You will get all kinds of answers to this one and here is mine. I've travelled this road many times - it's a must - and have a lot of experience. I've ALWAYS travelled it in a car. I've also seen many RVs and trucks travel it. The Mountain West Directory recommends that it not be travelled by RVs and I can see why. It can be a very dangerous road for several reasons, brakes over heating, excessive speed, too slow speed, people who are unfamiliar with mountain driving, etc. are just a few.
Do yourself a favor and take 145 (I think, it could be 141) from Cortez to 62 on in to Ridgeway and then 550 to Montrose. The trip is extremely pretty and much safer and easier than 550 from Durango to Montrose. Then when you get to Montrose, take your tow vehicle and drive back over 550 just for sightseeing. It's well worth the drive.
Oops, I just noticed you are driving the other way. My advice still stands, just in reverse. Take 550 to Ridgeway, then 62 to 145/141 to Cortez, etc. The only difference with this is that if you want to sightsee on 550 over Red Mountain Pass, it is a much longer way this way. You have to drive to Durango, then up 550 to Montrose, etc. Still it's worth it.
I agree with those who suggest via Hwy 550 to Ridgeway Hwy62 and 145 to just beyond Delores and Hwy to Mancos and then Hwy 160 to Duraango.
About 7-8 miles outside of Durango on Hwy 16 (left hand side of road) there is a fairly new USFS campground that is quite nice for an overnight.
It's a beautiful drive....for passenger(s) as long as they enjoy steep mtn. roads, deep canyon, no guard rails, hair-pin turns, very few pull-outs that are big enough and three mtn. passes 10,000(+) to 12,000(+) feet.
It really is a beautiful drive........we went from Durango to Montrose then east to Gunnison towing a 34' 14K 5th wheel with a long bed 3500 diesel with exhaust brake.
Is there something in the Utah mountains that is comparable to the 'million dollar' part of 550? Big Mtn Pass? One of the ski resorts?
I'm not sure by what you mean by "comparable". In terms of scenery, I can't think of a mountain road in UT that's even close to what you'll see along US 550. IMHO, this area would have been a national park or even a wilderness if it weren't for all the mining in the area.
If you're talking about why people are afraid of the drive, I think most people have trouble with the section right above Ouray where there are no guardrails and a virtually vertical drop of hundreds of feet. Although the road is of standard width, people seem scared by that edge. Personally, we only rarely bounce off of guardrails to keep ourselves on the road. Probably the closest comparable Utah road is the short section along the hogback south of Boulder along UT 12. On US 550, there are also some switchbacks near Red Mountain that give some people pause, and another section of no guardrail a couple of miles south of Red Mountain Pass.
US 550 is an average mountain two lane highway. It has only moderate grades (nothing more than 6% or 7%)but there are a FEW rather sharp curves. Scenery is about as good as it gets and it's well worth the trip if you're comfortable with mountain driving. The highway is full width for a 2 lane mountain road and there are numerous places to pull off and gawk. We have always made the Million Dollar Highway one of our routes whenever we're in the area (or close enough to include it at least).
Good luck / Skip
2011 F-150 HD Ecoboost 3.5 V6. 2550 payload, 17,100 GCVWR - 2004 F-150 HD (Traded after 80,000 towing miles) 2007 Rockwood 8314SS 34' travel trailer
US Govt survey shows three out of four people make up 75% of the total population
I did the highway in 2009. Parked my 28 ft 5th in Montrose and made a day trip to Siverton. After driving the road, very glad I did not a trailer following me. I consider it an extreme road. I remember one place the 6" white line at the edge was the start of the drop off, no shoulder at all. Another place a curve so sharp, that I had to look of the my side window of the truck to see the road. The scenery is about as good as you will get.
Where there big RV rigs on the road, yes, but I was glad it was not me.
As one sheriff deputy said, "When there are accidents on this road, they tend to be very bad, as there is nothing to stop you once you are over the edge".
I also believe that Highway 12 in Utah between Torri and Bryce would be a close second.