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5 Best Off-Road Trails to Explore Near Durango
Guest blog provided by Mild to Wild Rafting and Jeep Trail Tours
The Most Stunning Colorado Off Road Adventures
Most of Colorado is tucked away behind soaring peaks and stretching forests. There are many treasures hidden in the folds and crevices of the Rocky Mountains that is the Southwest. The roads that take you into the wilderness are often rocky and tumultuous, and require 4-wheel drive and a steady and unflinching driver. It’s the simplest way to get the whole family on top of the world (almost literally – you can get up to elevations of 16,000 feet!). For the safety of your occupants and your car, it’s not recommended that you take your own vehicle on these roads unless you know where you are going and have some mechanical know-how. If you want to see the pure untamed beauty that is Colorado, look no further than these trails!
1. Black Bear Pass
One of the most famous Jeep roads in Colorado is Black Bear Pass. M.C. McCall made this road infamous with his spoken word song and album of the same name. The road starts with a sign that states, “You don’t have to be crazy to drive this road – but it helps!” The narrow and rocky road with sheer drops, hairpin switchbacks, and loose shale base is what makes this road so treacherous. Many a driver has found himself and his car sliding off the road, wishing that he had let someone else do the driving so he could enjoy the views and not fear for his car. The best time to see this stunning drive is from July to September.
2. Ophir Pass Road
This is one of the easiest and highest 4-wheel drive roads in the Southwest. The trail starts about 5 miles after Red Mountain Pass and continues for 10 miles to the small mountain town of Ophir. The summit reaches a soaring elevation of 11,789 feet, resting between Lookout Peak and South Lookout Peak. A small scratch hugging the sharp curve of debris the mountain has cast off, this road provides incredible views of the volcanic Lizard Head Peak in one direction and sweeping views of the San Miguel valley to the other. If getting out into the serenity of Colorado with relative ease is something you’re interested in, make sure to put Ophir Pass Road on your list!
3. Animas Forks
This is a collection of still-standing, mining remnants sitting 12 miles above Silverton, CO. It’s named for the three forks of the Animas River that converge there. Once the largest town in San Juan County (they even put put an ad in the newspaper that claimed they were “The Largest City in the United States!” with a tiny disclaimer of “At This Altitude”), now all that is left are 12 buildings. The drive takes you up on top of the Continental Divide and has some of the most spectacular wildflowers and wildlife in the area! This road is most accessible by 4x4 vehicles, so why don’t you book with Mild to Wild and have a hassle-free and knowledgeable trip with one of their guides?
4. Stony Pass
This is a road that lives up to its name! It’s a moderate road that takes you 62 miles into the backcountry between Creede and Silverton. It’s one of the longest 4x4 roads in the area and gives you access to a plethora of hiking trails, mountain lakes, and spectacular mining sites. It began as the main road for the Silverton mines to connect with the east. When the Narrow Gauge Railroad came in, it made the road mostly obsolete. There are a variety of mining remnants that line this road including the Old 100 Mine that clings to the side of the mountain and the Buffalo Boy Tram tower, each telling the tales of life long ago. This road is one of the longest uninterrupted climbs in the state, working its way through the immense Colorado wilderness and descending into history. This one is a great one to do on your own!
5. La Plata Canyon
This is one of the great hidden treasures of the Southwest. A beautiful, stretching canyon that brings you to the top of the La Plata Mountain Range and gives you some incredible panoramic views of the area. Mining remains scatter the sides of the canyon, resting beside cascading waterfalls and copses of aspen trees. In the late spring and early summer this canyon erupts with wildflowers, lining the road until you hit the top of the world. For some 4x4 fun, the main road branches off to some spectacular mines and milling sites. These mountains are home to both the last stretch of the Colorado Trail and the Continental Divide Trail, creating a gateway to the rest of Colorado. Whether it’s a day trip or you’re looking to spend more time nestled in its beauty, La Plata Canyon has more than enough to offer. This is a must-see to really experience the beauty that this land holds. Enjoy an outside adventure and let Mild to Wild’s guides handle the driving, taking you to places you wouldn’t want to take your own vehicle while you soak up all that this area has to offer!
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