Top 15 Off-Road 4×4 Trails & Areas To Explore In Colorado: User-Sourced Reference

5th Gen 4Runner Off-Roading in Colorado

Explore Colorado Through These 4×4 Trails Rated For All Skill Levels

Welcome to a new series where we will be featuring top trails and OHV parks across America. In these blogs, we ask YOU (the users) what areas you like to explore and why to create a guide for those looking to explore.

In this post, we’ll be looking at Colorado, a staple destination for off-road enthusiasts. Chances are, if you’ve done any kind of trail research, you’ve ended up with a few must see spots in Colorado.

Let’s jump into the 14 top suggestions from our community!

1. Imogene Pass – Ouray

5th Gen 4Runner On Imogene Pass In Ouray/Telluride In Colorado

Submission By: Angie Santos (@phattegra)

Tell Us About Your Favorite Spot

Imogene Pass is my favorite trail in Colorado and a must-do if you love the scenery and a semi-challenging trail.

The Ouray side of the pass is blanketed with creeks and streams and so many beautiful waterfalls. The higher you go the views become more breath-taking. You can capture a once-in-a-lifetime shot with your rig parked on the edge of the viewpoint. At the top, you are at 13,114 feet which is the second highest pass in the United States.

What Would You Rate This Spot?

The trail is considered difficult due to the road being rocky, steep, and narrow in places. 4WD and high-ground clearance are absolutely recommended to be able to attempt this trail.

2. Chinaman Gulch – Buena Vista

3rd Gen 4Runner On Chinaman's Gulch In Buena Vista, Colorado

Submission By: Ben (@turtle.runna)

Tell Us About Your Favorite Spot

Chinaman’s Gulch is definitely one of my favorite trails in Colorado. It’s located just outside of Buena Vista and it has everything from mild to wild. Not to mention a beautiful view of the Sawatch Mountain range. There are a few optional lines that are fun to hang out on and try or just spectate. The trail does have some non-optional lines that you may need a spot or a winch.

What Would You Rate This Spot?

I’d rate this trail at a 5-6 out of 10. This is because there are some ledges where clearance is necessary. I’d recommend at least having 33” tires and a winch or a friend with one. There are about 4-5 obstacles that have no bypasses.

3. Red Cone Pass – Breckinridge

3rd Gen 4Runner On Red Cone Pass Near Breckinridge, CO

Submission By: Alex (@littletruckbigworld)

Tell Us About Your Favorite Spot

I think the Red Cone trail is by far the best area in Colorado! There are so many amazing views and a wide variety of trails and difficulty levels. This makes it a great spot for anyone who is looking to adventure around. You’ll also find an amazing community of people always looking for a good time and willing to help anyone new to the scene!

What Would You Rate This Spot?

I would rate this area a 5-6/10. Red cone in particular isn’t the most difficult trail, however, it is very busy so there are a few areas that rut out so lockers can be helpful. Just a note, if you’re a new driver, the decent can be overwhelming.

4. Holy Cross City Trail – Minturn

1st Gen Tacoma On Holy Cross City Trail In Minturn, Colorado

Submitted By: Dillon (@tacomooose)

Tell Us About Your Favorite Spot

This spot is actually really cool. You’ll get a lot of beautiful views all around and you’ll get to explore some abandoned mining towns. There are also a ton of really big obstacles so be prepared and come with the right gear!

What Would You Rate This Spot?

In terms of how difficult this spot is, I would say it’s probably a 7-8/10. There are some big obstacles, keeping the smaller rigs out. You’ll also experience an awesome river crossing and an old mining town at the end.

5. Telluride/Ouray Area

5th Gen 4Runner On Engineer Pass Summit Near Ouray, Colorado

Submission By: Dallas (@merk_fur)

Tell Us About Your Favorite Spot

Some of the best scenic trails/views I’ve ever seen are in this area. You’ll have plenty to experience with the endless amounts of trails all of which have different levels of difficulty. Imogene Pass, Engineer Pass, Alpine Loop, Black Bear Pass, Yankee Boy Basin, and Cinnamon Pass, are some of the areas that you should check out. There are also so many other trails that are great options to explore.

What Would You Rate This Spot?

It all depends on the trails you take or what way you come from (Telluride or Ouray).  Imogene pass is a lower level of difficulty (3 of 10) but you need to pay attention on the trail. Engineer Pass, if coming from the Mineral Creek direction can be technical (5 of 10) so I would not take this way if you’re a beginner.

Yankee Boy Basin is worth it (4 of 10) and is beautiful especially when the melt is happening and you can see all the waterfalls. Alpine loop is incredible as well and some areas can be difficult (4 of 10) but most are an easy drive.

Cinnamon Pass is also an easy trail (3 of 10) but well worth the drive into Lake City. Black Bear Pass can chew you up and spit you out if you are not careful (6-7 of 10) and know what you and your vehicle are capable of. Be careful if you try this trail, not saying don’t do it but please just take your time and be careful.

A lot of these trails can connect to each other and you can easily make a week+ trip out of this and not even hit half of the trails in the San Juan area. The best advice is to plan out where you’re going and to have plans on where to camp so you can stay in the mountains and make the best of it. The trails can be long and you definitely don’t want to be on these trails at night or be making camp at night. End result is to be careful and have a blast with some of the best views Colorado and the United States have to offer.

6. San Juan Mountains – Southwest Area

5th Gen 4Runner On Stony Pass In Colorado

Submissions By: Alex (@adventures_unltd)

Tell Us About Your Favorite Spot

This area of Colorado offers up such a vast array of trails to wheel and adventure around. The scenery is absolutely epic! It is also really fun to stop for ice cream, a snack, and or a beer at the mountain towns along the way – Lake City, Telluride, Silverton, and Ouray – just to name a few.

What Would You Rate This Spot?

These trails offer beginner-level to an extreme level. Engineer and Cinnamon Passes are a fun loop that connects Silverton and Lake City – I would consider these to be on the beginner end of the spectrum. Poughkeepsie Gulch, Black Bear Pass, and Imogene are more advanced and or extreme. You’ll need full-body skid plates and possibly a winch to get up The Wall on Poughkeepsie Gulch. Knowing the footprint of your rig, taking your time, and having a well-trusted spotter are key to successfully traversing Black Bear Pass.

7. Gordon Gulch – Boulder

3rd Gen Tacoma On Gordo Gulch Trail In Colorado

Submitted By: Jake (@jakepadilla.photography)

Tell Us About Your Favorite Spot

The Gordon Gulch area is a very nice area for camping. I actually recently discovered this area. I decided to go up to Gordon Gulch and stumbled upon it by accident. I ended up looking around and saw some other overlanders and the campsites were pretty spacious which is great for any future camping plans. There were also a ton of off-shoots that would be fun to explore. 

What Would You Rate This Spot?

I would rate this spot a 2/10 at worst. There are a lot of loose rocks and ruts around the area but there wasn’t anything overly technical that beginners couldn’t handle.

8. Yankee Hill – St. Mary’s Alice

5th Gen 4Runner On Yankee Hill In St Mary’s Alice, Colorado

Submission By: Jason (@jmlustine)

Tell Us About Your Favorite Spot

Yankee Hill has a wide variety of different technical trails for everyone. On top of the variety, there is a ton of space to explore. Combine that with amazing views, it gives an amazing experience where you can safely push your rig.

What Would You Rate This Spot?

As for the difficulty, it depends on where you go. There are areas where that are more dirt roads and there are also areas where I’d rate it up to a 5 out of 10. One entrance, the one on St. Mary’s side, is definitely a lot harder due to deep ruts, steep climbs, and large loose rocks.

9. Chinn’s Lake – Empire

5th Gen 4Runner On Chinn's Lake Trail Near Empire, Colorado

Submitted By: Sergio (@sergio__717)

Tell Us About Your Favorite Spot

Chinn’s Lake is the perfect quick getaway from the city if you’re in a time crunch. It’s only 45 minutes from Denver to the trailhead. Once you get to the top you get to what I think is one of the most relaxing lakes I’ve been to.

What Would You Rate this Spot?

I would rate this a 5 out of 10. There is only one spot that is washed out with deep ruts but you can pick your line and difficulty through that one spot. Everything else is just a rocky climb to the top. The trail is also not wide enough for two rigs to pass side by side but there are spots wide enough to let the other through.

10. Imogene Pass – Ouray

3rd Gen Tacoma At Imogene Pass in Southwest Colorado

Submitted By: Nick (@quicksendtaco)

Tell Us About Your Favorite Spot

As a bucket list trail for many, Imogene Pass is an all-day kind of trail, if you really want to take it all in. Very few trails will make you feel as small as this one. The summit sits at 13,114 feet giving you a breathtaking 360 view of the San Juan Mountains stretching from Telluride to Ouray. This trail has a little of everything from slippery sharp rocks and water crossings, to some pretty intimidating show banks, depending on the time of year you visit.

What Would You Rate this Spot?

I’d rate Imogene Pass as moderate if you know what you are doing or getting yourself into. The key is to take your time and not feel rushed on some of the more treacherous obstacles especially if there are a lot of other rigs on the mountain. It’s a trail you could easily take some damage on but if navigated correctly can be done with ease.

11. Black Bear Pass – San Miguel County

Black Bear Pass - San Miguel County

Submitted By: Brenan (@Trail4R)

Tell Us About This Spot

Black Bear Pass is one of the most iconic trail systems in Colorado. I wrote a full review and overview of this system a few years back and it’s absolutely a bucket list trail. Not only does it offer breathtaking views of Telluride but it also provides a few challenging obstacles along the way. Some consider this trail difficult but it’s actually pretty easy if you have patience and years of experience off-roading. Go read the review I wrote a few years ago. You will understand why thousands of off-roaders and overlanders alike hit this trail every year.

What Would You Rate this Spot?

I would rate this a 5 out of 10. The only spots that are “difficult” would be the steps and switchbacks down the mountain however, they’re not extremely technical. In order to properly navigate the steps and switchbacks, you just need to be patient and pay attention. These are not spots where you want to gaze off into the distance while driving. One wrong turn and the trail can take you down the face.

12. Wheeler Lake – Alma-Breckenridge

Wheeler Lake - Alma-Breckenridge

Submitted By: Brenan (@Trail4R)

Tell Us About This Spot

Wheeler Lake is another personal favorite. It’s a bit more out there, so you have to trek farther out to hit the trailhead. However, the time invested is definitely worth it. The trail starts near a large reservoir that provides clean water to local cities. The entrance is guarded by old mining equipment, neat to see if you’re into that kind of thing. There is a river that runs alongside this area.

All in all, the trail features a lot of fun obstacles and beautiful scenery, and if you get the to end – you’re rewarded with a scenic mountain lake with some old mining tunnels. An extremely pretty area. It’s nestled into a bit of a valley, so you can look back on the way you came in from the right spot.

What Would You Rate This Spot?

This definitely is not a beginner trail, or really a solo one either. Especially if you’re loaded down with gear and mods, some of the obstacles are much more difficult to get over. I would recommend a minimum 33″ tire, but a 35″ would certainly be very helpful. Lockers and a winch are required if you don’t have another more capable truck to assist you along the way.

Portions of the trail are relatively easy, but with a handful of major obstacles, you could call this trail a 7-8 out of 10 as far as most people are concerned. For example, there is one rock shelf that is at least two feet tall, and just about everyone scrapes somewhere. You need to go up and down all the obstacles and your vehicle will lean quite a bit. This trail is one way in and out.

13. Red Cone Pass – Dillon

3rd Gen Tacoma On Red Cone Pass In Dillon, CO

Submitted By: Justin (@mile_high_yota)

Tell Us About This Spot

Red Cone Pass is one of my favorite trails near the Denver area. It has a little bit of everything from wheeling, to the scenery with lots of camping options in the area. It is famously known for its steep descent on loose rock and will give everyone an experience worth coming back for.

What Would You Rate This Spot?

The trail is rated hard. There are some obstacles that can be challenging depending on your rig, but picking the right lines will make it a breeze. There are some tighter areas on the trail and you’ll certainly want low gears ascending and descending on the loose rock but any rig with 33s and maybe a little protection should be fine.

14. Mount Princeton Trail – Buena Vista

4th Gen 4Runner At Lookout On Mount Princeton Trail In Buena Vista, Colorado

Submitted By: Andrew (@spartan_t4r)

Tell Us About This Spot

I absolutely love this area because it offers so many beautiful views of both the Collegiate Mountain range and the valley below. You’ll be sure to experience a mix of terrain ranging from desert in the valley to luscious forests with rivers running through them.

What Would You Rate This Spot?

The Mount Princeton Trail is easily accessible to stock 4×4 vehicles up to the cell towers which has ample spots for camping. The trail continues to climb above the cell towers and immediately becomes more rocky and narrow. The top part of the trail leads above the tree line to a YoungLife lookout. From the lookout, you have a gorgeous view of the valley, Mt. Antero, and Mt. Princeton’s false summit. Overall, I would estimate the difficulty ranges from a 2 (the bottom part of the trail) to a 4 (the top part of the trail) out of 10.

15. Rocky Mountain National Park

5th Gen 4Runner at the Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado

Submission By: Bradley (@ tr5_4rnr)

Tell Us About Your Favorite Spot

My love for the Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) doesn’t just start at the entrance of the park. It starts with the uncapped beauty of deep, green forests extending far beyond some of the highest snow-capped mountain peaks across the land. Everywhere you turn in RMNP, there’s new scenery. The offroad trails that exist in the park are accompanied by miles of rolling mountains that take your breath away quicker than the elevation itself.

There are miles of un-maintained dirt roads throughout the park that offer several days of exploration for the overland-oriented traveler.

What Would You Rate This Spot?

I would rate this area a 4/10. During the winter time, even the switchback roads covered in ice create unwavering conditions. A majority of the OHV park becomes much harder during the winter months, to the point where 4×4 is needed to navigate.

Final Thoughts

5th Gen 4Runner Near Red Cone Pass Summit In Colorado

And that wraps up our first round-up of fan-favorite trails!

Colorado is a beautiful place to visit and explore. Whether you’re looking for a day trip or a week-long trip, you’ll be sure to find something that fits your needs. And with the numerous challenging terrains, you’ll really get a feel for what your 4Runner can do.

We would love to hear what other areas you like to explore in Colorado so make sure to comment your favorites below!

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Lou
Lou
7 months ago

This is great. Do you plan to do one of these for new mexico too?

Dave J
Dave J
7 months ago

Imogene is my favorite San Juan mountains trail. A lot of variety, various challenges, and spectacular views. I haven’t done Black Bear since we usually go solo and I would want a good spotter to do the steps. Corkscrew is a shorter trail but has some great views and several switchbacks. Not technical but great views of the Red Mountains as you go between them. We’ve done Poughkeepsie Gulch but went the bypass route. Mineral Creek has gotten more sketchy of the years. Nice trail with a couple of more technical areas. Many more old mining roads in the area there as there were many mines back in the 1800’s and early 1900’s. Lots of history there. Silverton, Ouray, Telluride, Lake City are all great little towns.

Dave J
Dave J
7 months ago
Reply to  Marie Dubray

Imogene. So much of it is out of the trees. Not a super technical trail but the views are beyond amazing. Still, if you don’t watch well, you could get in trouble in several places. Here in Northern California, so many trails are in the trees. Hard to enjoy the scenery.

Pat Egan
Pat Egan
7 months ago

If/When the California portion gets written, please break it down by region. The state is too damn big for one article!

Mark Clark
Mark Clark
7 months ago

The Enchanted Rockies Trail, as put together by Lifestyle Overland, was a fun route thru near Cloudcroft, New Mexico leading a winding way up into northern Colorado.

Scott Swartzbaugh
Scott Swartzbaugh
7 months ago

I just returned early this morning from Colorado (Denver/Boulder area mostly) and I can say as a native Pennsylvanian, I am beyond jealous. I wish we had the landscape that makes overlanding “make sense”. Sure, there’s plenty of off-roading to do here, but we lack the grand vistas of the Rocky Mountains.

Great post btw, we could use more of this.

@in_a_4runner
@in_a_4runner
7 months ago

We are on the Tip of Something here. On this site, we could create an Atlas on Geographics, Global & Local and please get some Routes from California. With other detail information such had Route type, difficulty type, elevation, distance, estimated time to complete the route like posted on Gia GPS or All Trails. Great Ideal. Lots of the greatest article’s are coming from this site!!!

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