A truck on the mountains.

Colorado 4×4 Trails: San Miguel County

Tucked deep into the southwestern Colorado wilderness is a wondrous high-elevation playground that plays host to some of the best off road trails in the area. Scattered around the quaint mountain resort town of Telluride are some of the most breathtaking views and challenging obstacles sure to make the guys at your home off road shops go green with envy. And while they’re miles away from any place for auto repair in Fort Collins, the mountains of San Miguel county are sure to win a place in your heart forever, so be sure to schedule at least a full weekend getaway to enjoy them all.

Since the region’s trails cater more towards the intermediate and advanced driver, make sure you travel with a group of experienced off roaders and take the time to tune up all your 4×4 accessories before heading out. Having your mechanic do a full run through of your rig is a great idea before tackling some of these adrenaline-pumping adventures.

Black Bear Pass

  • Skill level: Moderate-challenging
  • Trail length: 9.23 miles
  • Nearest city: Telluride
  • Elevation: 9,000-12,900 feet

This (in)famous trail has earned its reputation as being exhilarating and challenging time and time again, and stands as one of the most popular runs in the entire state. You will spend most of your time climbing up into the clouds along narrow shelf roads, navigating switchbacks and other rocky terrain. There are several spots along the way where the going gets a little freaky, with thousand-foot drop-offs and loose gravel to really wake up your senses- go slowly and methodically and do not attempt this trail if it’s wet and muddy.

From Ouray, go south ~13 miles on Hwy 550. You will see a sign for Red Mountain Pass and the trailhead is after that, clearly marked and with a large pull out area.

Imogene Pass

  • Skill level: Moderate-challenging
  • Trail length: 13.2 miles
  • Nearest city: Telluride
  • Elevation: 8,900-13,300 feet

This clocks in as the second highest pass in the entire state, and the climb is enough to give you a serious thrill, and plenty of stories to bring back to your neighborhood off road shops. You can easily combine this run with Black Bear Pass if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, and your rig is outfitted with the right 4×4 accessories of course. The climbs are steep, narrow and rocky in places and taking it slowly is a good action plan, especially where you’ll be riding alongside the deadly cliff edge. Imogene creek weaves across the trail several times, providing some fun water crossings, and an abandoned town site and mine leave plenty to be explored on breaks.

One block north of the main drag in Telluride (Colorado Ave.) you’ll catch Columbia Ave, which you’ll take until you come upon N. Oak Street- head north here. The trailhead begins at the dead end at the northern tip of Oak Street.

Last Dollar Road

  • Skill level: Easy-moderate
  • Trail length: 20.4 miles
  • Nearest city: Telluride
  • Elevation: 8,700-10,600 feet

If you are looking for a more mellow run in the area, or if the two trails above are rained out, then Last Dollar is just the ticket. The views are lovely and expansive, but the easygoing trail won’t make your life flash before your eyes (or result in you having to drop some serious cash for auto repair in Fort Collins). You’ll meander through aspen groves and expansive meadows, and navigate a few rocky sections that can be slick after the rains. This is a great trail to take for a less congested and vastly more beautiful transition to Ouray after completing Black Bear Pass, and generally hosts a few drivers looking to stretch their legs.

From Telluride, go west on Hwy 145 out of town and follow the signs towards the airport.

Alta Lakes

  • Skill level: Moderate
  • Trail length: 6.92 miles
  • Nearest city: Telluride
  • Elevation: 9,600-11,600 feet

This is a short and popular jaunt, loved by visitors to the area every season, which boasts amazing views and lots of different lines for maximum skill level modifications. You’ll climb up some steep hills towards the old town site of Alta where you will encounter several different road options: skip Boomerang road and head right until you come across a “Y”. One leg takes you to Alta lakes (where the muddy and rocky challenges await), the other to Gold King Basin (with the amazing vistas) and they are both highly recommended to visit, although you’ll have to double back to see them both. Then once you’ve had your fill, simply return out the way you came.

From Telluride, follow Hwy 145 west out of town until you come across 145 South- follow this southern route approximately 9 miles to the trailhead.

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