9 Amazing 4x4 Trails in Colorado
By Emily Krempholtz
We’ve got some unbelievable terrain here in Colorado. Thanks to the Rockies, you’ve got a world of off-roading right at your fingertips, whether you’re driving a Jeep, an ATV, dirt bike, or another OHV. There are hundreds of 4x4 trails in Colorado, but if you’re looking for somewhere to get muddy and kick up some dust in 4WD, here are a few epic trails to get you started:
1. Gold Belt Scenic Byway
Located in southern Colorado, the Gold Belt Tour leads you through the heart of the Colorado Gold Rush, passing through places like Cañon City, Florissant, Victor, and Cripple Creek. A lot of the road is accessible for all, but to get the full experience, believe us, you’re going to want a 4x4 vehicle for some parts of this 131-mile loop. With tunnels, cliff shelves, abandoned mines, and even a haunted former railroad, the Gold Belt Tour will be a trip you won’t forget any time soon.
2. Hardscrabble Park
With a name like that, how could Hardscrabble be anything other than an incredible OHV destination? This recreation area near Eagle and Gypsum, CO is closed during the winter for wildlife management, but from mid-April until December, it’s got more than three thousand feet of elevation change over miles of challenging and technical singletrack and OHV trails.
3. Lizard Head Pass
Head to Telluride for an adventure at Lizard Head Pass. This trail offers unbeatable views of Uncompahgre National Forest and the San Juan mountain range, and it’s less technical than some of the others on this list, so it’s great for beginners or anyone who just wants to take in some incredible scenery.
4. Grand Mesa Trails
Would this even be a piece about off-roading if we didn’t mention Grand Mesa? There are dozens of 4x4 options in Grand Mesa, which range from scenic and fun to technical and challenging. In Grand Mesa, you’ll find lakes, forests, rock formations, steep climbs, and deep mud holes, which all combine to make a pretty grand playground for you and your vehicle.
5. Imogene Pass
We feel like it’s safe to say the San Juans are one of the prettiest regions in Colorado, a state with, let’s face it, a ton of natural beauty. Imogene Pass definitely showcases some of this gorgeous nature, with rock tunnels, cliffsides, steep slopes, and jaw-dropping views from 13,000 feet above sea level.Just pull over if you can’t keep your eyes on the road, okay?
6. Kelly Flats
This one’s not for beginners. Located near Fort Collins, Kelly Flats’ main claim to fame is “Heart Attack Hill,” a steep climb that’s caused more than a few rollovers, so come prepared for a challenge and with safety precautions in place. Once you get past the hill, Kelly Flats is best known for the Chutes, a ride that’s sure to have your adrenaline pumping as you test your mettle on massive boulders, hills, and technical maneuvers.
7. Crystal Mill Road
Crystal Mill Road isn’t a long trail, at about four miles, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. This challenging little trip near Marble, CO will take you to Crystal Mill, which was once a thriving mining community before becoming a ghost town, though these days a few people live there during the summer. The mill itself, which was built to power drills for the mine, is definitely the most defining feature of the road. And if you want to pack in some extra fun, make sure to stop at Devil’s Punchbowl for a refreshing swim.
8. Loch Lomond
Maybe it’s due to its close proximity to Denver and the Front Range, but Loch Lomond is the #1 rated off-road driving trail on Alltrails. It features a glacier-fed waterfall and multiple lakes, with views of the Continental Divide, Mount Evans, and Mount Bierstadt. The difficulty is pretty consistent throughout the 4.6 mile road, but depending on the season, some of the water crossings can get a little bit deep, so use your best judgment and take caution. When you get to Loch Lomond, you’ll find a great spot for camping, fishing, or stargazing.
9. St. Elmo
St. Elmo is probably one of the best-known ghost towns in Colorado. This abandoned mining town from the late 1800s is remarkably intact, and the road there is still very accessible… if you’ve got four-wheel drive, that is. It’s located southwest of Buena Vista, and showcases some amazing views of some of the tallest 14ers in the Rockies. The St. Elmo’s adventure trails are a system of off-roading trails that will lead you to places like Hancock, which is another ghost town, an abandoned mine called Mary Murphy Mine, and the Alpine Tunnel, which was the first ever bored tunnel through the Continental Divide. It’s not the most technical drive on this list, but if you’re into history, it’s definitely one of the coolest.
Need a Ride?
If you don’t have a vehicle of your own, there are rental and adventure companies all over Colorado, like Colorado Jeep Tours, that can help get you off-roading in no time. And if you’re new to the world of Jeeping or off-roading, that doesn’t mean you can’t get in on the fun. A lot of those companies offer guided tours or experts who can take you where you need to go, so you can get all the fun of the experience while learning how to handle it on your own for next time. If you’re playing or staying near a resort, check out their facilities to see if they offer rentals or guided tours.
Honestly, this list is just the beginning. There are hundreds of amazing 4x4 trails in Colorado, each with their own special something to offer. The only way you’re going to find out which ones are your favorite is to get out there and start exploring them for yourself.
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