While the mountains of Colorado offer plenty of opportunities for hiking and snow-based adventures, they also provide adventurers with mountain passes and dirt roads that are perfect for off-roading. Most off-roading requires a relatively experienced driver and a four-wheel-drive car with good clearance.

1. Alpine Loop Scenic Byway

Engineer Pass - robert thigpen - flickr
Engineer Pass. Photo Credit: robert thigpen (flickr)

This famous route offers some of the best views of the Rocky Mountains along the 65-mile drive. The byway is composed of two different mountain passes. Engineer Pass and Cinnamon Pass link to create an exciting drive with impressive views of Uncompahgre and Wetterhorn Peaks. The byway also passes multiple ghost towns; these empty towns were abandoned as the accompanying mines were tapped out. The drive reaches a top altitude of 12,000 feet and requires a four-wheel-drive vehicle with good clearance.

2. Colorado State Forest Park

State Forest State Park Colorado Parks and Wildlife OutThere Colorado
A breathaking view of sunset clouds gathering over State Forest’s aspen groves with mountains in the background. Photo Credit: Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

The Colorado State Forest offers visitors 71,000 acres of forest to explore. With a variety of routes throughout the park that are open to vehicles during the warmer seasons, off-roading is a great way to experience the hidden corners of the extensive park. Exploring Colorado State Forest Park also offers visitors the best chance at seeing moose in Colorado, with over 600 moose spotted year-round throughout the park.

3. Wagon Wheel Trail System

Rio Blanco County - Jeffrey Beall - flickr
Rio Blanco County sign. Photo credit: Jeffrey Beall (flickr)

Off-road enthusiasts will love this trail system with around 250-miles of roads and trails for drivers to enjoy. Located in Rio Blanco County, the project aims to bring recreation and interconnectivity to the northwestern county. With a variety of trails, off-roaders can choose their difficulty, and with campsites spread throughout the area, drivers can spend multiple days exploring. Many of the trails also pass by abandoned towns.

4. Imogene Pass

Imogene Pass - Scott Dingle - flickr
Imogene Pass. Photo credit: Scott Dingle (flickr)

As the second-highest mountain pass in the state, Imogene Pass is a drive experienced off-roaders won’t want to miss. The 17-mile road connects the towns of Telluride and Ouray over a 13,114-foot pass. Along the way, drivers pass by the town of Tomboy, a ghost town that used to have about 1,000 residents during the mining craze of the 1880’s.

5. Mosquito Pass

Mosquito Pass - Larry Lamsa - flickr
Mosquito Pass. Photo credit: Larry Lamsa (flickr)

As the highest road in Colorado, this mountain pass isn’t for the faint of heart. At 13, 208-feet, the road traveling between Fairplay and Leadville has been nicknamed the “Highway of the Frozen Death”. Prone to late-season snowfalls and heavy mists, the right conditions are necessary to successfully traverse this difficult road. It is open only during the summer months and is most accessible in late summer. Only experienced drivers should attempt this difficult road, but those who drive it successfully will earn impressive bragging rights.

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