Best Jeep Trails in Colorado
If you’ve lived out west before, you know that few natural sights compare to the majestic Rocky Mountains. With peaks stretching over 14,000 ft into the air and mountains just about everywhere you look, Colorado and the surrounding areas offer some of the most beautiful – and hard to reach – landscapes this country has to offer.
So say you’ve just picked up one of the many Jeeps for sale in Colorado Springs and now you’re looking for a good place to test out your new vehicle and see what it can do – now all that’s left is to pick a destination and go conquer it in your new Jeep.
Fortunately, Colorado – with its numerous mountains and rough, untouched terrain – offers plenty of excellent offroading spots for you to push your new Jeep and see exactly how much is can do. Whether you’ve been offroading for years by this point or you’ve never been behind the wheel of a Jeep and can’t wait to hit your first trail, the Centennial State offers just the antidote to that offroad craving. Here’s a quick look at some of the best offroading spots in the great state of Colorado where you can go and have a little fun in your new, powerful off-road Jeep.
Located just south of Colorado Springs, Mount Baldy overlooks the Mount Baldy reservoir and gives an excellent view of Colorado Springs from the summit. A popular four-wheeler destination, this relatively easy climb still requires some pretty good traction and the performance reliability of a quality Jeep to truly scale.
One of the best parts about climbing Mount Baldy in your Jeep is the interconnected trails that can take you to the summit of nearby Mount Rosa and the southern end of the Almagre Mountain range, turning this relatively quick trip into more of a full day adventure. Plus, with landscapes ranging from harsh, rocky peaks to wide, flat parks along the way, this climb is great for those looking for an easy day trip to test out what your new Jeep can handle.
Wagon Wheel Trail System
Starting in the small town of Meeker Colorado and extending through the spacious White River National Forest runs the Wagon Wheel Trail System, an old series of interconnected settler trails that remain largely unpaved and are dotted with abandoned villages and ghost towns along the way.
With over 250 miles of OHV terrain open to Jeeps and 4X4s, the Wagon Wheel Trails offer just about every level of challenge an offroader could want. A wide assortment of campsites and trails mean you can make the adventure longer than a single day trip while the variety of hiking trails and scenic stops along the way give you plenty of excuses to get out and stretch your legs – if, that is, you’re not too busy having fun tackling rocks and ledges in your new Jeep.
Alpine Loop Scenic Byway
For this classic offroad trail, not every visitor will require a 4X4 to conquer most of the actual route but to complete the whole 63-mile trail. Boasting a healthy combination of both smooth, flat trails and tough, rocky ascents, The Alpine Lop Scenic Byway offers some of the country’s best offroading opportunities just south of Telluride.
For those looking to blend serious offroading with a touch of real history, the Alpine Loop trail is famous for its numerous ghost towns along the way, left as remnants from its days as a premier mining route. Now left abandoned, these empty towns serve as a reminder of the gold rush days of old, and many can only be accessed with the help of a capable four-wheeler Jeep.
Following two famous passes – Cinnamon Pass and Engineer Pass – the Alpine Loop Byway puts drivers on a classic mountain ridge, thin enough for one car to pass at a time and offering some of the most breathtaking views available of this scenic and revered landscape.
Colorado State Forest State Park
Located just under 3 hours northwest of Denver, the Colorado State forest State Park is a huge expanse of protected wilderness with plenty of trails and activities for visitors both in their Jeeps and on foot. Boasting one of Colorado’s best moose-viewing experiences as well as one of your best chances to see people’s functional yurt houses dotting the countryside, the State Forest State Park truly contains a little bit of everything that makes offroading in Colorado so great.
With over 50 miles of Off Highway Vehicle trails available for all the romping your Jeep can handle, the State forest State park is a great place for a first-time offroader or new Jeeper to test out their vehicle. Between plenty of wildlife and a trail leading up to a beautiful summit, this park is a well-known destination for getting that off-road fix.
Grand Mesa National Forest
Don’t let the name fool you – this is not an easy, flat piece of grass for your average day trip. Boasting over 150 miles of Jeep trails with just about every level of difficulty available, this network of trails features plenty of deep mud holes, rocky climbs, and steep hills for all your Jeeping pleasure. And, for those less experienced Jeepers looking to have a go at some moderate trails as well, there are plenty of meadows and grasslands to test out your capabilities.
Visitors can take their Jeeps over some of the most intense trails to reach hidden lakes and ponds that offer some of the most pristine, beautiful scenery in the West. Roll up to your favorite of the 300 Grand Mesa lakes and sit for a bit of fishing, or simply check them all out with your trusty Jeep to take you all the way.
Yankee Hill / St. Mary’s Trail
One of the great attractions of the Rockies, of course, are the beautiful high-mountain vistas that give visitors wide panoramic views of the sprawling mountain range – but for Jeepers, it can often be difficult to bring a vehicle to the top of he highest summits, many of which are only accessible by foot. Fortunately, Yankee Hill offers this kind of high mountaintop experience in a setting that can almost only be reached with a reliable Jeep.
Connected to the Central City / St. Mary’s Network of OHV trails, this short and intense climb grants offroader a glimpse at some super high peaks with extraordinary mountain access. Although quite steep in some parts the rocky trail is more than manageable with a stock Jeep Wrangler, and enthusiasts will enjoy views of both the St. Mary’s glacier and summits like Kingston Peak and Yankee Hill itself.
Located about two hours from both Colorado Springs and Denver, this trail system offers an excellent challenge for beginning Jeepers who are looking to give themselves a little bit o a challenge – and who want to get some spectacular views along the way.
To the west of Fort Collins, within the Roosevelt National Forest sit the Red Forest Lakes. Within this are you can find a diverse selection of off-road trails.
Our favorite by far is Sevenmile Road. At an elevation of 9,027 feet, this six-mile drive is a fairly straight shot, best experienced traveling Northbound and requiring 4×4 capabilities. But don’t mistake it for being easy to traverse. Consisting of rocky terrain, plan of deep ruts and trail-rocks up to 12” in height.Crossing its namesake (the Sevenmile Creek) in several points, the trail consists of a diverse terrain some of which is part of the creek itself. In some areas, the creek can reach depths equal to hub-level. While season discretion is prudent when traveling most Colorado trails, Sevenmile Road is listed as a year-round trail. That said, do your homework, and (most of all) have fun.
Lizard Head Pass
Nestled 10,222 ft above sea level, in the San Juan Mountains is Lizard Hill Pass. Sure, you may not need a 4×4 in order to traverse it, but the wealth of vistas visible along the 236-mile stretch make it a must-see destination for any outdoor enthusiasts in Colorado.
You may, or may not be familiar with Hardscrabble Mountain, located in Eagle County. At 10,662 ft the high peak is accessible to vehicles courtesy of Forest Road 413, identified as one of the most notably dangerous roads in the United States. Requiring a 4×4 vehicle piloted by an experienced driver, even the most capable pairing could be swayed by unpredictable conditions, or by their own nerves. Impassable in winters, even seasonable times of year make its steep inclines and questionable terrain more than many drivers want to tackle
Standing as the second-highest drivable pass in Colorado (second only to Mosquito Pass) Imogene Pass (at 13,114 ft) also rates as one the most thrilling to enjoy. With narrow, steep and rocky trails, properly equipped 4×4 vehicles are a must, and experienced drivers are a must.
17.5 miles in length, it rates as a favorite among off-roaders. The combination of terrain and visuals are nearly unmatched, and passing prominent mining towns such as Tomboy Townsite, located in Savage Basin always provides an enjoyable snapshot of days past.
Imogene Pass is, however, seasonal. Blocked by snow until early July, the months of July-September are the ideal time to visit. Just check your low-range gearing and make sure your skid plates are configured to provide as much protection as possible.
Finally, the Mosquito Pass is well-deserving as its legendary status among Jeeping enthusiasts. Recommended only for those who are confident in their experience (or experienced in their confidence) the Pass is well-known for humbling more than its fair share of egos. After all, a nickname like ‘Highway of the Frozen Death’ isn’t something you just get handed to you.
Located to the East of Leadville, the Pass is 12.5 miles in length and reaching 13,185 ft it stands as Colorado’s highest-elevated pass accessible to motorized travel. That said, it is not intended for just any vehicle. Much like its ability to tame foolhardy drivers, it can easily overwhelm vehicles that aren’t properly equipped to handle a wide-range of terrain, being in terms of clearance, power or drivetrain. 4×4 capability is a must, and you should expect to spend a lot of time in low gears, traveling anywhere from 3-8 mph. Offering steep ascents, descents, and shifting surfaces in various types of terrain it is imperative that a driver prep their off-road vehicles accordingly. Mental preparation is key as well…especially if you’re prone to vertigo, due to a large number of switchbacks with extremely high drop-offs.
Most importantly, understand that this is a seasonal trail, rendered inaccessible (or at least impassable) during Winter months. Snowfall combined with minimal visibility (due to fog) will put even the most experienced driver at risk; with July – September singled out as the best possible time of year to visit the trail.
The Rocky Mountains are one of America’s greatest national treasures, and the ability to get out and see the beauty of nature in its most raw form is a privilege we enjoy as Americans. If you’re a proud Jeep lover who wants to see the best of what Colorado and the Rockies have to offer, there’s no better way to get there than behind the wheel of your trusted Jeep. So get out there and get going – the trails are waiting for you.