The SAN JUAN'S 2000
Black Bear Pass/Imogene Pass Trails
From Silverton to Ouray (thru Telluride), Colorado


One of the many spectacular views looking South towards Silverton...

    On Monday July 3rd and up with the tent-drying morning sun, we packed up, and headed up to Red Mountain Pass, and the trailhead of the Black Bear Pass Trail.  Pete and Phil went into Silverton, and eventually Ouray to look for somebody to repair the mount.  Being Monday of the 4th of July weekend, they opted to head back to Denver for repairs.  So, Ken, Chris, Lynn, and myself headed for some great jeepin' over two fun San Juan passes.

Looking East, a nice rocky cutoff up a snowbank provides some fun just below the pass...

    Starting already about 11,500' at the Red Mountain Pass, the one-way only Black Bear Pass Trail climbs up the switchbacks and quickly back above timberline.  Being a one-way trail makes it easy to run, since there are very few spots to get jeeps by on the trail.  Also, the top switchbacks would not hold 2-way traffic, as they too are narrow and steep.  One word of caution: if you are leary of cliff trails, this trail is chalk full of them and "not for you".  Columbines, Indian Paintbrush, and many other flowers were everywhere, along with a cool view looking SE towards Silverton. Winding up and up, you reach Mineral Basin with a few ponds and more flowers, until reaching about the 12,800's and top out at the top of Black Bear Pass.

Hobo Chris's CJ 7 at the top of Black Bear Pass 12,800'


Hobo Ken's 81 CJ 5 Hobo Bill's 82 CJ 7

   It's all down hill from here, especially when you reach the infamous switchbacks at the falls below.  We started our 4,000' decent into 8,800' Telluride, and off the first shelf just above Ingram Lake.  Working down thru Ingram Basin, and along Ingram Creek, the switchbacks and the town of Telluride drew closer.

Off Black Bear Pass and into Ingram Basin with cliffy shelf roads on both sides...


The trail descends 4000' into Telluride below,

way off in the distance is the La Sal Mountains and Moab.

The trail winds it's way down about 2,000' to the cliff face and an even quicker 2000' descent!

    Once you reach the obstacle above the small falls, the true test of will kicks in. I've done this section before, and it still got my adrenaline going.  With a 40' drop off into Ingram Creek on your left, and the cliffs ahead, one has no room for error as you negotiate some boulder-sized imbedded rocks with smaller rocks (acting like marbles) mixed in.  Needless to say we stopped at the mine below to catch a breath (at least that's why I stopped! -The Colonel will back me up on this one).

A peaceful waterfall calms the nerves after the hairy obstacle seen just above it...

    The infamous 1st switchback still awaits us as we run the jeep-sized shelf road down to it.  Sorry no photos of the switchback here,,,seems that wasn't a priority at the time.  Keeping my front hubs locked for the traction should I slip the clutch too much, I had to negotiate the turn a few extra times.  What a feeling, looking out your windshield down a 2000' cliff, as you put her in reverse and try to gingerly let out the clutch and give it some gas.  Somehow, you mind plays tricks on you and you think you're in 1st gear, and thus gas is not needed.  We all made it down ok, and wondered how a full-sized Dodge Ram who had a flat above us was going to negotiate that 1st turn.

Hobo Chris negotiates down one of the many switchbacks into Telluride below...

    Once thru the 1st few tight switchbacks, it became apparent we were back in civilization, as we encountered two-way traffic of SUV's, and not so happy hikers on the "road" at the main waterfall house.  We worked our way down the dusty switchbacks avoiding SUV's and hikers to finally reach the valley floor.  Seems Telluride was having a festival of some kind (a protest I heard), so parking was impossible.  We got some gas, and headed up the Imogene Pass Trail without a quick tourist look of Telluride.  Telluride is quite the change from the peaceful Silverton to the yuppie ski town of Telluride, almost too yuppie for me.

The Imogene Pass Trail winds up Savage Basin above The Tomboy Mines from Telluride...

     Climbing out of Telluride, the Imogene pass Trail winds around some mines and up into the ghost town of Tomboy and the Savage Basin mines.  Being Monday of the 4th, this was a great place to set-up a lemonade stand and sell sunscreen and umbrellas on the side.  Yes, we were not the only one's up there. Everyone from Grandma Ethel, "girly" rental TJ jeeps, to the "We drive, You ride" tours were there.  Well, it was a nice day for a ride. After lunch, we headed up above the mine to the summit of Imogene Pass, the 2nd highest pass at over 13,114' (only Mosquito Pass is higher in the US.).  What a view! Better yet, we moved to the eastern section of the pass and looked east over the Red Mountains.  With the sun at your back, it provides a kodak moment and postcard view of the San Juans.  Seems the jet stream was kicking up at 13,000', so we headed down the trail and into Imogene Basin below.

Looking East over the Red Mountains...One of the best views in Colorado!

    This starts us on a decent of over of about 5,200' in less then 5 miles, down to the town of Ouray below!  We reached the last dusty county road stretch into town and headed for our campsite on some private land just north of town.  HUMMMM....Talk about getting your full of scenery and jeepin', this day had it!!

Bill Hallinan HoboJeepers

Here are some other San Juan Sites:

San Juan Mountain Jeeping Routes by Ed and Julie:

Lake City, Colorado-A short History:

Engineer Pass Trail Report by Jerry Clark:

Black Bear Pass Trail by Bob Norton:

Black Bear Pass Trail photos:

Black Bear Pass Trail description:

Imogene Pass Trail by Flatlander:

32nd Annual All-4Fun in Silverton by Jeff Fox:

32nd Annual All-4Fun in Silverton by Flatlander:


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