San Juan National Forest / Uncompahgre National Forest
Columbine Ranger District / Norwood Ranger District
The sign that once stood at the trailhead said it best; You don't have to be crazy to drive this road - but it helps.
Traveling between Silverton and Telluride, Black Bear Pass is a legendary shelf road with 1,000-foot drop-offs, dangerous off-camber switchbacks, tight turns, and loose shale. It offers amazing mountaintop scenery as you climb to 12,840 feet and pass the breathtaking 365-foot Bridal Veil Falls, the tallest waterfall in Colorado. This Jeep Badge of Honor trail rightfully earns its title as one of the most dangerous trails in the country.
Trail Difficulty and Assessment
Lightly Modified 4X4 (Small Lift and Larger Tires)
This trail has two types of challenges; Physical and Mental. Physically, the most difficult sections of this trail are Waypoints 13 & 14, where the majority of rollovers take place. Mentally, Waypoints 15-17 will test your nerves and attentiveness along the narrowest sections of the trail.
The weighted average of your fellow members agreement of our trail
rating. As trail conditions change this helps us keep the community
aware of changes.
The hardest part of the trail that you
cannot bypass - you have to drive it.
The hardest part of the trail that is
purely optional - you can bypass it.
Rocky or undulated road surface. Potential rocks and/or tree stumps less than 24" tall and/or vertical ledges less than 24" tall and/or near vertical ledges or waterfalls less than 54" inches. Tire placement becomes more difficult. Can be steep and off-camber.Read More about our Rating System
Black Bear Pass is a straight-through, 10-mile trail that begins at US 550 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 summit of the Pass. The descent into Telluride is vastly different, with zero room for error. The trail traverses narrow shelf roads with steep drop-offs that make it impossible to pass oncoming traffic. Because of this, the western descent into Telluride is one-way, downhill only. OHVs are not allowed to drive through the town of Telluride; hence they must turn around before the one-way section or secure a trailer ride through town. Drivers will navigate over several off-camber obstacles before peaking high above the town of Telluride just in time to traverse the narrowest and tightest switchbacks a vehicle can travel. Black Bear Pass is an impressive trail that requires your utmost attention for the entire duration of the trip. Any lapse of attention or judgment on this trail can result in a rollover which may lead to injury or worse. This trail should only be driven by experienced off-roaders in mechanically fine-tuned high clearance 4x4s.
1. Trailhead (0
The trailhead is easy to spot on the west side of US 550. There is a spacious staging area with enough room for 6-8 vehicles to air down and prepare for the trip.
2. Little Bear Road - Stay Right (1.01
Keep right at the fork and continue to follow signs for Black Bear Pass. Left at the fork will take you on Little Bear Road and intersect with Porphyry Gulch. The fork is well-marked. This area can become crowded during peak wildflower season with the presence of nature photographers in addition to vehicles running the trail.
3. Rock Slab Obstacle (1.25
This rock slab is the first mild obstacle you come to on the ascent up the pass. The rock is a bit chunky and will loosely cycle the suspension.
4. Scenic Campsite (1.67
This scenic campsite on the edge of the mountainside offers majestic 180-degree views of the towering peaks of the San Juan Mountains. This site is small, fairly level, and a bit rocky. A small ground tent or 1-2 vehicles with rooftop tents would be the best use of this site.
5. Seasonal Gate (1.96
A seasonal closure gate is found at this point. It is helpful to research ahead of any trip through Black Bear Pass to verify the road is open, as there is not much room for a vehicle to turn around if needed at the gate. Be respectful of gate closures, and do not attempt to bypass a closed gate in any way. Such actions can result in permanent trail closures.
6. Driver's Choice (2.87
Choose either direction at this y-intersection. Both routes are legal routes and reconnect in a short distance.
7. Trail Reconnect (3.1
The trail split from Waypoint 6 reconnects here. Continue up the hill towards the summit.
8. Black Bear Pass Summit (3.22
Spectacular views abound in all directions at the top of the 12,840-foot summit. The west side of the pass is much more difficult than what you have experienced to this point. Warning signs with a description of what is in store are posted at the beginning of the descent into the Telluride side of Black Bear Pass. You can expect to encounter steep descents, off-camber leans, treacherous and narrow shelf sections and tight, multi-point switchback turns. For those that do not wish to continue the route, the large parking area at the summit offers an easy spot to turn back towards US 550. The ridgeline along the summit of Black Bear Pass marks the border between San Juan National Forest to the east and Uncompahgre National Forest to the west.
9. Scenic (4.09
The trail narrows and begins to cut a path along Ingram Basin. This is a great vantage point to watch across the basin as vehicles make their descent down the trail.
10. Private Road - Continue Straight (4.84
Stay straight at this private mining road to the left which has a closed gate.
11. Downhill Only From This Point On (5.36
From this point forward, traffic becomes one-way only downhill into Telluride. Any vehicles that do not wish to continue, or any vehicles not allowed in the town of Telluride, such as OHVs, must turn around at this point. The one-way section used to be farther down the trail, but due to avalanche damage, the old turnaround spot no longer exists and was moved to this point. The trail does split here with an optional flex-type obstacle to the right.
12. Tippy Spot 1 of 3 (6.08
Come to the first of three off-camber leans to the left. A small ledge cuts across the trail at an acute angle here, which causes the driver's tire to drop well before the passenger tire. This creates a fall line toward the creek that can make your vehicle excessively tippy. It is not uncommon for independent suspension vehicles to lift tires while crossing these obstacles. Continue to maintain forward momentum and avoid stomping on the brakes. This will cause an abrupt shift in the center of gravity, tipping the vehicle more than it would naturally. This obstacle is small in comparison to the next two.
13. Tippy Spot 2 of 3 (6.25
The town of Telluride creeps into view as you approach the second of three off-camber obstacles. Like the last obstacle, a medium-sized ledge cuts across the trail at an acute angle. The drop on the driver's side is substantially bigger at this obstacle compared to the previous obstacle, and caution should be taken in independent suspension vehicles. The best way to approach these acute angles is to hug tight against the high side, which is the driver's side in this case, and then turn sharply downhill to drop the ledge as square as possible. The closer both front tires are to dropping at the same time, the less likely you will disrupt your vehicle's center of gravity. Remember to avoid hard, abrupt braking and use slow forward momentum.
14. Tippy Spot 3 of 3 (6.31
The final off-camber obstacle before the steps is similar to the prior obstacle but is slightly wider and offers a wider range of lines. This obstacle is the culprit of many rollovers. Be cautious with this obstacle, as looks from the top can be deceiving. The far left line hugging the downhill side looks to be the easiest, but this line is extremely off-camber and drops the front driver tire abruptly while the two passenger tires remain high on the rock ledge. This quickly disrupts the center of gravity and sends the vehicle into a fast body leaning, often resulting in rollovers. The far-right line is the easiest line and is a sloped descent down the rock ledge. There is no need to drive into the brush, just remain on the rocks and gradually make your way down. The center line should be approached just like the prior obstacles by starting passenger and turning hard driver downhill to square the vehicle to the ledge and drop both front tires simultaneously.
15. Steps (6.4
Black Bear Pass' infamous descent into Telluride begins with an obstacle known as "The Steps." This area consists of a series of loose shale steps that are off-camber and follow along a very narrow shelf that is barely wide enough for a full-sized vehicle to traverse.
16. Ingram Falls (6.53
After a switchback just below the steps, the trail crosses Ingram Creek and showcases Upper Ingram Falls to the driver's side. Here you can also see some remains of the Black Bear Mine processing mill.
17. Switchback of Legend (6.77
As the trail continues its descent, the first major switchback is encountered on the descent into Telluride. This is by far the tightest switchback, and it greatly helps at this point to have a spotter to guide the vehicle through the corner. Expect to have to back up at least 1-2 times in order to navigate this turn safely. It is approximately a 900-foot drop over this edge. There are ten more switchbacks similar to this to come. None of the switchbacks are nearly as difficult, and each one is progressively easier as the trail nears the bottom of the box canyon.
18. Powerhouse - Begin Two Way Traffic (7.39
The switchbacks continue, the road widens, and travel becomes much easier. Two-way traffic begins again at this point. The beautiful Bridal Veil Powerhouse comes into view as it sits prominently perched at the top of the 365-foot Bridal Veil Falls. Officially it's named the Smuggler-Union Hydroelectric Power Plant. Built in 1907, its purpose was to produce electricity for mining activity in Telluride. Now placed on the National Register of Historic Places, it is owned and managed by the Idarado Mining Company. The plant presently produces 25% of Telluride's electrical needs.
19. Via Ferrata Upper Trailhead (8
This small parking area in the switchback is the trailhead for the Telluride Via Ferrata. This is an intense trail where climbers are suspended on small iron footholds with a harness, 500 feet up a sheer canyon wall.
20. Bridal Veil Falls (8.25
At the bottom of Bridal Veil Falls, a small parking area is present for vehicles to stop so that the falls can be enjoyed. Bridal Veil Falls is the tallest waterfall in Colorado and is a popular year-round destination. At the time of this guide, there were portable toilets located in the parking area.
21. Trail End (9.79
The trail ends at a large parking area for the Bridal Veil trail. Parking can be hard to find here, but there is a portable toilet. The road becomes pavement and will take you into downtown Telluride.
Dispersed camping is allowed along Black Bear Pass, per the MVUM. However, few pre-established campsites exist, and those that do are strictly vehicle and tent camping spots only. Free dispersed camping for trailers and RVs can be found 5.2 miles north of the trailhead on Highway 550 at Ironton Park. Lodging can be found in both the towns of Ouray and Telluride.
From the corner of US 550 and 6th Avenue in Ouray, travel south on Main Street/US 550 for 13.1 miles. The trailhead is well marked on the west side of the highway approximately 1/4 mile south of the summit of Red Mountain Pass.
A recent winter storm in the Ouray/ Silverton area has dropped a measurable amount of snow and high winds have been in the area. Some high country routes in the area may be passable but high country travel is not recommended.
We did this trail in mid-October. The trail was snow covered as we descended from the summit, but it was dry before the switchbacks. The views are incredible! There is no way to overstate that. Most of the trail is fairly easy, but there are a few off camber spots and good size rocks to navigate that make the trail earn its rating. The switchbacks are not difficult although they can be scary because of how far down the drop is. Having a spotter makes if fairly easy. There were two Gladiators in our group. They made it just fine but did have a harder time making though the switchbacks. This trail should be on everyone's bucket list in my opinion.
Always a great trail as long as you are vigilant and have some wheeling experience. Not recommended for full size rigs since the switchbacks under the falls seem to be sluffing and out of shape this year. The most difficult sections are one way only so dont be "that guy" that jams up the flow. Take your time and use low range and use a spotter if in doubt.
Another amazing trail in the San Juans. This was my first time on Black Bear, and I had a blast. Technically speaking, this trail is just as easy as many other trails in the area (vehicle dependent - the steps can be a bit trickier in an IFS vehicle). The scare factor is why I agree with the 5 - there are several "no fall zones". If you have any experience with narrow shelf roads and multi-point turns, I think Black Bear won't pose too much of a challenge. I personally felt that the hype of the danger was much greater than the danger itself.
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!
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.
We ran Black Bear this morning in under 3 hours.
The trail is no joke and definitely one of the more difficult trails I've run in Colorado. We had a 99 F-150 on 35 mud tires and 2.5 inch lift with rock sliders and tons of armor. The whole truck was built by me over 3 years and stays on trails non-stop. I work on brakes, suspension, rebuild engines and transmissions anything mechanical I can do and well.
The truck is long but just a bit wider than a Rubicon on 35s. My girl spotted me on several sections and that definitely was needed. We ran it solo but we run lots of hard trails like that. I thought the obstacles before the steps and the steps the hardest but were not too bad as long as you have a good spotter and take your time. The steep sections are best in neutral as 4Lo pushes you forward and you have more control over your braking.
Per San Miguel County Sheriff's Office:
Deputies, San Miguel County Search and Rescue, and Sheriff’s Office aircraft responded to the Ingram Falls area of Black Bear Pass for reports of mudslides that left eight vehicles and fifteen occupants stranded. Four of the vehicles were safely able to turn around near “the stairs,” and drive back down the pass. The other four vehicles will remain on Bridal Veil Rd. until it’s safe to drive them down; their occupants were guided down by rescuers to awaiting UTVs and patrol cars. There were no reported injuries. Video taken by one of the motorists.
*Black Bear Pass, Bridal Veil Rd., and the Bridal Veil Trail will remain closed to all vehicle and pedestrian traffic until at least Tuesday when County Road and Bridge estimates the area will be cleared and safe for travel.
Completed the trail in my 2010 Jeep Liberty; from the trail head to Bear Pass, the trail was quite easy (maybe a 2 at most), but made it easier to enjoy the awesome views. After heading down the pass and into the one way section; as long as you picked the correct line for your vehicle (it would be good to know what your angles of approach and descent are that you and your vehicle are capable of), it really doesn't feel like a 5. I'll definitely be back, would like to see the pass without being in the clouds
Ran this trail on a stock 2022 Chevy Colorado ZR2 crew cab with some extra skid plates. I’m not very experienced so a spotter was helpful on the steps and on a couple of the switchbacks. Did scrape my belly and hitch once or twice. Overall not terribly difficult and a ton of fun with gorgeous views of telluride.
The trail offers some amazing views as you drive into Telluride. I believe the difficulty to be over hyped. There were a couple of sections were tire placement is important. Take it slow and use your common sense on the switch backs and you’ll be fine in a stock vehicle with 4 low.
Weather Forecasts for the San Juan Mountains call for a significant amount of snow in the coming days. Although some routes may be open, travel over these high mountain passes in winter conditions are not advised.
Really enjoyed the trail, the challenge of the trail certainly was not as crazy as all the youtube videos make it out to be that said this is a moderate trail with severe consequences. Definitely approach it as a very difficult trail and respect the obstacles and you should be fine. If you are a beginner I strongly recommend going with a group as well as with someone who has run the trail before. All obstacles were easily managed with my Tacoma TRD OR with +2.5" lift, 265/75/16 tires. The steps take a cautious approach over the center and you'll be fine (make sure you have a spotter).
Yes, every vehicle in our group made it down the trail un-scathed, including the yukon. The only damage we suffered was a broken phone screen from my wife dropping my phone from the top of the steps.
Pass 2 of 3 for 2021 Labor day. Decided to go over Black Bear after coming down Engineer pass to get into Telluride for the night. Beautiful clear day and I had the trail essentially to myself (because I started around 2 PM). I spent hours pouring over youtube, reviews on this site and others trying to see if I could make it over in my Grand Cherokee trailhawk. The trail from the start to just before the steps (WP7) is relatively smooth and easy. Just before the steps are two off camber ledges that gave me the most trouble (under the old cable that stretches across the trail) . Being a vehicle with independent front and rear suspension, I do not flex and tip very easily. I really had to line up straight to the second drop off. Past that, the actual steps were not that bad. I really had to hug the wall on adios corner but made it down just fine. The switchbacks went ok but I was on two wheels on the second one (WP10) after the switchback of legend. I had a good time but probably won't run this trail again in my GC.
The trails climbs pretty steep right out of the gate. I used 4-low for the climb just to take some strain off of the transmission and engine. The top was scenic but we had lots of cloud cover so the immediate area was most visible. The descent from the top to the switch backs has lots of tight turns and small obstacles to get your ready for what's to come. When you reach the stairs it looks really bad from the top but once rolling down you can see you have plenty of room. After that the switchbacks required a three point turn for the most part until we reached the falls. From there it was a bumpy road full of hikers down into town. When we hit town we drove through the middle of a film festival until we were able to cut up to the start of Imogene Pass. Maybe it's not always so bad but be careful of people walking into traffic between cars and bikes doing whatever they want on the road. I had on pair riding down the wrong side of the road coming at me and another swerve around my passenger side as I was making a right turn.
The most visual trail we have been on! Nothing like Arizona. The mountains are amazing and the trail is worth the trip! The steps and the narrow shelf road gets yur blood flowing and the views just keep on coming from begining to end!
Black Bear... What can be said! It was not as difficult as everyone says, actually not bad at all but it does take every bit of your attention! If you don't like heights this one is not for you. Much of the trail is easy Alpine trail above the tree line with some cool mining history all around. Getting spotted down the steps and when we got to the bottom of them I was like "When do we get to the steps?" and was told "We just did them." The first turn is pretty scary but after that just take it easy and watch the road, not the scenery. The switchbacks get easier as you go down and Telluride is a cool town.
There is so much hype about this trail that it terrifies many people out of even going. While it certainly has Sever consequences if you make a mistake, it really is a low-moderate trail in terms of difficulty. That being said, I have personally watched people with a lot of rock crawling experience have a complete mental breakdown right after the first switchback going down.
Decided to change our plans and run black bear today since it was sunny and no chance of weather, blue skies and puffy clouds. Watching videos online probably hurt us a bit from the anxiety aspect. There was some great info but the number of folks freaking out kind of made us build this up in our minds. That being said, the trail for the most part is just a shelf road which we run a lot in CO so probably not as crazy for us. The steps did take some looking but ran it without a spotter since the spotter was taking video. The first big switchback needed a spotter just to not have to turn as many times. Over all a very fun trail, and not as hard or scary as I had built up in my head. That could also change with trail conditions.
This was my second and last time on Black Bear pass. The trail is not crazy difficult as long as you pay attention but if you're terrified of heights like me it SUCKS. Scenery is amazing but it gets busy and this year seems to have been a bad year for rollovers. Black bear was closed the day we were supposed to run it for about 24 hours due to a rollover just past ingram falls.
Very rewarding trail. There are some large obstacles from the oneway/downhill-only point through the steps that tested the sliders of the stock JLUR, but I thought the steps themselves were not the most technical section (at least not when we ran it during dry/sunny conditions). We had a great time, and I would definitely recommend this trail.
I was traveling out west and stopped in Telluride for a couple days. I drove through town and wanted to see Bridal Veil Falls. So, as it turns out, it is Black Bear Pass trail that you take up to the waterfall and powerhouse, starting at the end point of Black Bear Pass and going the opposite direction from the description here. Although I encountered some packed snow a short way up, I made it up the switchbacks to the powerhouse easily. My first time driving in snow in my Jeep (I live in Alabama). Oh, and the waterfall was almost completely frozen. Still, it was quite beautiful.
Recent snows have melted enough that the trail is open. I did the trail on 9/13/20 with my 2001 TJ along with 2 JL Rubicons, and a JK sport. None of us had any problems.
Overall this is not a difficult trail if you have some off roading experience. There are some narrow spots, especially on the switchbacks. It was much easier than I thought it would be after reading other reviews.
Unbelievable trail. My first run of Black Bear Pass and did with the CCC4W Club. So glad to do it with the club and experience drivers. We started out of Ouray up the Red Mountain on the Million Dollar highway. Then a beautiful climb to the Black Bear Pass. The decent was very enjoyable with the vast variance in sections (downhill from pass, steps by river, waterfalls, and cliff switchbacks). The view were breathtaking. There are section on the trail that can really cause issues if you take the wrong line, but very doable if taken slow. Ran it in with a stock JL Rubicon.
This, combined with Imogene, was quite possibly the most intense and exciting experience of my life... so far. I completely agree with the previous review that there were some obstacles prior to the steps which were far more difficult and challenging. This is without a doubt a bucket list trail. Did I white knuckle the steering wheel? Yes. Did I have to nervous tinkle numerous times prior to the steps? Yes. Did I feel like a bad ass when I got to the bottom? Yes. Yes I did!
Honestly I didn’t think the steps were that bad. There are a few obstacles before them though that I found more challenging. Added a few new scratches to the skid plates but the views were completely worth it!
This is definitely a bucket list trail for the views alone. Coming down off of the steps and looking over into Telluride is amazing and pictures don’t come close to doing it justice. Definitely off camber in areas leading up to and on the steps that require slow movements and full attention. Ran the whole trail in a JK Sport with MTs and a disconnected sway bar. The extra flex up front definitely helps to keep all tires planted but I think a stock JK should be able to get through the trail without issue as long as the right lines are followed. I ended up between a group of vehicles from Nevada and they were nice enough to spot me through which sped up how long the obstacles took. Although a good amount of stock vehicles could probably make it through, having a short wheelbase and decent articulation made it much easier. There are a few reviews that say this trail isn’t super technical, there are areas where picking the wrong line can put you in a bad spot and it should not be taken lightly given how serious going off the trail can be.
Wow. My first time running Black Bear and it was nothing short of incredible. The views were way better than I thought they would be. The steps weren’t too bad, just take your time. There are a couple unnamed rocky obstacles before the steps that you should use caution on. If you hit them at the wrong angle it could roll you on your drivers side. The switchbacks weren’t too bad. The road is narrow but not as narrow as Devil’s Punchbowl / Schofield Pass. The tightest switchback wasn’t even that bad. My buddy just had to backup once in his 4 door Wrangler. Excellent trail and it was not as scary as everyone makes it out to be.
Ran this trail for the first time - absolutely epic views! The Steps are terrifying, but if you're paying close (close, close, close) attention, following a good line from the vehicle in front of you, and/or have a good spotter, they're not as bad as I thought they'd be. I'd run this trail again in a heartbeat - it's just amazing!
Earned it's reputation! Glad I had a crew in front of me and was able to use their spotter for "The Steps" section. I had just had my brakes replaced and serviced a week prior, driven up from Denver, just run Imogene the day before, and then they decided to give out at the to of the switchbacks. Horrifying reminder to double check everything important before you go on a trail as an unnoticed slow leak of brake fluid caused the failure. Thankfully, we made it to the bottom thanks to the help of some other trail users without any harm to my passengers or myself. Not an incredibly technical trail, but there are a few spots that require some careful line choice as they can be steep or off-camber with some serious consequences.
Was able to get on Blackbear Pass soon after it opened for the season. Was a great ride and a Hell of a view. Started raining about the time I got to the top so made it a bit more interesting. Not a hard trail but can mess with you head a bit being close to the edge that high up.
What a great trail! No obstacles on the way up to the pass, and a bit past it. Any 4x4 can make that part. Once you pass the “extreme road” sign and the one way starts into Telluride, well equipped experts only.
I can confirm that there’s not established dispersed campsites on the pass, but there *are* a lot of good places to park and sleep.
This might be a 6 based on off-camber shelf road slipperyness in the tough part above Telluride (rather than obstacles); tire placement is life or death critical in at least two places, and I was caught by surprise with an off camber sideslip above the shelf once. I did not find the steps to be the challenging part. It’s probably in the eye of the beholder; experts will say no big deal because there are no serious obstacles; passengers and first timers will feel their mortality. Whether it’s a 5,6, or 7, be advised on the pucker factor and possible risk. We used spotters on the tightest switchback, but not elsewhere. Just stay inside and away from that cliff.
Do not bring a full sized truck or van down the telluride switchbacks! Short wheelbase only. A 4Runner or Unlimited/4dr wrangler will work fine. I have seen gladiator and full size vids. I would not want to drive a full size, no way. We ran this in a stock JL 4dr rubi, no sweat. The lifted JK’s in my group had a slightly harder time with the tight spots.
Bridal Veil Falls is awesome.
Hands down one of my top 3 favorite trails to run. Got to the trail head pretty early to beat the "traffic" and the notorious afternoon storms...and to time our lunch in Telluride.
Wildflowers made every trial that weekend much better.
Currently, San Juan County has issued CLOSURES on all their backcountry passes. San Miguel, Hinsdale, and Ouray County issued a travel at your own risk advisory.
I have not been to Black Bear to verify, but according to San Miguel County Black Bear is open. Be cautious with changing weather conditions as this could change at a moments notice but I will do my best to update the trail guides in this area as soon as the county announces their closures for the season.
I believe the rating is a bit high considering the rating given to some other trails, but the pucker factor on this trail descending into Telluride is intense. I made it through no problems with my 2008 Subaru Forester with 2" lift. I believe anyone who is experienced with off roading can make it through this trail with anything that has a relatively short wheel base and decent ground clearance. You definitely do not need a built rig for this. The trail is absolutely amazing. I've traveled Europe, been all over the US, and this was hands down one of the most amazing drives of my life. I will be coming back here at least once a year!
We ran Black Bear the morning after it opened for the season as part of the 2019 Unlimited LJ Adventure. Right before the steps there is a massive amount of snow still from what appears to be several avalanches. There was still some snow on the trail, but I'm sure it is melted now. As you come down the Telluride side, the county has done a lot of work to the road and blasted a bunch of rocks. It makes things a bit interesting as there is a ton of loose rock in areas now that were dirt before. It's still as dangerous as ever, so pay attention and do not attempt this trail if you are new to 4 wheeling.
Visited the lower portion of the trail (closest to Pandora/Telluride), through Waypoints 13 & 14 to access Bridal Veil Falls. Repairs have recently been made to the Ingram Creek crossing at: N37.923795, W107.769816 to reopen the trail to the falls. The culvert was replaced on July 15 due to a washout which occurred on July 14. Quick work by the County kept the closure of the lower part of the road to a minimum. There is a significant amount of water flowing over Bridal Veil Falls and the parking area adjacent to the falls is muddy and slick.
Update from San Miguel County Road and Bridge: Black Bear Pass - Major repairs are needed where the road crosses Ingram Falls. County crews will begin repairs and clear the pass as soon as Imogene has been opened.
Due to the heavy, late snows San Miguel County is not going to be able to start clearing the high mountain passes as early as usual. Plans are to begin Ophir Pass mid-June, followed by Imogene and then Black Bear. Updates will be posted on the County Web Page www.sanmiguelcountyco.gov
I have not been to Black Bear to verify, but according to San Miguel County Black Bear is open. Be cautious with changing weather conditions as this could change at a moments notice but I will do my best to update the trail guides in this area as soon as the county announces their closures for the season.
Trail is still open and very dry. Where there are typically waterfalls on the east side, right now they are nothing but trickling water. Ingram Falls and Bridal Veil are very low on volume also.
Beyond the water situation, the views are incredible on this trail, and being my first time on it in the fall, it was cool, but I do prefer the lush green scenary better.
I ran this trail into Telluride and Imogene out of Telluride and back to Ouray on September 16th, 2018. The trail has stunning views and is definitely a bucket list / merit badge trail.
However, I probably will not return to run the trail again. This area of Colorado has trails that are either prettier or more technical than Black Bear Pass, but few, if any, trails are more dangerous. I just didn't think the risk vs. reward was worth it.
For those who are in town visiting and have little experience with shelf roads or are concerned this trail might be too harrowing, I really would recommend Imogene over this one.
The trail will be temporarily closed the morning of 7/24 to remove a vehicle from an accident over the weekend. There is no specific time this work is ending. If you are running Black Bear on 7/24, it's best to call the office to find out if they have reopened things.
Per San Miguel County, CO Black Bear Pass is not recommended for travel as a result of weather conditions:
Black Bear Pass- drifts,snow and ice on the north facing aspects. Travel not recommended at this time.
What a difference one month can make! In late July, the weather was rainy and cool; in late August, it was dry, clear, and mild. I ran the trail with a group of Isuzu's and my club, Colorado Land Cruisers. We had six rigs total, with no problems on the rocks, shelves, or switchbacks.
What an amazing trail this one is! The views are absolutely incredible and the 2 sides of the pass couldn't be more different. Coming from 550, the trail slowly makes it's way to the summit with a trail wide enough to drive a dump truck on. The summit provides spectacular 360 degree views and once on your way down, you are greeted with narrow shelves and airplane like views of the town of Telluride. The switchbacks after Ingram falls are just as hairy and tight as they have always been, but it seems the more times I do them, the easier I feel behind the wheel.
I drove Black Bear with Greg and Jim to produce the guide; Greg had done Black Bear many times before in Jeeps and his Land Cruiser. This was my first time on Black Bear, and though I've been 4x4'ing for 20+ years, I was anxious. The experience didn't disappoint--this is an outstanding 4x4 road!
We met Gary at the trailhead--he and his family were visiting the San Juans from Missouri. He asked if he could join us, of course we said yes! Everyone had a great time and we made memories for a lifetime.
Our First Off-Road Adventure
Being from Missouri, opportunities are not exactly plentiful for true sight seeing, off-road adventures. As a member in an off-road vehicle forum, I was intrigued and drawn to Black Bear Pass. I watched several YouTube videos and talked with experienced persons regarding Black Bear being the first trail I wanted to travel. We struck out and planned our trip to the San Juan's with Black Bear at the core of our trip. This being our first real 4x4 trail, we were cautious.
My family and I had the distinct pleasure of coming into contact with the TrailsOffRoad mapping crew who were putting together the trail report upon which I am documenting our trip. We followed the crew through the route and found no significant issues or obstacles. Our Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon was more than able to perform with only a couple of incidents where skid plates contacted any rocks, at all.
The day was damp and the trail was wet with puddled water in a few distinct areas. Clouds rolled in and obscured some vistas, but overall the trip was at least an 8.5 or 9 out of what could have been a perfect 10! I'm not convinced that the clouds did not add some ethereal quality to the day. The trail appears to be in good shape, having minimal issues with trail quality as compared to my expectations. A few large rocks are present and care must be taken to not attempt to force them aside or simply muscle your way over them. Taking your time will result in a much more enjoyable experience.
Please note on the trail report the waypoints as defined for your notice. As a first time trail adventurer, it is my opinion that as long as you have a competent, engaged driver and a 4x4 vehicle with sufficient ground clearance (at least 9"); if you take your time and pay attention to your driving line, have a complete understanding of your own personal limits and the limitations and capabilities of your vehicle, this trail is perfectly attainable for even a first time driver. I was not experienced in Colorado off-road driving, but a complete understanding of my inexperience kept me focused on the road.
I feel like I missed out on some scenery by being totally focused on my responsibilities in the driver's seat, but my family's safety and that of our new trail friends was more than enough reason to be completely attuned to the trail.
The ascent to Black Bear Pass is not difficult, and the wildflowers in bloom were among the most beautiful and memorable I have experienced in nearly 40 years of Colorado visits. The descent is where the challenge truly begins. Knowing how to use your 4x4 components, knowledge of transmission low gear usage, not riding the brakes - all components of winter driving for anyone who has experience in snow - these are the keys to success on the loose rocks and steep angles of Black Bear Pass. Go slow, watch the road first, pay attention to obstacles and challenges and STOP before you attempt to view scenery. The switchbacks with their 2, 3 and 4 point turns (depending on vehicle) require your complete attention and focus. There are no guard rails to protect you or to impede your view!
Remember: Safety First! So long as you make it down safely, you can always travel this route again. Don't put yourself or First Responders in harm's way. Be smart, be sensible and be responsible!
From the Community
Be the first to ask a question!
Mapping Crew - Colorado
Greg Stokes Is a Colorado native, born and raised in Colorado Springs. He has been off-roading since childhood, his parents say his first trip was a Jeep run over Medano Pass when he was only 14 Months old. Greg has been at the wheel of everything from dirtbikes, ATV's, early Jeep CJ5's that he has restored, Wranglers, and presently explores in a 1997 80 Series Toyota Land Cruiser and a 2015 BMW R1200GS Adventure motorcycle. Greg is a proud Husband and Father of 3. His passion in the off road world is the vehicle-reliant world of Overlanding. He hopes to one day make it to Canada to Explore the Yukon and Northwest territories.
By clicking "ACCEPT", you agree to be the terms and conditions of each
policy linked to above. You also agree to the storing of cookies on
your device to facilitate the operation and functionality of our site,
enhance and customize your user experience, and to analyze how our
site is used.