Drive Black Bear Pass & the Ingram Basin

Colorado Black Bear Pass, CO

  • Activities:

    Chillin, Photography, Hiking

  • Skill Level:

    Intermediate

  • Season:

    Summer, Autumn

  • Trail Type:

    Point-to-Point

  • RT Distance:

    12 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    3000 Feet

Forest
Lake
Scenic
Waterfall
Wildflowers
Wildlife

Explore the most dangerous 4WD road in Colorado, deep in the alpine heart of the San Juan mountains.

Black Bear Pass (el. 12,840’), officially known as Forest Service Road 648, is an infamous 4WD road that runs between U.S. Highway 550 (between Silverton & Ouray) and Telluride, CO. From the pass downhill through the Ingram Basin to Telluride, the road is one-way and features switchbacks and the notorious “Steps” with several hundred meters of drop-off on either side. 

If driving, you *must* have a 4WD, high-clearance vehicle and experience driving in risky off-road situations, otherwise hike it or book a tour with a group like Telluride Outside.

The pass and the road is only open during the summer and allows excellent access to the San Juan High Country above Telluride, including several alpine lakes and peaks such as Ingram Lake and Trico Peak. Wildflowers are abundant, as are several mining ruins such as the Senator Beck, Andrus, and the Black Bear mines. 

The descent, whether by 4WD vehicle or by foot, traverses across the top of Ingram Falls and provides breathtaking views of Bridal Veil Falls and its Power Station, and of the entire Telluride valley.

Be careful exploring anywhere in the San Juan high country in the summer, as afternoon storms are frequent and lightning strikes are common.

Pack List

  • Hiking shoes
  • 4WD vehicle with high clearance (or book a tour)
  • Food & water
  • Rain gear
  • Air compressor
  • Full-size spare tire
  • Off-road jack
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Reviews

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I did this early season a couple years ago in my stock 2004 4runner. I really recommend doing this with at least one other vehicle, unlike me, in case you get stuck. I made it through the muddy snow walls at top but got stuck at one point when I slid partway off a gravel section. Thankfully a little digging and timed rocking got me back on the road. It was a beautiful drive but I definitely won't do it again unless I'm in a lifted and more outfitted vehicle.

9 months ago
9 months ago

Josiah RoeAdmin

The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark. - John Muir

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