Sometimes you're out and about, driving your way to work or the store or just getting out on the roads, and you see that spot. The one where maybe there's an old neglected road, a median, or just a clear patch of land that you can't help but wonder if you could cut across and do some off-roading.
But why should you risk both your car and safety doing a potentially illegal off-roading maneuver when you could off-road to your heart's content in legal off-roading areas. Southwest Colorado and the Durango area are home to dozens of trails and roads leading up into the mountains that are both legal and perfect to go off trail on.
With a properly permitted Jeep, ATV, Rock Crawler, or other OHV you can set out over rocks and mountains on a brand new adventure. The trails are left rough so you get the full off-road experience but not so rough that they destroy your vehicle. With the proper off-roading vehicle you can get to sections of the mountains seen by few with plenty of time to spare. From hidden mountain lakes to canyons barely warmed by the sun you can cover ground off the beaten path.
The Missionary Ridge area is primarily a 19 mile gravel and dirt road maintained by the Forest Service. But the road has several forks, split offs, and sharp turns that make it nearly ideal for off-roading.
The Forest Service isn't exactly well known for having the smoothest of roads but they do keep their trails serviced just enough to be used with the right vehicles. Most OHVs are great for these sorts of roads and the Missionary Ridge area lets you get the most out of your OHV. Let your vehicle rip to its limits and work on your driving skills at Missionary Ridge.
La Plata County and the Durango Area is an area with over 100 years of settlers and their history scattered throughout. When you head out on the local off-road trails there is a chance that you get to see some of that history out and about.
The La Plata Canyon and the roads hidden in it give off-roaders a chance to witness some of that history for themselves while enjoying the mountains in ways only they can. Along the canyon route there's a chance to see the remnants of an old mine, a mill, and more while riding the over 10 miles of roads.
Once the original highway between Durango and Silverton, Old Lime Creek Road, is one of the most beautiful and potentially dangerous roads around for off-roading.
While fairly well maintained, the road is right on the edge of a mountain giving a fantastic view, particularly in the fall, but its mountainside location makes it a bit precarious. There is almost always a chance of rockfall blocking the road or weather creating problems.
But, if the road is clear and the weather ideal, Old Lime Creek Road is an amazing sight with the mountain terrain and a fantastic view.
Just North of Purgatory Ski Resort is one of the protected wilderness areas of the San Juan National Forest known as the Hermosa Wilderness Area. Hidden in this wilderness area are several roads that are open to the use of permitted OHV, jeeps, and other off road ready vehicles.
There is the roughly 9 mile gravel Hermosa Park Road that was built and maintained by the forest service. The road is mostly switchbacks which makes it a fun, easy climb up and down the mountains.
Hermosa Wilderness is also home to the Bolam Pass area. Composed of around 20 miles of road with stops near several historic landmarks there is plenty to see and do at Bolam Pass too.
During the winter months, Lemon Reservoir has some nicely maintained trails for snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing.
But once all the snow has melted that leaves those same trails ready and waiting for someone else to make use of them. Someone who is a fan of off-road vehicles and can make the most out of those roads. You can explore the nearby canyon and the reservoir shores, battling the mud and rocky terrain or just use your vehicle to cart up some fishing and camping gear. While you're at it you can get an amazing view of the reservoir and the surrounding mountains.
Jeeping, Off-roading, and OHV trails are often very rough and can damage your vehicle if you aren't careful. So ride carefully and bring a spare tire or two in case of any accidents.
Helmets and other protective gear are highly recommended particularly for more open OHVs like dirt bikes and ATVs.
Check the weather before you go because muddy or snowy roads can rapidly change the difficulty of off-roading trails.
Bring what you need with you and pack out what you pack in. It is difficult to go back to get anything you forget. That ranges from food and water to spare equipment or whatever else you might need.