The adrenaline of brisk mountain air whirling past my ears, whipping my long hair behind me, as I hang out the truck window like a pup. Bouncing and weaving along the dirt road as Josh navigates around switchbacks and over washboards. Or interrupting my rush by skipping across puddles, a mischievous grin across his face as he repaints his truck mud. Gorgeous views every direction you turn. Wandering down every possible public right-of-way but never getting lost with the Delorme Gazetteer sitting in the backseat just in case. This is stuff memories are made of. This is four-wheeling.
Colorado’s vast open lands can be explored in so many different ways. Hiking, backpacking, boating, biking. But four-wheeling allows you to travel greater distances and see more beautiful vistas in a shorter time while traversing county and old forest service roads.
One of my favorite four-wheeling memories is from a trip to the Never Summer Wilderness. Rain drizzled but that couldn’t dampen our spirits. A confident Josh dismissed my words of protest and forged across a swollen creek to climb higher up the mountain. He grinned and put the peddle to the metal while I held my breath. Safely on the other side, we scouted a perfect campsite near a moose who entertained us all evening (we named her Molly). Meanwhile, we entertained several groups of ATV-ers who kept pointing at us and our old Ford Ranger Truck.
The next day, the stream had transformed into a full-fledged river. And a more cautious Josh questioned what the hell the confident Josh had been thinking. This time, we both held our breath. As soon as we safely reached the other side, we jumped out and realized the watermark reached well past the floorboards. We were so lucky we didn’t flood the engine! I often remind (read: harass) Josh about this almost-mis-adventure when he brazenly fords water on our four-wheeling tours across Colorado.
Four-Wheeling Offers Something for Everyone
No matter what you’re after – rugged terrain, high-country mountain passes, ghost towns, historic mining camps, the Continental Divide, or backcountry solitude – Colorado four-wheeling has it all. Visiting the state? Jeep four-wheeling rentals can be found throughout Colorado. But please remember to always stay on marked roads and trails to preserve and respect Colorado’s beautiful open spaces.
Top 6 Four-Wheeling Spots in Colorado
- Alpine Loop: This 75-mile journey through the awe-inspiring San Juan Mountains starts south of Ouray on Highway 550 and ends with a trip over Engineer Pass (other options exist too).
- Red Feather Lakes: This area, located close to Fort Collins, has endless miles of opportunities. It also has some of the best dispersed camping in northern Colorado.
- Central City/Saint Mary’s Area: Relatively close to Denver and North of Idaho Springs, this spot allows you to climb above the clouds, enjoy pristine alpine lakes, and see a glacier (before they all disappear). Exit 238 on I-70, Fall River Road.
- Rampart Range Trails: With more than 100 miles of trails, this is a popular area between Denver and Colorado Springs – just outside Sedalia.
- St. Elmo Area: The trails around the ghost town of St. Elmo (southwest of Buena Vista off Highway 285 in the San Isabel National Forest) offer mining history, remote camping and fishing at Grizzly Lake, Baldwin Lake, Fourteeners (Princeton, Antero, Tabequache, and Shavano), and one of the most technical four-wheeling trails in Colorado.
- Weston Pass: It comes as no surprise that this trail, near Leadville, has the remains of many old gold mines and cabins scattered about, as well as breathtaking views.