A Jeep going through a muddy puddle.

Colorado 4×4 Trails: Pitkin County

Just west of Leadville and north of Crested Butte lies a gorgeous swath of forest and mountain wilderness packed with an endless amount of outdoor adventures. Tucked far away, nearly 5 hours from your favorite auto shop in Fort Collins, this breathtaking frontier is perfect for stretching your off-road legs and getting away from it all.

The Aspen-Snowmass region is the ideal spot: not too close but not too far, views for miles, and plenty else to keep you occupied. Grab your buddies and plan a weekend to explore the trails in the area when the weather is mild. Talk to your local 4×4 mechanic about making any necessary upgrades to your rig, including installing any used off road parts, to shape it up for this epic mountain journey.

Here are the four most popular trails in the area:

Aspen Mountain

  • Skill level: Easy to Moderate
  • Trail length: 4.6 miles
  • Nearest City: Aspen
  • Elevation: 8,100- 11,200 feet

This comes first on the list because of the serious sweetness factor — Aspen mountain is one of the only ski resorts in the state that is open to four wheelers during the off season. But be sure to only tackle this one in dry weather, as the steep climbs are impossible when wet and muddy. It’s pretty darn cool to ride through the switchbacks while looking up at ski lifts and gondolas, and passing over the slopes with nothing strapped to your feet. This trail is known for not only the novelty, but also the intense hills that require good climbing knowledge and adequate off-road components.

In Aspen, leave Highway 82 and follow South Original Street south until it ends. Then make a left on Ute Avenue, and a right on Aspen Mountain Road. You’ll see the trailhead at the gate.

Diemer and Sellar Lakes

  • Skill level: Easy to Moderate
  • Trail length: 12.4 miles
  • Nearest City: Biglow
  • Elevation: 9,500- 11,300 feet

A long winding trail with plenty of options, the Diemer and Sellar lakes trail has enough to keep you occupied for an afternoon. Ran from west to east, it provides several fun uphill sections to test out those used off-road parts and challenge your handling. The views are phenomenal, both around the lakes and through the meadows. If you’re new to water crossings, stop by your local auto shop in Fort Collins to chat with a 4×4 mechanic about how to make your rig ready to get wet. There are also several rocky sections that provide the opportunity to show off your suspension.

From the town of Biglow, take Frying Pan Road 9.2 miles and you’ll see the trailhead on the left.

Frying Pan Ridge

  • Skill level: Moderate to Challenging
  • Trail length: 3.6 miles
  • Nearest City: Biglow
  • Elevation: 8,300- 9,600 feet

This is a fun little trail included in a network of other off-road thoroughfares in the area, and is usually quieter than some of the others. An exciting uphill section starts you off and brings you to a more mellow ascent further ahead as the path narrows. There are several areas where the trail is faint, so be sure to double check your location via GPS and always travel in a group to prevent getting lost. The abundance of rocks allows you to pick lines that are fitting for your experience level and can be run in either direction.

From the town of Biglow, follow Frying Pan Road only 0.3 miles and the unmarked trail start will be on the left.

Montezuma Basin

  • Skill level: Easy to Moderate
  • Trail length: 2.14 miles
  • Nearest city: Aspen
  • Elevation: 11,100- 12,600 feet

If high altitude is something that really revs your engine, look no further than this mountaintop adventure. Once you find the trailhead through the bushes, you’ll be on your way to a plethora of summit views, waterfalls, and long rocky sections. While most people don’t come here expecting a major challenge or adrenaline rush, it’s the epic panoramas that keep visitors coming back. Be aware, this also connects with a popular hiking trail, so be on the lookout for foot and bike traffic. And due to the high altitude, have your 4×4 mechanic check your fluids and tire pressure before leaving, because these are the most affected by the extreme elevation.

From Aspen, head south 13 miles on Castle Creek Road from Hwy 82, then follow the signs for Pearl Pass to the right. The start of Montezuma Basin is 3 miles into Pearl Pass, on the right hand side.

So if you and your off-roading friends are looking for a place to explore a popular mountain area with opportunities for camping, hiking, and photo ops, consider making a trip to the Aspen area. And as always, be sure to do a safety check with your favorite auto shop in Fort Collins before heading out!

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