Updated: Jan 11
Visiting the San Juan Mountains in Colorado has been at the top of the list and we finally got to visit it.
After our last trip to Coppinger Cove to shoot our most recent YouTube video, (see here) we decided it was time to get out of the southeast and head west. The Ouray, CO area has been at the top of our list for some time now. The is a fairly small window of time during the year when the weather isn't extremely cold or snowing, so we decided it was now or wait until next year.
We recently hosted a 700 mile, west to east, North Carolina guided ride called the Mountains to Sea Adventure. During the ride, we made friends with Austin Behling and Json Connell who had been itching to ride again. After making a post on Instagram, the two packed up last minute and hit the road with us.
The Drive Out
"The red rocks can be seen in the distance and this is where trips (for me) start to get fun when heading west on 40."
On Monday, August 17th, Caley, Json, and I departed from Georgia. The plan was to drive to Oklahoma City on day 1 and get a hotel. We had also planned to meet up with Austin in his 84 flatbed Toyota near Memphis, Arkansas as we hit i40 to head west. Just two days prior, Austin was forced to put a new motor is his truck. Somewhere in Tennessee on his way to meet us, his truck ran into fuel issues and he was dead in the water. With a strict time limit, we had no choice but to continue on our journey. We would continue on our way and make it to Oklahoma City sometime in the night.
On Day 2, we continued on our way, making the short drive to Amarillo, TX. We would stop for lunch at The Big Texan Steakhouse of course. If you have the chance, definitely stop here and get a steak. It is well worth it. After stuffing our faces, we headed to the famous Cadillac Ranch. We made the stop here in February during our Moab/Big Sky trip and had to take Json to see it. During the night, Austin thrashed on his 84 Toyota and eventually got it running. While we were out paint on the caddy's in the ground, the flatbed Yota came rolling up and the group was finally together.
Now that the gang was together, we continued our way west with New Mexico as our goal for the night. Just outside of Amarillo, the scenery really starts to change, turning from flat open fields to the high plains of the West. The red rocks can be seen in the distance and this is where trips (for me) start to get fun when heading west on 40. We would drive into the night and head down a short trail outside of Albuquerque, NM. This spot is definitely a ROAM4LO secret, but we can tell you, camping in New Mexico during August was actually perfect. This was one of the best camping locations we have ever stayed in the US and hope to use it again next year.
Heading to Ouray
With perfect weather in New Mexico, we all woke up early and hit the road. The trail leaving camp was just as much fun leaving and it was nice to see it in the daylight. As we made our way north, the scenery gave the group hints of what to expect in 2021. The red rocks towered over the landscape, giving the feeling of being on another planet. Caley and I were fortunate enough to be in Moab in February so we knew what to expect. It was great hearing them talk about how excited they are to get out to Utah before ever seeing Colorado.
We made our way north passing through Durango and Silverton. After fueling up at the local gas station, we hoped on Highway 550, or the "Million Dollar Highway". This stretch of road is hands down the most beautiful paved road we have driven down. This 40 minute drive to Ouray felt much shorter as we were constantly in amazement of where we were. We had our goal set on running Yankee Boy Basin before the sun had set. Not only did we make it in time, we had the privilege of seeing the sun go down over the San Juan Mountains. Needless to say, this was one epic way to kick off day 1 in Colorado.
With no real location to camp set in mind, we made our way to Mineral Creek to find camp. We entered off 550 and made our way up the narrow pass to a quite little campsite. We would fire up a quick dinner and hit the sack for a week in the San Juan's.
A Week To Never Forget
"Arguably the most iconic trail of the West, this trail is known for its drop offs and it did not disappoint."
We would wake up early again (probably from the time change) and hit the trail. We would first head into Silverton to refuel the rigs and meet up with new friend Lee Sumner. Lee is an avid Land Cruiser enthusiast and is extremely knowledged with the trails in Colorado. Once meeting up with him and his beautiful 200 series, we were off. For the next few days we would run EVERY must-do trail in the area and more. What makes the adventure so much fun in the San Juan's is the length of the trails. It is amazing getting to spend a full day on the same route, cover tons of distance. Along the way, the scenery is breathtaking. The mountains in this area are absolutely stunning. We have been lucky to visit the mountains Montana and we may argue these mountains blow them away.
Aside from the overwhelming views, the area is packed full of historic mining history. For many years, these mountains were home to many families who were looking to get rich of the lands. The scale of many of these operations were like nothing we had seen before. It is truly amazing to see what can be made by man with limited tools in remote and rugged terrains.
The Wild West
The trails in Colorado are fairly easy and almost any 4x4 vehicle can navigate them with the right lines. As you know, ROAM4LO doesn't make trips just to hit easy trails. Two trails were on the list to hit before leaving CO. The first of these trails is Poughkeepsie Gulch. Said to be one of the hardest trails in the area, we ventured off to give it a go.
The trail was full of exciting and technical obstacles. A section of long uphill lose rocks made for a very challenging climb for all of the trucks. Once making our way to the top after hitting tons of rock ledges and ruts, we made it to the famous "Wall" obstacle. This 15ft~ uphill rock face has been known to roll rigs over, even those on big tires and crazy lifts. Luckily, all of the rigs would tackle the wall with little to no drama. Once at the top, we were rewarded by a beautiful blue lake filled by snow from the mountains.
The second of these two trails would be Black Bear Pass. Arguably the most iconic trail of the West, this trail is known for its drop offs and it did not disappoint. We were all pretty worried about this trail and decided it would be the last trail we run during the week. The trail would feature some rock ledges with one named "waterfall" would make things exciting on the way up.
Once at 12,840ft, you begin your decent into Telluride. This next section of trail is by far the most photographed section of trail we know of. Despite the hundreds of pictures and videos, nothing will prepare you for driving it in real life. The views over Telluride are absolute amazing and alone made the trip worth everything. On top of this, the trail is pretty sketchy. At times it felt like we were going to slip off the edge to a certain death. But as usual, Caley spotted everyone like a champ and get us down scratch free. All around this was a trip of a lifetime. While Colorado doesn't offer the technical tracks like you see in other parts of the country, it made up for it in views. The trails were absolutely fantastic and it was awesome getting to relax and take it all in. Needless to say we are already planning a return in 2021 and hope to bring some of you along with us!