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The Best Off-Road Trails near Ouray, Colorado

The mountains around Ouray have some of the best off-roading trails in the country. Here, you'll find routes appropriate for all skill levels, from beginners to advanced off-roaders. All these trails offer you fantastic views of the surrounding Rocky Mountains and the opportunity to test your skills on a variety of rugged routes.

Below, we've listed some of our favorite off-road trails around Ouray. Please, note that we do not allow our rental Jeeps to be used on all of these trails. If you need more information, give us a call. We'll be glad to help.

Imogene Pass

  • Elevation Gain: 4,734 ft.
  • Peak Elevation: 13,114 ft.
  • Distance: 17.5 mi.
  • Time: 3-5 hr.
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Imogene Pass, one of the highest drivable passes in Colorado, is 17.5-mile point-to-point trail connecting Ouray to Telluride. Located in the Uncompahgre National Forest, the route is one of the most popular trails in the area and is known for its scenic vies and beautiful wildflowers.

This drive is rated as moderate, but should not be underestimated. It's definitely not a road for beginners. In some sections, the road is very steep and narrow. At times, passing other vehicles will be difficult or impossible. Low-range gearing, 4-wheel drive, high clearance and skid plates are highly recommended for all vehicles attempting Imogene Pass.

Yankee Boy Basin

  • Elevation Gain: 4,750 ft.
  • Peak Elevation: 12,400 ft.
  • Distance: 18.6 mi.
  • Time: 3-5 hr.
  • Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Yankee Boy Basin is another popular trail known for it scenic mountain views, fields of wildflowers, and nearby waterfalls. This 18.5-mile out-and-back trail runs below well-known mountain peaks, including Mount Sneffels, Cirque Mountain, and Potosi Peak.

The first section of the Yankee Boy Basin trail is relatively easy, but the trail gets progressively harder toward the end. The road becomes more rocky and narrow. Some sections are only wide enough for a single vehicle, and steep drop-offs of hundreds of feet are common along the way.

Because it's one of the easier trails in the area, it's very popular with visitors and recreationists. Make sure to watch for hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders who regularly use this trail. 

Engineer Pass

  • Elevation Gain: 4,511 ft.
  • Peak Elevation: 12,800 ft.
  • Distance: 23.6 mi.
  • Time: 3-4 hr.
  • Difficulty: Moderate to Hard

This 23.6 mile point-to-point trail the part of the Alpine Loop trail, and runs between Lake City and Ouray in Colorado. Its length means it passes through a variety of beautiful and different landscapes including narrow mountain canyons, wide open pastures with grazing animals, and steep boulder fields. Beautiful views can be had along the entire trail.

The part of the trail closest to Ouray is known to be much more difficult compared to the stretch coming out of Lake City. For this reason, it's advised to travel Engineer Pass from Lake City to Ouray, and not the other way around. The obstacles near Ouray include steep, narrow ascents and large boulders that are much easier to traverse going downhill. However, with the proper vehicle and technique, the trail can be navigated in either direction.

Before attempting Engineer Pass, make note of current weather conditions, and avoid the route during rainstorms and in low light conditions. 

Red Mountain Mining Area

Elevation Gain: 524 ft.
Peak Elevation: 12,000 ft.
Distance: 3.0 mi.
Time: 1.5 hr.
Difficulty: Easy

This three-mile out-and-back OHV trail is a great start for those new to off-roading. The trail is only three miles long, making it popular with hikers and other visitors.

The defining feature of this trail is its mining history. As the name suggests, there are old mining towns, bridges, tresses, and other ruins of a bygone era all along this trail. For those who enjoy history, there are a number of places to stop and explore, including the remnants of Red Mountain Town. A number of side roads lead to other historical sites, such as Yankee Girl mine and American Girl mine.

Corkscrew Gulch 

  • Elevation Gain: 3,746 ft.
  • Distance: 6.8 mi.
  • Time: 4-5 hr.
  • Difficulty: Easy

Corkscrew Gulch is a 6.8-mile point-to-point trail in the Uncompahgre National Forest. It was originally built to connect Silverton to the mines on Red Mountain. It's a fairly easy trail, but still incredibly beautiful. It's also one of our personal favorites. Along the way, you'll see plenty of wildflowers an amazing mountain views. Note that Corkscrew Gulch is popular with mountain bikers, hikers, and bird watchers, so keep an eye out for these folks when you're on the trail.

When the trail is dry, most off-road vehicles won't have any problems. However, one section has steep and narrow switchbacks that tend to frighten beginning drivers, but it isn't technically difficult. In wet conditions, the clay soil becomes slick and makes navigation more difficult and dangerous. It's recommended to avoid driving in wet conditions, if possible.

California Pass

  • Elevation Gain: 4,455 ft.
  • Peak Elevation: 12,960 mi.
  • Distance: 15.6 mi.
  • Time: 3 to 4 hr.
  • Difficulty: Easy

This trail isn't as popular as most of the other trails in Ouray, but it's every bit as beautiful. The trail winds through the mountains and passes the skeletons of mining operations and across fields of wildflowers. What makes this trail unique is that it passes close to the trail for Lake Como, a beautiful turquoise high-mountain lake.

The road to Como is passable with certain off-road vehicles, but it is rated as one of the most difficult in Colorado. It is a popular place for hikers, so watch out for others on the road. The California Pass trail is also popular with horseback riders and bikers and is a great trail for off-roading beginners.

More Demanding Off-Road Trails

The following trails are technically difficult routes that require a high-degree of skill to navigate successfully. We DO NOT allow our rental jeeps on these trails. That being said, they are excellent routes if you know what you're doing and you have your own vehicle.


Poughkeepsie Gulch 

  • Elevation Gain: 3,727 ft.
  • Distance: 6.4 mi.
  • Time: 2 hr.
  • Difficulty: Hard

NO RENTAL JEEPS. Poughkeepsie Gulch is very difficult 6.4-mile point-to-point trail in the Uncompahgre Wilderness. This trail is perfect for the serious off-road enthusiast with a solid vehicle. There are steep, narrow sections of trail where constant vigilance and technique is required. Those who are able to tackle this road are treated to beautiful views and exciting obstacles and conditions.

The most famous obstacle on this trail is called "The Wall." It's a steep rock section of trail made up of three distinct sections: a steep left climb, a middle "V," and a short right climb. You'll need 4WD, high clearance, and correct technique to conquer The Wall safely. Note that here is a bypass that will allow you to avoid this obstacle if you need to.

Even with the proper experience and vehicle, make sure to watch out for rain, snow, or other adverse conditions. The trail is known to get muddy in spring and after rain, which makes an already difficult trail even more so.

Mineral Creek

  • Elevation Gain: 3,264 ft.
  • Distance: 13.6 mi.
  • Time: 7-8 hr.
  • Difficulty: Difficult

NO RENTAL JEEPS. Mineral Creek trail, also known as Lower Engineer, is a difficult out-and-back trail, with steep, narrow sections. Don't be fooled by the two-lane gravel road at the beginning of the trail: It becomes very rocky after the first mile-and-a-half. It can also be crowded on the weekends, and at least one section only has room from one vehicle at a time.

Mineral Creek is located in the Uncompahgre Wilderness, and is best known for its stunning waterfalls and its rocky ascents through narrow canyons. The trail intersects with other popular trails such as Engineer Pass and Poughkeepsie Gulch, so make sure you're following the correct trail if you plan on following Mineral Creek. The trail ends at Bandora Mine, and interesting historical site that still has a few structures intact.

Due to the difficulty of this trail, stock vehicles are not recommended. High clearance, (35" tires; 2.5 lift on a 4 door Jeep), low range, skid plates, and off-roading experience are needed.  

Black Bear Pass

  • Elevation Gain: 1,843 ft.
  • Distance: 8.5 mi.
  • Time: 4-5 hr.
  • Difficulty: Hard

NO RENTAL JEEPS. Black Bear Pass, a point-to-point trail in the Uncompahgre National Forest, is a difficult trails that should only be attempted by experienced drivers in their own vehicles. (Most Jeep rental companies in Ouray, including us, do not allow rental vehicles to be taken over Black Bear Pass.) One section in particular, near Telluride, is very difficult.

Warnings aside, Black Bear Pass is an exciting trail, offering fantastic views of Bridal Veil Falls, Ingram Falls, and Telluride Valley. You'll need a a solid off-road vehicle with low range 4WD, great tires, brakes, and excellent articulation. With proper preparation and experience, this can be an amazing, one-in-a-lifetime off-roading adventure.
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