is it possible to park on or just off of US 550 for an overnight trip to Columbine Lake? Does CO DOT clear the pull outs for parking, or clear them but post them as only for emergency use or temporary parking?
That's one of the tightest parts of the highway and full of Do Not Stop avalanche areas. I would plan on parking at Red Mountain Pass and walking down the road. There's a webcam on the pass that shows what conditions are.
Thanks, but did you look at the GPS spot on a map, as it appears as though there are pull-outs and possibly a small area that may be a summer trailhead and could be plowed for winter access. On a USGS Topo, this area is due west of Chattanooga, or the old site of that town. I expect I'll have to inspect the area and see what I can do with a back-up, but I'm hoping on that area. Thanks for the Red MT Pass tip, as if that area is good for parking, there is a road that goes to a basin with some small lakes in it, just west of the pass. Looks like a peak to summit, too.
Google Maps rendered a location for those coordinates at the top of the Chattanooga loop, which made me assume you planned to start a ski trip up the jeep road to Bullion King Lake, which meets the highway about a mile below Red Mountain Pass. There's no route directly west from Chattanooga up Mill Creek. The road shown on the map goes to a mine and stops halfway up a cliff. That's not practicable even in summer. The standard route to Columbine Lake is the zigzag trail (#509) that starts off a side road that runs north from the Mineral Creek bridge which the jeep road crosses just west of the highway as it starts up toward Ophir Pass. That's pretty steep for winter (but at least no snowmobiles). There might be room for parking in the wide spot at the Ophir Pass turnoff. There's also a large scenic turnoff area on the west of the highway just south of Chattanooga.