The pass straddles a divide that separates Ouray and San Juan counties. The pass is named for the nearby Red Mountain 1, 2 and, 3 on the northeast side of the pass. The name is derived from the iron oxide laden rock that forms their slopes. Many experienced skiiers dare the slopes and snowshoe to the top and ski down, a dangerous feat.
The pass is known for being treacherous in the wintertime due to the steep 8% grade (slope) on the north side facing Ouray, though the entire road is paved. At times, (while driving) you may look out your window, if you're cliffside, and see no road but only the valley 1,000 plus feet below you. Many switchbacks and tight spots add to the difficulty. Roadside monuments mark where cars, trucks, semis and snowplows have plunged off the road, resulting in death.
Animals around the area include Marmots, Elk, Deer, Bear, Big-Horned Sheep, and a possible moose.
The pass separates the Uncompahgre and Las Animas River watersheds, and also serves as a dividing point between the Uncompahgre and San Juan National Forests. The pass is traversed by the Million Dollar Highway, U.S. Highway 550 between Ouray and Silverton, which is part of the San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway.