All up and down the Front Range has amazing off-road trails to explore. If you’re looking to take your 4×4 in Gunnison County, consider visiting some of these places.
Blue Mesa Cutoff
Skill Level: Very Easy
Trail Length: 16.5 Miles
Nearby Towns: Alpine Plateau
Elevation: 7,800 to 8,900 feet
If you are one of those drivers who have never taken their vehicle off-road before, this is the perfect place to do so. It is a very easy path to follow with no climbs or descents or rock crawling. It’s a good starting point to see what the roads feel like off the pavement. For those of you who are a little more experienced, this is still a great place to see some amazing scenery.
Start on the north end of Highway 50, and you’ll be right next to the Blue Mesa Reservoir in the Curecanti National Recreation area. The trail starts between the Pine Creek Mesa and the Blue Mesa. As you travel south, you end up on the top of Pine Creek Mesa and then back down to the Gunnison River. After crossing the bridge over the river, turn right to continue South. If you continue past the Red Bridge campground, you’ll eventually reach the intersection with highway 149 at Gateview.
- Carbonate Hill
Skill Level: Easy
Trail Length: 5.5 Miles
Nearby Towns: Tincup
Elevation: 9,700 to 10,900 feet
This is a fun and direct route to the northern portion of Cumberland Pass. Though you will most likely need a 4×4 vehicle to efficiently navigate through the terrain here. This is a fun trail with steep climbs and descents, water crossings, mud and some rock crawling; a great place for beginner looking for more experience.
From Tincup, proceed south on Grand Avenue or forest service road 765 which will lead you through Cumberland Pass. Look for service road 764 which will take you to the first part of the trail through Slaughterhouse Gulch. At the top of this hill you’ll reach a spur that continues on through Bertha Gluch. Stay on the main trail and head downhill. Once you head down the hill you’ll reach an old cabin. Continue along the road and you’ll find a large puddle that needs to be driven through. Take this until you connect with forest service road 752.
- Crystal City
Skill Level: Easy
Trail Length: 6 Miles
Nearby Towns: Marble
Elevation: 8,000 to 9,200 feet
Crystal City is one of the more notable places in Colorado to take your 4×4 rig. With some of the most photographed scenery in the state, it’s definitely a favorite amongst off-road enthusiasts. Take camera, as you won’t want to miss any of the cabins, water powerhouses and other scenery.
Start at the Beaver Lake parking lot, which will turn into an easy to navigate dirt road. You’ll then start a brief climb up to Daniels Mountain leading to the King Basin trail-head. Continue along the right side of Hat Mountain passing Lizard Lake. You’ll then come across an old powerhouse which will provide plenty of picture opportunities. Shortly after the powerhouse is the small town of Crystal City.
- Pearl Pass
Skill Level: Challenging
Trail Length: 21 Miles
Nearby Towns: Aspen
Elevation: 8,900 to 12,700 feet
Pearl Pass is not always available to access year round depending on snow conditions, but when it’s open provides a challenging and fun trail for off-road enthusiasts. There are great scenic views from high in the Rockies, steep cliffs and climbs and is high in elevation.
On the south side of the pass, the trail is rockier and more difficult and provides the biggest challenges. If you travel from north to south, the trial will be easier. Starting on the southern end of the Crested Butte mountain, the trail will go through a residential area before it follows Brush Creek. The climb is scenic through trees and meadows. When you arrive at the first switchback, you will start your ascend to the pass. Climb the mountain and you’ll reach the pass marked with a sign. Here you will be at the border of Gunnison County and Pitkin County and will want to head down the mountain to the other side. This side is very rocky, so take your time and if conditions are bad you may need to go in 4-Lo.
Continue through Greg Mace peak along the switchbacks. You’ll pass through the trail-head towards Montezuma Basin, and then through more switchbacks. After passing the Basin, the bottom of the hill will have a wooden bridge. Cross the bridge and the reset of the descent is easy.
Before taking your vehicle off-road, make sure to visit your 4×4 mechanic for a full inspection and 4×4 service. Make sure all aftermarket parts and truck parts are installed correctly, and always try to use the buddy system on your journey.