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Black Bear Pass Nearest Towns:  Ouray, Silverton, & Telluride Difficulty Rating:  Difficult End Points: Start:  Hwy 550 37.8967,-107.7135 Finish:  Telluride 37.9285,-107.7765 Estimated Open Season:  May to Nov. Estimated Miles:  13 miles Estimated Drive Time:  2-3 hours Note:  One Way Road Only Black Bear Pass "Black Bear Pass is one of my all time favorite 4x4 roads to take into Telluride and has become so famous (or infamous) that songs have even been written about it." The trailhead for Black Bear is south of Ouray, Colorado near the summit of Red Mountain Pass on Hwy 550. Pinpoints with directions and other general information are visible in our interactive Google Maps on this page. The road itself is marked and there is a nice parking spot right off the highway to check your gear and get psyched up for the drive. This 4x4 road is a ONE WAY ONLY if you plan on taking it in its entirety to Telluride and MUST be completed by starting from the Red Mountain Side. You can change your mind and go back the way you came prior to reaching the steep switchbacks that drop you past Bridal Veil Falls but once begun you are pretty much committed. The trail is just too steep, narrow and dangerous to allow two way traffic.  As far as difficulty ratings the road starts out very similar to many other off road trails for the first six miles or so at the upper Moderate Scale and then heads into the Difficult Level as you begin the descent. It is HIGHLY recommended that you have an appropriately equipped vehicle to attempt this trail or you may have more complications or damage. The switchbacks are nothing to mess around with as they are steep and incredibly tight which has caused many rollovers. Another thing to note is that Black Bear Pass is one of the roads that most of the Jeep Rental Businesses DO NOT allow you take their vehicles on.  This is one of the more difficult and a tad bit "scary" 4x4 trails into Telluride but is so much fun and well worth the effort. The scenery is spectacular and there are mines dotting the hillsides all along the way so plan on making plenty of stops to explore and take pictures. The other feature along the way is the world famous Bridal Veil Falls that you will pass right by during the final drop into Telluride.  Sitting atop the 365 foot fall is the second oldest AC hydro electric power plant in the United States with the beautifully restored building providing an epic backdrop for photos. The building and power plant is listed in the National Registry for Historical Sites and is currently providing some of the electricity for the city. When to go over Black Bear Pass? This depends on mountain snow levels which can be in the hundreds of inches seasonally in the high San Juan's. Generally you can attempt a trip beginning in May or June through October or November. Primo season is July through September. How long of a trip? Well, it's roughly 13 miles to Telluride which should only take you about two or three hours if you stop very little but there is so much to get out and see plan on taking at least four.  Most people make it a full day with stops in Telluride, Silverton or Ouray for food and libations so it helps to get an early start. What is a good return route? Great question! You can always take the highway back or you can do another 4x4 road like Imogene, Ophir or Hermosa Park Road. "Ophir Pass is one of my personal favorites to take back to highway 550 as it is quick (relative for a 4x4 road) and fun." Black Bear Road starts off at an altitude of about 11,000 feet and at the top of the pass you are pushing past 12,800 feet! Which makes it a little bit harder for you (and your vehicle) to breath so relax, take it slow and enjoy one of the best 4x4 trails in the San Juan Mountains!

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