Telluride Off Roading
5 Telluride Off Roading Trails Rated from most Mild to Wild
A little mud on the tires never hurt nobody! Especially when it gets you 360° views of Colorado’s most impressive mountain range. Luckily, you don’t need the most tricked out vehicle to find the jaw dropping landscapes surrounding Telluride. But if you do so happen to have a capable set of wheels, you’re in for some of the most memorable off roading trails Telluride has to offer.
When preparing to rumble, it’s best to assess a trail for both your vehicle’s capabilities as well as your own. Things get really steep out here, so if something looks too narrow, rubbled, or whatever— don’t get yourself into a pickle for ego’s sake. Or tumbling down the mountain.
No matter what trail you choose to explore, it’s highly recommended to have 4WD and mid to high level clearance. Now with that ugly business out of the way, check out these incredible routes through the impeccably beautiful San Juan Mountains.
Last Dollar Road
Last Dollar Road is an incredibly scenic yet accessible off roading trail from Telluride to CO 62. In dry weather, you can cruise Last Dollar in any car, but when it’s muddy (which is most of spring) it’s wise to bring 4WD.
If you decide to drive the entire route from Telluride to Noel, it’s 18 miles and takes about 3 hours. To start from Telluride, turn onto Last Dollar Road by the roundabout going into town, or from the Telluride Airport by the Telluride Meadows Trailhead.
Along the way you can find the Ralph Lauren Ranch, True Grit House, and unbeatable panoramic views of Mt. Sneffels. This gorgeous road also has spectacular wildflowers in the summer, and glowing aspens in fall.
Alta Lakes Road
Alta Lakes Road is a beautiful and fairly smooth mountain road that ends at three gorgeous lakes. There aren’t any obstacles along the way, but there is a substantial enough gradient that you’ll need to use low gears when coming back down.
The route is 5 miles long, which takes about 20 minutes to reach the lakes. The turn off is just south of Sunshine Campground off CO 145. There is dispersed camping around the lakes, so if you decide to stay, please practice Leave No Trace.
Some of the sites along Alta Lakes Road include the old Gold King Mine, the Alta ghost town, and the historic AMES power plant on the other side of CO 145. Ames was the first hydroelectric power plant EVER, which is still operating today.
Ophir Pass, aka “The locals shortcut to Silverton” is a moderate off roading trail outside of Telluride. The route starts and ends easily, with some exposure on a long rock shelf, and tight switchbacks in between. This is not an incredibly challenging route, but one that is not recommended doing alone or without any off roading experience.
From CO 145 to Silverton, Ophir Pass is about 10 miles which takes around 2-3 hours to complete. The turn off is off CO 145, about 11 miles south of Telluride.
Ophir Pass offers a special piece of Colorado history. In the almost-ghost-town of Ophir is a 130-year-old train trestle designed by the pathfinder of the San Juans, Otto Mears. Once you’re at the summit, take some extra time to enjoy the views.
Imogen Pass is the second highest pass in Colorado. It’s an exciting route with exposed, rocky, one lane shelves as you climb up and down from 13,000 feet. Make sure the roads don’t have oncoming traffic as there aren’t always spots to turn off! There’s also some tight switchbacks and steep descents, so mind your business on Imogen!
The route is 16 miles and can be done from Telluride to Ouray, or vice versa. From Telluride, you’ll take N Oak Street up the box canyon, which quickly turns into Tomboy Road. Plan to spend about 5 hours driving.
Imogen Pass is saturated with history. The Tomboy ghost town, the Red Mountain mining area, the Peabody National Guard fort, and the Camp Bird mine are the must-stops along the way.
Black Bear Pass
It is an understatement to say that Black Bear Pass is… Extreme, in every sense. It is a highly difficult, one-way off roading trail that descends into Telluride. In fact, unless you’re an incredibly experienced off roader with good equipment, who is also going with other experienced drivers with just as good equipment, do not consider driving this route. It is uncommon for death to occur on this pass, so put the ego aside.
The entire trail is 8.5 miles and begins off of Highway 550 at Red Mountain Pass. The switchbacks down into Telluride last for about 2 miles. The Black Bear Pass portion of the route is one-way due to the steep gradient, narrow ledges and tight switchbacks.
The notable sites along this trail are Black Bear Mine, Ingram Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and aerial views of Telluride. If you’re interested in exploring Black Bear Pass with an experienced driver, consider going with a guide from San Juan Scenic Jeep Tours.
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