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San Juan Mountain Trails Off-Roading Guide


Jeep elopement


Let’s talk a little trail etiquette first…

I’ve been driving these trails for many years now, 12 to be exact, and I often see a lot of not-so-good things that make me sad. So here we go off-roading trail etiquette 101:


1.) STAY ON THE TRAILS. 🚧 Do NOT, and I mean DO NOT drive off-trail. Keeping our trails and wilderness areas in good shape ensures generations to come will enjoy them as much as the current one. Stay the Trail. It’s as simple as it sounds — keep your vehicle on the trail at all times, including when parking at trailheads. Drive over obstacles instead of around them. Going around widens the trail and can destroy vegetation.


2.) UPHILL HAS RIGHT OF WAY. ⬆️ Let me say it again for the people in the back. Uphill has right of way. Always give way to the drivers coming uphill whenever it’s possible. If needs be you should reverse until you reach a location where both vehicles have enough room to pass. … The vehicle going uphill has the priority and the vehicle going downhill has greater control, reverse when it’s safe to do so.


3.) Let others pass. 💨 If a faster vehicle is roaring up behind you, pull to the side of the trail to let them by. Choose a wider spot on the trail when you pull over to maximize safety and minimize damage to fragile vegetation and ecosystems.


4.) Slow your roll. 🐢 Most speed limits are 15 mph unless otherwise posted. Take it slow so you can enjoy the trail and soak up the gorgeous Colorado views.


5.) Pack trash out. 🗑 The rule of thumb around here is to leave trails cleaner than you find them. Always pack out any trash you bring in — including banana peels, apple cores, and so forth — and pick up other litter you see as you cruise.


And last but not least…

6.) Don’t Pummel the Tundra. 🌷 Tundra is the thin layer of grasses, flowering plants, and other vegetation that grows in the rocky terrain found near or above treeline at high altitudes. This landscape is especially delicate as the plants have a short growing season and must survive in harsh winter conditions — yet another reason why it’s important to stay the trail.

Let me know if you have any questions about safe driving habits in the mountains. 🏔 I’m happy to help!



Just married couple standing in Jeep sharing a kiss in the San Juan Mountains above Ouray, Colorado.


Overall our trails here and around Ouray are not difficult. With that said, small errors can be devastating as most of our trails are on steep rocky edges. Here are a few tips for beginners:


1. PAY ATTENTION. I know this is pretty basic, but the views of the epic mountains can be distracting. If you want to look at the mountains, stop and find a wide place to park and view until your heart is content. (Although you will long for the mountains when you get home).


2. 4×4 is HIGHLY recommended. These are the mountains, after all, it is ROCKY! Yes, I have seen AWD vehicles on mountain roads, (including a Prius and a minivan, both STUCK). Is it really worth the chance? Just stick to a 4×4! Typically I run in 4H for easy to moderate trails, unless I am really climbing and then I will put my Jeep into 4L. Stock Jeeps are capable of doing almost all the trails here, although you will scrape your undercarriage on certain trails. I would recommend at the very least a 2-inch lift for Poughkeepsie.


3. Pack plenty of WATER and SNACKS! It’s also good to have an emergency kit. Vehicles can fail, and you do not want to be stuck in such a beautiful place and be suffering. Mountain passes have unpredictable weather and take a while to get to. If you are stranded, be prepared for anything! Water, snacks, first aid, etc. are always a good idea to bring! Bonus points for a Garmin or Bivy Stick! (No cell signal in the mountains).


4. Plan your route and let someone know. There are many trails here, some are not marked well and you could go down a rabbit hole or several. Also, having a guidebook or using All Trails are great options so you can plan your route and have expectations of the trail distance and difficulty level.


5. If you are in a group and are passing or meeting other off-road enthusiasts, it’s courteous to reveal how many are in your group. You can’t always see around the next bend and if the trail section is especially narrow, it just helps everyone out to know whether there are more coming! Bottom line; just be courteous, we are all trying to enjoy these beautiful mountains, lets not ruin everyone’s time by being rude.


And there you have it, a few basic tips for off-roading in the San Juan Mountains!


Are you ready to have an epic adventure together? I love exploring and sharing these mountains with my amazing couples! Let’s plan your adventure wedding together! I can’t wait to document your most special day in an amazing location!


Imogene Pass



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