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Rocky Road

southwestern Colorado

No two road trips are the same. Or the same length. Some bring joy in 40 miles. On others, it takes 400. This little gem happens in the middle of nowhere. Thing is, nowhere usually means something to somebody somewhere. In the far reaches of San Miguel County, better known for the world-class ski slopes of Telluride, Highway 141 intersects the Dolores River. Called Slick Rock, it’s a serene place with pretty water, prickly pear cactus and gigantic rocks. Surrounded by high desert, vast ranches and faraway mountain peaks, Slick Rock is an oasis of a different sort. This road trip starts in the small town of Naturita and follows CO 141 as it curves southwest toward Colorado’s border with Utah. Soon the highway descends into a scenic river valley where millions of years of erosion is on view. With rock formations and massive boulders covering the landscape, it’s scenery fit for the Flintstones. But this is slickrock: smooth, weathered sandstone. While great for bikes, ATVs and other vehicles, it’s easy to slip on while hiking. It’s said cowboys came up with the name because slickrock is dangerous for horses with iron shoes. Along with the Colorado River, the Dolores River is one of the artistic masters in this region, responsible for carving numerous awe-inspiring canyons and valleys in Colorado and Utah. This is Dolores’ more understated work, only fully appreciated when exploring a few of the dirt roads branching off the main highway.

Route & Map        

This video essay follows CO 141 south from Naturita to Slick Rock and the Dolores River. Slick Rock is more of a designation than a town. There are a few houses in the area but no services. It’s better known for Slick Rock Hill, which provides a steep ascent and sweeping views of the river valley.

Length

It’s 40 miles from Naturita to Slick Rock. It’s worthwhile exploring the nearby country roads and also following CO 141 for the precipitous climb up Slick Rock Hill – but not in the snow!

Best Time to Visit

The road is well-maintained year-round but Slick Rock Hill can be dangerous in the winter.

Major Towns

Naturita lies to the north and Dove Creek to the south. Both are small towns with limited services but they do have gas, lodging, food and groceries.

Links

I always think it’s a good idea to check road conditions before I head out so I’m aware of summer construction and winter icy spots. Here’s a link to the Colorado Department of Transportation’s site.

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