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Red Cone is one of the most iconic trails in central Colorado. This four-wheel-drive trail provides spectacular views of the divide, with several rocky obstacles at the beginning and a once-in-a-lifetime descent near the end. The upper portion of the trail traverses the ridge lines around 12,000 feet with views for miles, but the steep, one-way descent at the end is a unique feature of this trail. Red Cone is also a key connecting trail to nearby trails, such as Webster Pass and the Montezuma trail system. Combining this with those trails creates a full day of offroad fun. A well-equipped vehicle with high clearance and low range is required.
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Red Cone's south end climbs steeply as you wind through the forest with sporadic rock obstacles, small creek crossings, and several muddy sections. The climb continues above the tree line, across a few ridges, until you reach the very top of Red Cone. At this point, the trail becomes one-way and descends downhill until it meets Webster Pass. The descent from Red Cone is a steep, loose rock hill requiring 4WD. This trail requires an experienced driver.
The east side of Webster Pass stays snowed in till late July or August, but Red Cone only opens for the season once the west side of Webster Pass is clear, so there is always an exit from the trail. Heading east down Webster would return you to Highway 285, and heading west on Webster will drop you into the towns of Montezuma or Keystone.
After about 5 miles on C.R. 60, begin Red Cone near the southern end of Webster Pass. The intersection is well-marked.
The first rocky patch you encounter should not pose much of a challenge. If this is concerning, you may want to turn around now.
This obstacle is the first major obstacle and the hardest obstacle you will encounter on the trail. Small tires will make this obstacle difficult, as the boulders are relatively large and require careful tire placement to keep your undercarriage from getting snagged.
Camping is available along the first part of the trail while below the tree line. This is one of the larger sites with plenty of room for vehicles and ground tents.
Shortly after the first campsite is another equally large campsite with scattered grassy patches. There is room for 6-7 rigs and ground tents.
A small stream crosses the trail but is nothing more than a quick splash. Just after the stream crossing is another campsite. This campsite is large but is not the most level option.
For those that remember this obstacle, it may look a bit different than in years past. It has been cleaned up as of 2023. The tree root has been cut back, allowing you to work around to the passenger side so that your driver's side climbs the big rock in the middle. You may still want a spotter to help ensure you are on the best line.
A break in the trees gives way to a rock garden on a fairly steep hill. There are multiple lines here to choose from. The harder lines will be to the left, while you can mostly bypass the rocks if you stay far enough right.
Entering the trees once again, you will encounter an S-turn. This turn can be very tight for longer-wheelbase vehicles and may require backing up once or twice. There is room to back up, so this obstacle will do nothing more than slow you down a little.
Around yet another turn, you will encounter a dirt obstacle, where heavy rains have caused significant rutting in a tricky pattern. The dips formed will alternate from the driver's side to the passenger's side. Your suspension will get a good workout here.
Just after exiting the tree line, there is a spot to pull over. This could make a good lunch spot because the next spot to pull over is the end of the trail! It is not very flat, but there is adequate room for 7-8 rigs while still leaving plenty of room to pass.
As you begin to climb, there will be a split in the trail. The trail to the right is the original and is an easy climb up, weaving between boulders. 4wd may be needed due to the loose rocks and steep angle.
At this point, you begin the big climb to the top of Red Cone. Please remember to stay on the trail! The surrounding landscape is a very fragile alpine tundra.
Before you begin the descent, put your vehicle into 4-low. Remember to use your engine braking to your advantage! Tapping the brakes too hard can lock your tires up and cause you to slide. These hills are very steep and covered in loose rock, so sliding is something you DO NOT want to do.
The second descent is just as steep as the first one and even has a few small holes, so be sure to use your low gearing as your primary braking aid. Hitting the brakes too hard may cause your tires to lock, and your vehicle may begin to slide.
There are a few dispersed campsites on Red Cone before you hit the tree line. You can also find a lot of dispersed camping along nearby roads, such as Webster Pass.
Take Highway 285 west from Denver. Go about 3 miles past the town of Grant and turn right onto County Road 60. Continue on this main road for 5 miles and avoid all roads that turn left. The trailhead is marked by F.S. 565 on your right, along with a wooden bulletin board with the trail name.
Red Cone is a high alpine trail that begins to see snow in October or November. The trail is impassable to 4x4 vehicles during the winter months and should only be traversed by over the snow vehicles. Red Cone is seasonally closed during the Spring run-off season to prevent excess erosion. Exact closing and opening dates can vary from year-to-year depending on conditions, but according to the MVUM it is typically closed April 1st-June 30th.
I did some night wheeling Friday, November 6, and decided to do this one after I did Webster Pass. Most of the early parts of the trail were more difficult than I remember from the last time I went on August 15. That first waypoint in the write up, it appeared someone had moved the rock on the east so I drug the frame a little going up and a lot coming back down. There was quite a bit of snow and ice on the way up. I was able to find lines to get past the icy spots. But on the saddle leading up to the peak, the snow got pretty deep and it became impassable for me about 311 feet from the peak. I saw some tracks keeping to the right on the rocks with one tire in the snow, but I forgot to grab my flashlight, and my phone light wasn't shining far enough ahead for me to see what was going on, and I didn't want to take the chance of that final ascent to the peak being even worse, so I backed down the saddle to a spot wide enough for me to turn around.
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