Four Wheeling in Durango ColoradoDo you like adventures? Do you like to visit ghost towns or historical sites? Do you yearn for the roads less traveled? Well Durango has you more than covered!There are hundreds of miles of 4x4 roads / trails near Durango that provide routes into historical landmarks and incredible scenery. Many visitors consider the San Juan Mountains in Southwest Colorado the most beautiful mountains in America and being able to drive into the area makes it convenient for many people to enjoy. There are several ways to get into the mountains. 1. Take a guided tour with one of the many professional companies in Durango, Silverton or Ouray. 2. Rent an off road vehicle and follow the selected paths offered. 3. Get out with your own vehicle and enjoy the adventure at your own pace in your own way. Below is a list of trail maps you can check out!!!Just to clear things up a bit when talking about off road vehicles and their capabilities. Most of if not ALL of the roads in this section require a 4x4 vehicle OR something capable of going over rough terrain I.E. licensed motorcycle or Quad Bike. A 4x4 vehicle should be four wheel drive preferably with a high and low range and plenty ground clearance. Drivers need to obey all laws and assume ALL responsibilities for their own actions and safety. Most factory equipped vehicles such as Jeeps, compact or full size SUV's with four wheel drive can negotiate many of the roads with proper care. Some of the roads (we will get into individual trail details) require moderate to highly equipped vehicles in order to negotiate obstacles you may encounter. Being lifted for clearance, larger tires for traction, locking differentials, winches, tow straps, skid plates, and roll cages just to name a few features that can help. There are different types of off roading that some people prefer over others. Rock crawling is a more extreme form of the sport where experienced drivers with very well equipped vehicles take on some of the most challenging terrain they can find. There are areas near Durango that can keep these kinds of enthusiasts quite happy! Then there is "off roading" or maybe more properly called "off highway" since most of the areas we will be writing about are technically county roads or forest service roads which is also how they show on many maps. As off highway roads they can have challenges like large rocks, tight switchbacks, water crossings, steep climbs, mud, drop offs and so on. This brings us to the subject of trail ratings.Trail RatingsTrail ratings can be generally listed as Easy, Moderate, Difficult and Extreme. The ratings are based on how difficult certain obstacles can be to get across. With that in mind some people can have an easier or more difficult time navigating a road based on their equipment and experience. Drivers need to stay within their own limits, be safe and do not take any unnecessary risks. Easy TrailsEasy Trails are basically rough dirt roads that are slightly above what a normal car should do. Expect only small to moderate climbs, no large obstacles to negotiate water crossings will be minimal and you may not have to utilize the 4x4 option yet. Moderate TrailsModerate Trails can have medium steep to steep climbs, larger drop-offs, larger obstacles to negotiate, switchbacks, water crossings, loose rock, trees or bushes that can scrape the vehicle and pull outs may be necessary for letting traffic past. This is by far the most popular type of trail as it provides most of the fun challenges and is what a majority of the trails near Durango are rated. Most stock 4x4 vehicles could travel a moderate trail with proper caution and adequate driving skills but a modified 4x4 will make it much less problematic. Difficult TrailsDifficult Trails offer experienced drivers with properly equipped vehicles an opportunity to access areas that fewer people are capable of and should be approached with caution. Trail evaluation is recommended, spotters may be necessary, winches may be necessary, body damage is possible or likely, very steep climbs and huge drop-offs. Switch backs can be tight and obstacles are large and sometimes un-avoidable, water crossings can be deep and overall conditions are very rough. ExtremeExtreme is mostly reserved for the professional driver with preparatory vehicles commonly referred to as "rock buggies" that are capable of climbing very steep rocks and terrain that is well.. EXTREME! Rollovers are common, damage and breakage is common and 4x4 enthusiasts are pushing the limits of technology.Many of the back roads will have a mixed format of easy to moderate or moderate to difficult throughout the length of the trail and we will try to point out the hot spots in the individual trail descriptions. Please understand that conditions can and do change all the time based on environmental or man-made factors. Road maintenance, rock slides, snow slides, flooding and excessive traffic can contribute to major changes in trail conditions that can make a driver re-evaluate on whether to continue.Besides the historical significance and fun challenges these 4x4 roads also provide access to hiking trails, camping areas, fishing, hunting, wildlife, geology, and incredible photography. There are also roads that lead to several trailheads for 14ners (14 thousand foot mountains) like Sunshine Peak, Red Cloud Peak, Uncompahgre Peak and Handies Peak. The San Juan Mountains have a rich history with old mines, railroad beds, ghost towns and some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. Driving into these areas is an amazing adventure!
Photographer: James HobbyOh Point on Engineer Pass