Toyota 4-wheeling in Colorado.

Colorado 4×4 Trails- Lake County

We all know that the weather in Colorado can be moody. Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you have to stay inside! January and February have seen their fair share of sunny warm days, so it may be a great time to clean up your off-road rig and hit the trails. The gorgeous sweeping views of Lake County, home of Leadville, will inspire you while its many creeks and outcroppings will give your 4-wheel parts a good challenge.

Just be sure to double check road conditions prior to heading out (some trails may be closed due to snow) and stop by your local Fort Collins auto shop for a quick tune-up before any pre-season excursions. It’s also a great time of year to test drive any new aftermarket parts and see how they fit before the summer rush! When you and your buddies are ready to go, check out these amazing trails in the Leadville area:

Hagerman Pass

  • Skill Level: Easy
  • Trail Length: 11.8 miles
  • Nearest City: Leadville
  • Elevation: 10,200-12,000 feet

Seated on the spine of the Continental Divide, Hagerman Pass is a high-altitude climbing extravaganza featuring a lovely creek, an old railroad tunnel, and wildlife aplenty. The initial climb is easy and wide, leading up to the Carleton Tunnel, which once serviced the local railroad line. There is room to get out and explore here, but once you hop back on the trail, things start getting steep. Several rocky switchbacks call you onwards towards the Divide where the views are rewarding and the trail flattens out again. On the backside, you will see Ivanhoe Lake and have access points to several other smaller trails in the area.

From Leadville, follow the signs towards Turquoise Lake. When the road forks at the western edge of the lake, take the left section (County Road 4) and this will lead you to the trailhead. Just be sure to plan ahead, as they sometimes close this road in the winter.

Half Moon Creek

  • Skill Level: Moderate
  • Trail Length: 11.4 miles
  • Nearest City: Leadville
  • Elevation: 10,100- 12,800 feet

While Half Moon Creek trail is a tad isolated, it is well worth taking the day to explore the area. If your 4-wheel parts are just dying to get drenched, this is just the place for you- there are technically four separate water crossings and plenty of muddy fun to be had. The trail forms a “Y” shape, so start with the left fork first, as it’s the most technical. You’ll traverse a deep creek then continue up a short hill to a challenging water and rock outcropping obstacle combo. The Iron Mike Mine awaits you at the end of the left fork, and when you’ve finished there, conquer the right fork to be rewarded with two more water crossings and the Champion Mill (a stellar photo op). Due to all the creek crossings, talk to your local Fort Collins auto shop about any possible aftermarket parts to make this trail safer for your vehicle.

Heading South from Leadville on Hwy 24, keep an eye out for road 300 and make a right. Follow it for about 1 mile (heading west) and look for signs for Half Moon Creek Campground. The Mount Massive trailhead marks the start for this 4×4 trail.

Mount Zion

  • Skill Level: Moderate
  • Trail Length: 6.6 miles
  • Nearest City: Leadville
  • Elevation: 9,900-12,300 feet

Hands down the most breathtaking trail in the area, Mount Zion lays out a truly resplendent view of the entire town of Leadville and surrounding mountains. If you are a hill-climbing enthusiast who is vertigo-free, make time to run this trail while you’re here. A network of switchbacks and rocky drop-offs assist you in climbing and there are several places to pull over and whip out your camera along the way. At the apex, hold on to your hat and prepare to be amazed by the panorama. Also, be on the lookout for both ATV and mountain bike traffic- everyone wants a taste of the legendary views here.

From Leadville, simply take Hwy 24 north just a short bit. After you pass the Arkansas River, make a right on Mount Zion.

Slide Lake

  • Skill Level: Easy-Moderate
  • Trail Length: 2.9 miles
  • Nearest City: Leadville
  • Elevation: 10,600-11,600 feet

One section in a vast network of trails, Slide Lake is worth a visit because of the views and the chance to see one the legendary huts owned by the 10th Mountain Division. Some may not even need 4 wheel parts at all, as there is a large parking area with hiking access to the lake. But if you’re there to roll some dirt, climb up the rocky hill into the trees and leave the others behind. While the trail is easy overall, it switches between forest and meadow vistas and hosts many great picnicking and photographing opportunities.

North of Leadville, from Hwy 24, turn onto the first part of the Lily Lake trail and follow the signs to Wurts Ditch. Take this until the road splits and stay straight/left towards Slide Lake.

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