On July 5th , I went on a little Off Roading Adventure in Jurassic Jeep #29.
We went from Eagle, CO to Leadville on Forest Roads and Jeep Trails. It was right around 50 miles of off road driving. Here is our route, except the unmaintained jeep trails at point B do not show on the map I used to recreate our trail. (there is a forest road a few miles away so for about 10 miles of that area the route was slightly different)
The Roads at the start were basic Dirt Forest Roads. Beautiful, but any vehicle could have made it over them. We came upon a crystal clear lake, with a forest service campground around it. My Wife wants to go back and camp there.
After the Lake we drove along for a while and came to a “major intersection” where we could stay on “Eagle Thomasville rd” which we were on, or try out Burnt Mountain Rd. The Terrain Map I downloaded showed a gap in Eagle Thomasville, so we switched over to Burnt Mountain Rd. Just after we switched to Burnt Mountain Rd, we had the amazing mountain view pictured above, and shortly after that we drove over a bridge over the creek below.
Burnt Mountain Rd, was a rocky drive, with some tight places in the forest. My wife was driving this section and she had to attack a tree with the whip antenna to avoid a rock. the results are below. I’m pretty sure we need a forest permit to remove forest products so we may be in some trouble with the forest service 😉
Turns out the terrain maps I had downloaded to my phone for some reason didn’t have real roads on it as once we got off Burnt Mountain Rd, and started over to where the next trail was supposed to start we ran into a real paved road that was not on my downloaded map. This was Frying Pan Road. The next trail was supposed to start right about where we hit Frying Pan Rd, but we never saw a trailhead for it. We stayed on Frying Pan road until it turned back into dirt. The trail was missed was Frying Pan Ridge trail, but knew by this point Frying Pan Rd was going to the same place, so we just stuck with it. Soon we made some switch backs and found the Top of Frying Pan Ridge trail. If we had not skipped Frying Pan Ridge it would have been an extra 10 miles of off road, which would have put us around 60 for the day.
Not far after the top of Frying Pan Ridge trail, we saw our next trail. This was Diemer and Sellar Lakes Trail. The trail up to the first lake was dirt up a ridge and back down to the lake, it had lots of dips and hills on it, but no rocks so a fun little trail. The lake was a nice little stopping point, and we put the top down on the jeep. This picture is on the road that also serves as the “dam” for the lake. At the far end the dam just dips down and the water covers the road.
On the far side we could see the trail going steeply up the mountain. The guide book had said that past the lake was unmaintained jeep trail, and boy were they right. Going back up to the ridge that we dropped down from was all rocks. Once back up to the ridge line the trail then turned back east and we followed it another 10 miles, which was unmaintained, with lots of water crossings and places were the water just followed and semi swamped the trail. Loads of fun. But if it had been heavy ran I could see this would be some serious trail to make it through. One particular water crossing was a very deep dip, and I did scrape the rear hitch getting back up out of it.
The trail proceeded up out of the trees and got up to a ridge and was a fun drive, and we stopped and admired the views and took a drive break for a bit. My friends that went along were driving a full Size 2011 Unlimited JK in Dozer Yellow.
Not long after the ridge, the trail merged back up with a forest service rd, and soon after that it turns into Hagerman Pass Rd.
The pass was named for James J. Hagerman, builder of the Colorado Midland Railroad. The Colorado Midland railroad crossed the continental divide through one of two tunnels (initially the Hagerman Tunnel, later the Busk-Ivanhoe Tunnel at lower altitude) near the top of Hagerman pass. It traverses the Sawatch Range west of Leadville, connecting the headwaters of the Arkansas River on the east with the upper valley of the Frying Pan River. The tunnels are no longer open, but one was used by auto traffic for some time in the early 1900’s.
Hagerman pass was rocky and unimproved, though somewhat maintained by the forest service. The first thing we came to was a water crossing that had me worried. I got out to see how deep it was since it was very wide. A lifted truck came to the other side just as I was about to check it out and he drove right across, and parked in a wide area of the water crossing. With fear of depth behind me, I headed on across.
The white truck is back there on the right. and my friends are following my through in their jeep. After we got through the crossing, the trail turned around a switch back and we got the see the truck make speed runs through the water, turns out they were just playing in the water crossing.
The trail continued up to Hagerman Pass.
Just after the pass as the trail headed back down the other side we drove through a huge snow drift, twice as tall as our Jeeps, that the forest service had plowed to open the pass road. I would hate to be the plow driver that had to get a plow up there, as the road on both sides of the pass was a rocky bumpy slow going affair. The way down was very rocky, though all small stuff, still it made for a bumpy end to the trip.
The road winds around down the other side of the pass and you go right by the end of the old Hagerman tunnel, we were exhausted and starving, so we didn’t get out and explore, nor get any pics of the rocks on the last section of the drive. The road after the old Hagerman tunnel was well maintained flat dirt road but it felt like heaven after the descent from Hagerman Pass. When that turned into pavement, I thought we were riding in a Rolls Royce it felt so smooth.
Colorado is a beautiful place to explore and my friends want to make it a monthly trip to do an off-road trail and explore some back country. When off roading be safe, cautious, go with another vehicle in case of issues, and leave no trace/tread lightly so our back country can remain open for all to enjoy.
On other notes: I installed a new Rampage soft top after ordering the parts I was missing from the used frame I bought, and replacing some broken parts from it. I also installed the winch I decided closely matched the original Ramsey. I still need to remote mount the solenoid to get it off the front of the winch to make it look exactly like the Ramsey, but I didn’t have time to do that before this trip.