Colorado 4×4 Trails: Saguache County

Shelf Road

Just to the west of Pueblo lies a vast wilderness of trails that are highly underrated in the county of Saguache. With the Great Sand Dunes making up the southeast corner, and a swath of the Rio Grande National Forest blazing through the middle, this area is ripe for off road adventure. Your favorite 4×4 mechanic may have explored this land, as several local trail tours run their routes through the forest and desert here, and chances are that someone you know has great things to say about the quiet stoic scenery.

If you are relatively new to the 4-wheel game or need a safe place to test out your newest batch of used off road parts, look no further than this vast playground. While the trails tend to be on the less-challenging side, they provide a great way to warm up for the season and ensure your rig is strong and ready to go. Here are just a few of the runs you’ll find in Saguache County.

Alder Creek

Skill level: Easy-moderate

Trail length: 11.5 miles

Nearest city: Salida

Elevation: 8,600-12,000 feet

The Alder Creek trail is part of the Bonanza Off-Highway Vehicle Tour, and the various turns and sections are marked with a symbol, making this fun climb easier to navigate. Once you’ve stopped in and shored up your auto parts in Fort Collins, this is a great trail to stretch your legs on. There are long climbs of varying inclines, some of which are very loose and rocky and some vehicles may not be able to run them uphill- which is okay, because this trail is a “straight through” type, and can be driven from either direction. There are several old mine sites scattered throughout, providing plenty of opportunities to stop, take lunch, and snap a few pictures.

From the town of Bonanza, take the Toll Road Gulch trail and the trailhead is 1.8 miles up to the north.

Clover Creek

Skill level: Easy-moderate

Trail length: 9.4 miles

Nearest city: Salida

Elevation: 8,700-11,200 feet

Like Alder Creek, this trail is also part of the Bonanza tour route, and connects easily to other trails in the surrounding area. There are rocky climbs and switchbacks to navigate, so check with your 4×4 mechanic that your wheels and steering are adequate to get you through the gravely turns. As you continue up towards the top of the ridge, you’ll see another abandoned mine site and catch a couple of views of the majestically imposing Sangre De Cristo mountains. You’ll wander through dense lush forests and breeze through shrubby hillsides, to make for a mellow but well-rounded ride.

North of the town of Bonanza, the trailhead is about 2.8 miles ahead on the Toll Road Gulch trail. You may also come across signs for this trail if you travel other ones in the area.

Lime Ridge

Skill level: Easy-Moderate

Trail length: 11.9 miles

Nearest city: Salida

Elevation: 8,900-11,300 feet

This area is filled with tons of spurs and offshoots, so it may be best to plan this route when you have the time and ability to really explore, with your GPS in hand! Many of these trails are not marked with anything helpful or discernable, so it’s truly a trail for the most adventure-hearted among us. The run itself is nothing technical, but the combination of navigation and breathtaking summit scenery will provide enough stimulation for most. As you climb around, you’ll encounter a few opportunities for rock climbing, as well as a little dirt play, and there are multiple places to glimpse the old mine site that is currently under reclamation. Just be sure to pack a few extra used off road parts in case you need to make a repair on the fly.

From Salida, five miles south on Hwy 285, make a right turn onto Chaffee County Road 200 and follow the signs for O’Haver Lake and Marshall Pass. Take the Marshall Pass trail for 21.8 miles to the Lime Ridge trailhead.

Marshall Pass

Skill level: Easy

Trail length: 30.4 miles

Nearest city: Salida

Elevation: 8,500-10,800 feet

When you’re in the mood for something faster and less technical, old railway beds may be just the thing for you. Marshall Pass is long and mellow, with long stretches of mostly gravel and expansive views, with very gradual ascents and descents. If you have a couple of hours to kill and don’t feel like fighting the crowded roads, this trail is a nice break from the brain-fry. There are several scenic turnouts, including O’Haver Lake and Mount Ouray, with the panorama at the top of the pass being the best of the trip. If traveled cautiously, even a 2-wheel drive vehicle (properly outfitted with the right auto parts in Fort Collins beforehand) can make the ascent, as there are only a handful of rocky sections.

From Salida, travel 5 miles south on Hwy 285, and take a right onto Chaffee County Road 200 and follow the signs for Marshall Pass.

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