4-wheeling in Pagosa Springs Colorado
by Norm Vance
- Always navigate with a U.S. National Forest Service Map and U.S.G.S. Topo Maps when possible.
- On the maps, FDR numbers refer to like numbers on the Forest Service Map identifying forest access roads. Other three-digit numbers identify non-improved roads and trails.
- The Forest Service Map is difficult for people with impaired vision. Hiking trails are shown with very fine single dashes and 4×4 trails with equally fine double dashes. A magnifying lens is very helpful.
Major 4×4 Off-road Trails on the San Juan National Forest
No. 1 – DEVIL MOUNTAIL TRAIL FDR626
This motorized trail travels north from Hwy 160 about 18 miles west of Pagosa Springs and just west of the Chimney Rock Archaeological Area. It is about 10 miles in length and generally uphill to the end. There are some very steep sections and lengths of loose rock and areas that become slick when wet. Driving this road in spring to early summer can be dangerous because of slick areas and a few stream crossings. Near the end of the road is an old Forest Service lookout tower and a spectacular panoramic view of the divide ridge west, north and east.
No. 2 – EAST FORK/ELWOOD PASS 4×4 TRAIL FDR667
NOTICE, CAUTION! This 4×4 trail is the “real thing” and the best off-road experience in the Pagosa Country area. It climbs about 18 miles to the top of the Continental Divide and meets with a forest access road just east of the divide. There are two crossings of the East Fork River that are impossible in the spring when snow melt-off makes a raging torrent of the river. Do not attempt in this condition. Later in the summer the crossings are passable with four-wheel drive and high clearance. Just beyond the second crossing is a sharp right turn and an immediate steep climb; be prepared, stay to the inside and don’t stop. There are many other steep and rocky climbing sections along the way and these can be treacherous when wet. Near the top, right at timberline, the road flattens out and mud can be a problem when it’s wet. Once on top there are a lot of interesting things to do, see articles on history of Elwood Pass/Summitville on this site.
No. 3 – BLUE CREEK 4×4 TRAIL
This is a fun ride, it doesn’t go anywhere important but is a “roller coaster” type ride with enough challenge to keep you awake. The trail is about 13 miles long and connects The Blanco Road, 7 miles south of Pagosa to the Buckles Lake Road near Chromo, Colorado. There is a crossing of the Blanco River that can only be done after spring runoff season is over. The trail can be muddy in wet weather and life has been lost on this road, near the Blanco side, under wet conditions. There are some shorter 4×4 trails off the main route to try as time allows.
No. 4 – RIO GRANDE SIDE OF THE DIVIDE TRAILS
There is an interesting network of trails on the eastern slopes of the divide. If you go over East Fork/Elwood Pass turn left at the top to find these trails. An alternant route is to drive over Wolf Creek Pass and turn south on Tucker Ponds Road or Park Creek Road. Use the forest service map to navigate this network of trails.