Guide to Colorado Backroads and 4-Wheel Drive Trails, Vol 1  by Charles A. Wells

Guide to Colorado Backroads & 4-Wheel Drive Trails, Vol. 1 Guide Book

by Charles A. Wells (FunTreks)
Guide to Colorado Backroads and 4-Wheel Drive Trails, Vol 1  by Charles A. Wells
Whether novice or expert, you'll enjoy this clear, concise guide to Colorado's remote backcountry. It covers some of the most popular areas in Colorado including Ouray, Silverton, Lake City, Crested Butte, Aspen, Marble, Buena Vista, Monarch, Vail, Leadville, Fairplay, Breckenridge, Dillon, Idaho Springs, the Pikes Peak Region and the Sangre De Cristo Mountains. Detailed trail descriptions, 83 maps, and over 425 photographs cover spectacular areas south of Interstate 70. Fifty trails are suitable for most stock SUV's. Includes GPS waypoints. Completely redone 2nd edition features 75 trails - 25 all new.

© 2005 Charles A Wells/FunTreks. All Rights Reserved.

Trails from the "Guide to Colorado Backroads & 4-Wheel Drive Trails, Vol. 1" Guide Book
Displaying trails 20 of 75.

Displaying trails 1 to 20 of 75.

Incredible views from 13,132-ft. Argentine Pass and top of McClellan Mountain. Don’t miss Santiago Mine and Ghost Town. (Caution: Mine is on private property. Stay on road and well away from buildings.) Not much remains of Waldorf. In the 1860s, it had the highest post office in the United States at 11,666 ft. The railroad that ran to Waldorf, in addition to carrying freight, also carried tourists. In 1905, the railroad was extended to the top of McClellan Mountain and was known as the Stairway to the Stars. At the top, tourists were given a tour of the Ice Palace, an old mining tunnel filled with ice formations. F.S. 248.1 follows the old railroad grade. If you wonder how the trains made the tight turns at the switchbacks, they didn’t. They continued past the turn, then backed up, alternating forwards and backwards up the mountainside. Many legal side roads for Jeeps and ATVs to explore. Great fall color and seasonal wildflowers. Numerous tourist attractions in quaint Georgetown. Stop at visitor center near freeway exit to learn more. Rocky at the start and very narrow at the top of Argentine Pass. Much of the lower route is easy. Snow can block trail well into summer. Follow an old railroad bed as it climbs gradually to the top of McClellan Mountain, but watch out at the end, where the road appears to go over a cliff. Suitable for most high-clearance, 4x4 SUVs. Oversize vehicles should not attempt Argentine Pass, but should be able to drive much of McClellan Mountain.
Georgetown, CO - Off-Highway Drives - Trail Length: 13.2
Climb through the heart of beautiful Aspen Ski Area. At the summit of Aspen Mountain, have lunch at the Sundeck Restaurant with gondola-riding tourists or picnic at a separate picnic spot nearby. After lunch, escape the crowds with a backcountry drive along remote Richmond Ridge. Much of mountain top is private land so stay on main road at all times. Visit Historic Ashcroft Townsite at end of trip. Aspen Summer Road is sometimes temporarily closed for construction. If this should occur, you can still get to the top of Aspen Mountain via Midnight Mine Road. ATVs are allowed on entire route but Richmond Hill Road is better suited for unlicensed vehicles. ATV riders can walk into town from bottom of Aspen Summer Road. Do not ride on paved streets. Aspen Summer Road and the first part of Richmond Hill Road are easy although 4-wheel drive is needed because the road is steep in places. The southern end of Richmond Hill Road, as you near Taylor Pass, is rough and steep with possible mud holes. There is one quarter-mile section of high, narrow shelf road as you start down Express Creek Road from Taylor Pass. Overall, the trail is suitable for stock SUVs with high clearance and low-range gearing. Best to go with another vehicle.
Aspen, CO - Off-Highway Drives - Trail Length: 21.5
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A fun road that descends to a remote camp spot above Palmer Lake. Side road ends at wind-protected picnic spot at base of large rock outcrop. Views of front range from top of rock. Good ATV trail. Staging at start. Natural granite gravel road over roller-coaster terrain. East end narrows and drops steeply down to gate at reservoir for town of Palmer Lake. Suitable for stock, high-clearance SUVs with 4-wheel drive.
Monument, CO - Off-Highway Drives - Trail Length: 15.6
This route features scenic, remote, and lesser-traveled backroads. Camp and fish at Baldwin Lakes. Great for ATVs, especially narrower Boulder Mountain. Staging at several wide spots near start. Rocky, narrow road suitable for aggressive, high-clearance SUVs. Oversize vehicles should not attempt Boulder Mountain. Marginally difficult above Baldwin Lakes. Snow melts late.
Saint Elmo, CO - Off-Highway Drives - Trail Length: 22
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This route features incredible views from high above Red Mountain Pass and Telluride. Close-up views of historic mines and dramatic waterfalls. Pass by the top and bottom of spectacular Bridal Veil Falls. This road is closed November through May 1st. ATVs are allowed, but remember, if you go down the one-way switchbacks, you can’t go back up. A pick-up vehicle would have to be waiting at the bottom. Most of the trail is easy to moderate. The difficult rating is based on a mile-long stretch of dangerous switchbacks above Bridal Veil Falls. (One way, downhill only.) Hardly a summer passes without some kind of accident. The latest accident occurred in July of 2004. A couple died when their Jeep went off the road and plummeted about 900 ft. Your vehicle must have low-range 4WD, good tires, good brakes and an excellent emergency brake. In addition, it must have excellent articulation or a differential locker. Without these last two features, your tires may come off the ground when you back up to make the tight turns. This situation could lead to ultimate terror as you become stuck at a point when you are literally hanging over the edge. If you do not understand this paragraph, stay off this trail!
Telluride, CO - Off-Highway Drives - Trail Length: 12
This trail is nationally known as perhaps the best hard-core trail in Colorado. The trail has many challenging obstacles that test the most experienced drivers and best equipment. You are rewarded at the upper end of the trip with a serene high mountain lake that has great camping and fishing. Bring along some insect repellent. Memorable climb to beautiful Lake Como where you can camp and fish. Please be extra courteous to hikers. Pack out trash. Very difficult and dangerous for ATVs. Trail subject to closure, if abused. One of the most popular hard-core trails in Colorado with many difficult rock obstacles. Be very careful on dangerous Jaws 2, where several vehicles have rolled over the edge. Trail is very narrow and passing is tricky. Recommend 33-inch tires, at least one locker and a winch.
Blanca, CO - Off-Highway Drives - Trail Length: 15.6
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This route offers beautiful views the entire trip, especially at the start and finish. Historically significant. Once a railroad, converted to auto traffic in 1952. Scenic drive with historic stops, seasonal wildflowers and fall color. Once a railroad, converted to auto traffic in 1952. See railroad exhibits at start, Boreas Pass and Como. ATVs allowed on forest portion of road. Fun 4x4 side roads to explore. Bumpy in places but suitable for passenger cars when dry. Side roads, including Pennsylvania Creek, Indiana Creek, North Tarryall Creek and Bald Mountain, are narrow and rough but mostly moderate.
Breckenridge, CO - Off-Highway Drives - Trail Length: 21.2
At the start of the trail is the town of Animas Forks, gateway to the Alpine Loop, a nice place to get a close-up look at a well-preserved ghost town. Animas Forks was active between 1875 and the early 1920s. In 1885, its summer population reached a high of 450 people. The Silverton Northern Railroad reached the town in 1904 when the giant Gold Prince Mill was built. The mill lasted only six years before it was closed. Please don’t go into the buildings or take any souvenirs. There is a decent public toilet near the townsite. The trail has several mines along the way, including a large well-preserved one within the first mile. Just below the summit of California Pass, on the east side, are the remains of the Mountain Queen Mine. This mine has a 400 ft. deep shaft which connects to a quarter mile long tunnel going back to lower California Gulch. The only challenging part of this trail is the climb up and over California Pass.
Silverton, CO - Off-Highway Drives - Trail Length: 9.8
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This area is primarily used by four-wheelers, ATVs and dirt bikes. Hikers and mountain bikers find other places more appealing. The trail is open all year and receives comparatively small amounts of snow. Consequently, it is a popular winter destination. Carnage Canyon is a nationally recognized extreme trail. Out-of-state license plates are often seen in the parking area. The organized four-wheeling community has worked hard with the BLM to keep this area open for 4-wheeling. It is critical that users stay on established routes at all times. Users of Carnage Canyon are expected to clean up any type of fluid spills, immediately. Make sure someone in your group carries a spill kit. Rock-stacking is heavily frowned upon. If you must stack rocks to get over an obstacle, remove them when you are done. Chinaman Gulch: Difficult: The rockiest part of the trail is within the first half mile. Chinaman Gulch is narrow and sandy with isolated rock obstacles. Two obstacles in the gulch can be completely bypassed, while a third has a moderate approach on one side. A narrow trail climbs tightly through the trees out of the gulch, then descends a rocky ridge back to the start of loop. The trail is better suited for modified vehicles with lockers and skid plates. Carnage Canyon: An extreme trail for radically modified vehicles. Minimum 35-inch tires with lockers both ends. Even with this equipment, you’ll need to winch much of the time. Mechanical failure and body damage are a common occurrence.
Johnson Village, CO - Off-Highway Drives - Trail Length: 7.3
This trail, combined with Engineer Pass, constitutes the famous Alpine Loop. The western half of the trip passes many historic points and climbs to outstanding views. Side trip up Wager Gulch takes you to Carson Ghost Town. Cinnamon Pass Road also accesses beautiful American Basin, one of the best places in the area for wildflowers. There’s a large staging area for ATVs soon after the pavement ends. This is a popular ATV area. Unlicensed vehicles must display an OHV permit and riders must possess a valid driver’s license or vehicle operator’s license. Ouray and San Juan Counties require proof of liability insurance for unlicensed vehicles. Most of this trail is easy; however, the western half is steep and rocky in a few places. The side trip up Wager Gulch is slightly more difficult than Cinnamon Pass. All roads, when dry, are suitable for any stock 4x4 SUV with moderate ground clearance. The side trip up American Basin is borderline difficult.
Lake City, CO - Off-Highway Drives - Trail Length: 56.8
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This route runs through a beautiful valley close to Silverton offers great hiking, biking and fishing. Large open campgrounds along South Mineral Creek suitable for motorhomes. Spectacular climb to high mountain lake with beautiful wildflowers. Silverton is a must-see town. Residents here take real pride in their community. It has a rich mining history with many great stores and restaurants. Visit the museum or take a ride to Durango on the famous “Durango and Silverton Railroad.” Great area to camp and ride ATVs on marked forest roads. Steep and narrow at the top but suitable for any high-clearance stock SUV.
Silverton, CO - Off-Highway Drives - Trail Length: 16.2
This scenic trail cuts through the heart of old mining country as it winds between Red Mountain No. 1 and No. 2. You may encounter large trucks on the lower half of the route because the area is still actively logged. ATVs are allowed on this trail and staging is permitted at the north end of the trail. You can also park and enter the area from the Gladstone end if you are coming from Silverton. There are many legal side roads to explore between Gladstone and Hurricane Pass. Just south of where Corkscrew Gulch leaves U.S. 550, several roads wind around in the trees. Here and there, a building can be found. This is all that remains of the once important mining town of Ironton. The lower section of the trail has a great deal of clay in the soil which makes it very slippery when wet. Stay off the trail during wet periods.
Silverton, CO - Off-Highway Drives - Trail Length: 5
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A unique east/west OHV route across Rampart Range that connects to many ATV and dirt bike trails in the Rampart Range Recreation Area. Camping, parking and fires in designated sites only. Day use only unless camping. Closed to full-sized vehicles Dec.1 to about Apr.1 but open to unlicensed vehicles in winter. No unlicensed vehicles allowed on Rampart Range Road, except on north end during the winter. Fun dirt roads with many twists, turns and undulations.
Sedalia, CO - Off-Highway Drives - Trail Length: 23.2
An incredibly fun trail to drive with some of Colorado’s best scenery. You won’t be able to stop taking pictures. A side trip provides the easiest access to the top of Radical Hill where there’s a good chance to see mountain goats. I was able to get within 50 feet of a molting herd. Locals tell me this is a common occurrence. This whole area is very popular for dirt bikes and ATVs. You can unload at a large parking area. Unlicensed vehicles are not allowed on county roads so don’t ride through town of Montezuma. Many riders also come up through Handcart Gulch. This trail has a few sections that are borderline difficult, however, the trail is commonly traveled by stock, high-clearance SUVs. Low-range gearing is required. I do not recommend this trail for novice drivers.
Montezuma, CO - Off-Highway Drives - Trail Length: 15.2
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Every year, thousands of tourists drive their SUVs to the famous Crystal Mill and the historic town of Crystal. Only the most serious four-wheelers continue up through the Devil’s Punchbowl. Drivers with some experience, who don’t wish to tackle the Devil’s Punchbowl, can loop back to Marble via Lead King Basin. This should not be attempted when the trail is wet. Both the Devil’s Punchbowl and Lead King Basin are open to ATVs. Stay on marked routes at all times. The first portion of the trail to the Crystal Mill is rocky but doable in a stock 4x4. East of the town of Crystal, the road becomes extremely narrow as it climbs steeply along the daunting vertical walls of Crystal Canyon. You may have to back up a long distance if you meet an oncoming vehicle. Rock slides are common and occasionally close the trail. Snow lingers in the shadows of the canyon most of the summer. There have been years when this part of the trail has not opened at all. The group with which I traveled included a stock Cherokee. It struggled in spots but managed, with an experienced driver, to complete the entire trail without damage. (Note: Several fatal accidents have occurred on this trail, including the worst in Colorado history. In July of 1970, nine tourists died when their vehicle plummeted off the ledge above the Devil’s Punchbowl.)
Marble, CO - Off-Highway Drives - Trail Length: 10.7
Eagle Rock refers to the first half of the trail that climbs and merges with Mount Baldy at Deer Park. The route described here adds an exit route. This route passes through a remote area down the back side of Almagre Mountain. Dispersed camping at Deer Park. Good trail for ATVs. Stay on routes marked with white arrow signs. Narrow, steep and rocky. Muddy and slippery in places, especially early in the year. Not suitable for stock vehicles.
Colorado Springs, CO - Off-Highway Drives - Trail Length: 6.1
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This trail, combined with Cinnamon Pass, constitutes the famous Alpine Loop. It is an exhilarating trip for drivers of all experience levels. There are many mines and points of historical interest along the route. The east side of the trail follows Henson Creek where you’ll find excellent places to camp and fish. The entire route is open to ATVs. You’ll find staging areas on the west, south and eastern entry points. Unlicensed vehicles must display an OHV permit and riders must possess a valid drivers license or vehicle operator’s license. Ouray and San Juan Counties require proof of liability insurance for unlicensed vehicles. Most of the route is easy, but there are still a few narrow, steep places on the west side of the pass that will get your attention. The trail climbs to an elevation of 12,800 ft. Caution should be used at all times especially in wet weather. Any 4x4 with moderate ground clearance and low-range gearing can do it.
Ouray, CO - Off-Highway Drives - Trail Length: 21
This trail has more historical significance than beauty. It ends at the famed Sunnyside Mine. Unfortunately, only foundations remain today. There is a large campground at Eureka Townsite at the base of the trail. Eureka was established in 1875 with an active post office until 1942. Sunnyside Mine produced over $50 million. Mines under Lake Emma collapsed in 1978 and the lake drained. No one was hurt, but it took 2 years to clean up the damage. Judge Terry’s Midway Mill was the final destination for ore in the early tramway system. The Angle Tram Station was part of a 2nd tram system to carry ore to the newer Sunnyside Mill. The foundations of this mill can be seen on left as you start up the trail. There is no clear hiking path up to the tram station, so take a telephoto lens if you want close-up pictures. ATVs are allowed on trail. A staging area is located near the trail start. Most of the land, beyond the road, is private reclaimed mining land and is not open to the public. Road is mildly rocky and rutted but fairly wide even at top of mountain. Side trip on lower portion of trail is somewhat overgrown with one rocky water crossing just before Midway Mill. Main road is suitable for any 4x4 SUV. High clearance recommended for lower side trip.
Silverton, CO - Off-Highway Drives - Trail Length: 7.2
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This route features outstanding dispersed camping with incredible views of the Collegiate Peaks. The northwest corner of the area has spaghetti-like network of roads that are fun to explore. Great area for ATVs and dirt bikes. Vehicles must stay on existing roads at all times. Enjoy the Midland Mountain Bike Trail. Hike Davis Meadow in search of Natural Arch. Seasonal gates close much of the area from December 1 to around April 30. Goddard Ranch is private property and is gated on each side during this same period. Variety of conditions from graded roads to narrow, rutted and sandy roads. Steep in a few places. Suitable for all stock, high-clearance 4-wheel-drive SUVs.
Buena Vista, CO - Off-Highway Drives - Trail Length: 25
This trail is an interesting backcountry shortcut to Breckenridge from Denver if you are looking for a little adventure and a change in routine. You can access some fairly remote highlands from the south side via an easy road. There are several nice forest service campgrounds on the south side of the pass on a side road to Jefferson Lake. Georgia Pass was the most popular way to reach Breckenridge from the south in the early 1860s as thousands of crazed miners brought their wagons over the pass and down through the Swan River Valley. Eventually Hoosier Pass and Boreas Pass became the more popular routes, and Georgia Pass was abandoned. The moderate rating is based on a 2-mile stretch on the north side of the pass. The south side approach is easy. The entire route is very suitable for stock sport utility vehicles unless snow covered. The trail may be impassable in the spring because of one wet area on the upper north side.
Jefferson, CO - Off-Highway Drives - Trail Length: 23
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