's not that the area doesn't have rules and regulations, because they certainly do. The difference is in how the message is delivered.
The folks at Rock Pirates Backcountry Adventures know the area like the backs of their hands. The stories and history provided by our guides added a fantastic dimension to the scenes we would see each day.
Adventure Reason #4: The Alpine Loop
The Alpine Loop is a scenic and historic byway accessible from Silverton and is the precise adventure many visitors come for. The 65-mile circular route includes the ghost town of Animas Forks and Lake City, and features high country scenery such as river meadows, alpine tundra, and streams and waterfalls. Visitors from around the world are awed by the loop and its beauty. While lower sections can be accessed with an ordinary vehicle, a high-clearance 4-wheel drive vehicle is required to travel the entire route. Our Polaris RZR side-by-side was perfect for getting up close and personal with the Alpine Loop, and from what I saw during my visit, about 90 percent of riders seem to agree.
Adventure Reason #5: The Wildlife
The wilderness around Silverton is filled with deer, elk, and bighorn sheep and, depending on the season, even moose. On the more carnivorous and harder-to-find side of things you could also see black bears, bobcats, or the occasional mountain lion. Prior to my trip to Silverton the closest I've come to seeing a bear in the wild was sleeping in the same tent as my buddy Bruce. True, he's not actually a bear, but the way that man snores and the dank odors that emanate from his sleeping bag have startled me awake more than once with the certainty that an Alaskan grizzly was on the verge of swallowing me whole.
On the drive to Silverton I mentioned to Bruce that seeing a bear in the wild was still the top item on my bucket list. He reminded me that the problem wasn't that I wanted to see a bear, but rather that the bears didn't want to see me. But guess what we saw walking across a field next to the highway as we entered the Silverton town limits...my very first bear! Our trip to Silverton was a complete success. It was an adventure we won't soon forget.
About Polaris Adventures
Polaris Adventures is a national network of premium outdoor destinations that offer unforgettable ride and drive experiences. Area experts, known as adventure outfitters (such as Rock Pirates Backcountry Adventures of Silverton), provide worry-free ride and drive options in state-of-the-art Polaris vehicles to create safe, memorable adventures for all skill levels.
The concept includes numerous outfitters nationwide; from the tropical paradise of Maui, Hawaii, and the desert terrain of Ocotillo Wells, Calif., to the epic mountain passes of Silverton, Colo., and the wooded trails and trout streams of Pittsburg, N.H. From half-day, full-day or custom rides, Polaris Adventures allows everyone the freedom to explore.
Disclosure: The kind folks at Polaris Adventures covered the expenses for this trip and the activities described in this post. All comments and opinions are my own.
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