Black Bear Pass

5/5 (82 reviews)
Telluride, Colorado (SanMiguel County)
Last Updated: 08/31/2022
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Trail Information

Highlights

Black Bear Pass was originally constructed in the late 1800's to service the Black Bear Mine and subsequently re-opened for recreational travel in 1959. Few trails in the United States have attained the legendary status that Black Bear Pass has. The ascent from US 550 begins near the summit of Red Mountain Pass, historically known as the "Million Dollar Highway." The initial climb is easy and scenic, with beautiful wildflowers carpeting the high mountain meadows. Waterfalls cascade from alpine snow melt as you climb to the 12,840 foot summit. The descent into Telluride is vastly different, with narrow shelf roads and steep drop-offs. The descent into Telluride is highlighted by the stunning 365 foot Bridal Veil Falls topped by the Smuggler-Union Hydroelectric Power Plant, better known as the Bridal Veil Powerhouse. The trail descends adjacent to Bridal Veil Falls, with some of the tightest switchbacks a vehicle can travel through. Black Bear Pass' infamy has even been penned into a bluegrass song, written and performed by C.W. McCall: "Mary Elizabeth drawed a picture of the road; it looked like a whole bunch a' Zs and Ws all strung together. And RJ took one look at it and said that the only way that Jeep car is goin' down that road is over her dead body. Then a rock slipped out from under the wheel and the U-Drive-'Em Army Jeep car went right over the edge of the cliff. Yahoo-oo-oo-oo!" C.W. McCall - Black Bear Road 1975

Trail Difficulty and Assessment

Trail Navigation

The legendary sign that once stood on Black bear pass read: "Telluride ---> 'City of Gold' 12 miles- 2 Hours, You don't have to be crazy to drive this road- but it helps. Jeeps only" This sign has recently been replaced by a more informative sign reading: "Extreme Road Ahead- Black Bear Pass is a narrow shelf road with 1000 foot plus drop-offs with dangerous off-camber switchbacks, tight turns and loose shale. Expert drivers only. Travel at your own risk." This warning should not be taken lightly. The actual trail is not difficult in its own right. However, on the Telluride side of the pass there is ZERO room for error. Black Bear is no more dangerous than any other trail in Colorado or anywhere else. It is impressive, to say the least, however, any lapse of attention or judgment on this trail can result in a roll over which may lead to injury or worse.

Trail Reviews

5/5 (82 reviews)
Status: Open
Rated 5/5
Visited: 09/11/2022
Difficulty Accuracy: Harder

Did the trail in my stock 4Runner SR5. Have BFG KO2 275/70/17s. Made it down with no problems. Needed a bit more ground clearance. Scraped a few times but no damage sustained. This was my most extreme trail I’ve done by far! Luckily a nice couple spotted us down the steps. Glad I did it but never want to again! Scary!
Trail Review: Black Bear Pass - Calvin vesco
Trail Review: Black Bear Pass - Calvin vesco
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Status: Open
Rated 5/5
Visited: 09/08/2022
Difficulty Accuracy: Spot On

Just the right amount of pucker factor! The steps where a pretty good drop, but on point for a "5" trail make sure you are ready for that. The most sketchy part of the shelf is right at the beginning, and the first switch back has a big rock on the right that you want to be aware of. I was a little reckless and was glad I had a rock slider on that side, otherwise I would have banged on the rock. The drive up the first half is very scenic, but the views after the steps looking down at Telluride is amazing. No camping on either side of the trail though.
Trail Review: Black Bear Pass - Aj Miller
Trail Review: Black Bear Pass - Aj Miller
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Status: Open
Rated 5/5
Visited: 09/06/2022
Difficulty Accuracy: Spot On

Awesome trail. Seemed a bit sketchier then last year. This time it was wife and I. No other rigs with. Steps were great. Phenomenal views. A must do!
Status: Open
Rated 5/5
Visited: 09/05/2022
Difficulty Accuracy: Spot On

Amazing views and awesome trail even before the one way section. Just fine in a DCLB 3rd gen Tacoma.
Trail Review: Black Bear Pass - Gavin Swanson
Trail Review: Black Bear Pass - Gavin Swanson
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Ben Ruddell
Official Crew
9950
Status: Open
Rated 5/5
Visited: 08/31/2022
Difficulty Accuracy: Spot On

Open and in good condition. Ran it in a JT. The stairs were easier and the switchbacks harder than in a wrangler.
Trail Review: Black Bear Pass - Ben Ruddell

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