Yankee Boy Basin
Class: 2, Moderate | Half Day Trip
Getting There: Follow the Camp Bird Road southwest of Ouray past the mine 10 miles up.
Your Experience: Continue on the four-wheel drive road through the remains of the old Sneffels townsite, taking the right fork that says to Yankee Boy Basin. After stopping to enjoy Twin Falls, follow the trail to the end and into the basin just below the 14,000-foot peak of Mt. Sneffels. The last two miles may be very steep and rough, so you may want to park and hike the remaining distance.
Class: 2, Moderate | All Day Trip
This is another one of the easier passes in the area and one that will take you to the Telluride side of the mountains. It was originally a wagon road between the mines in Ophir, Telluride and Silverton.
Getting There: Drive south of Ouray on Hwy 550 for 18.1 miles to the "National Forest Access, Ophir Pass" turnoff on your right. The ascent is gradual, winding through aspen forests and past beautiful wildflowers, to an elevation of 11,789.
Your Experience: The descending trail is narrow and shelf-like, with one sharp switch-back just over the pass, followed by an easy road to the bottom.
Beyond Old Ophir is the intersection of CO Hwy 145. Turn right (north) onto 145 and follow the highway to a point where it turns right to Telluride or left to return to Ouray over Hwy 62. If you want to return to Ouray view a four-wheel drive road, your choices are Last Dollar Road (Class 1) or Imogene Pass (Class 4/5).
Class: 3, Difficult | All Day Trip
Although this is not as technically difficult as Black Bear and Imogene, it does demand more skill than other four-wheel drive trails.
Getting There: Drive four miles south of Ouray on Hwy 550.
Your Experience: The first two miles are the most rugged; portions of the road are extremely rocky. Novices should proceed cautiously.
At the sign for Poughkeepsie Gulch is one of the more difficult trails in the area and should be left to only the most experienced four-wheelers.
Several miles past the Poughkeepsie Gulch turnoff, there is a sign at a "Y" in the road. Left (east) continues to climb up to Engineer Pass at 12,850 feet, from which you can turn around and return or continue to Lake City. A right turn at the "Y" will take you to the old townsite of Animas Forks and up over Cinnamon Pass (the southern route to Lake City) or on to Silverton.
Black Bear Pass
Class: 5, Extreme | All Day Trip
This is not for the inexperienced or "faint of heart". If you want to say you have done it, go with one of the local tour companies.
Getting There: Black Bear originates at the top of Red Mountain Pass turning west (right) off of Hwy 550 south of Ouray.
Your Experience: Black Bear is a two-way trail from 550 to the summit but becomes ONE-WAY ONLY from there down into Telluride. The ascent is easy, with spectacular views. If you change your mind about trying this trail when you arrive at the top, turn around and return the way you came. If you're still feeling bold, continuing on you will soon find the infamous steps and sharp switchbacks. The road is extremely narrow. Narrow, short wheel base vehicles are the preferred choice. Full-size vehicles and trucks make the trip more challenging, with broken plastic and bent metal always a possibility.
On the way down, plan a stop at the base of Bridal Veil Falls. The remaining distance is easy but watch for mountain bikers.
This is just a sampling of a few of the many Jeep roads in Ouray County. For more information on four wheeling in Ouray please stop by the Ouray Visitor Center, located at the entrance to the Hot Springs Pool.