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Premium Member
Evo VIII, Xterra, BMW E12
2,542 Posts
Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I'm fascinated with the American West. I appreciate the beauty of New England, but it really lacks the grandeur of areas west. My ideal method to explore the mountains: 4x4 vehicle. Time and money always seem to get in the way of my ambitious travel plans, but finally this year I was able to make something happen. I found out I got an extra week of vacation this year, and decided to head out the Colorado.

Quick rundown two previous 4x4 trips out west:

In 2011, a buddy and I drove across the country in a 80 series Land Cruiser and explored the San Juan mountains for a few days: Thread Here (Pics may or may not work, thanks Photobucket.)

In 2017, I visited a magical place called Canyonlands and drove the famous Elephant Hill trail in a rented Rubicon: Link here. This is easily one of my favorite places in the world and I will be back.

A couple of years ago I bought a 2nd gen Nissan Xterra as a daily driver and camping rig. Dailying the Evo was getting ooollld, and I wanted to keep the miles off of it. I was really shopping for a Tacoma or 4Runner, but used prices are insane and I just couldn't justify the extra cost. The Xterra has proven to be exactly what I was looking for. The only two modifications I have made are rock sliders and LT tires.

The drive out is pretty, but does get monotonous after 24+ hours behind the wheel

Spent the first night in Golden.

Spotted a ragged Cayenne Transsyberia :eek:

Finally got off-pavement in the Buena Vista area.

Checked out a ghost town, St. Elmo.

Went up a well known trail in the area a found a sweet campsite right near a stream.

Back down the next morning. Next stop will be Lake City.

Later that day on the Alpine Loop. The scenery is unreal, my cellphone pictures don't begin to do it justice.

Went up a basin to explore some old mining buildings. This particular one has seen some renovation work to keep it from collapsing.

Camp the next night with a terrible view.

The next day we went over some famous and well trafficked passes.

This particular view is one of my favorites in the area.

The colors are just amazing.

Beer with a view in Ouray.

The next day was the crux of the trip, and the trail that I was looking forward to most.

We had numerous people advise us not to attempt Black Bear. I think this is understandable because they are just trying to look out for the clueless tourists. The trail is more technical than I remember it from 9 years ago. The famous switchbacks are probably the easiest part, and they are relatively well groomed. The decent from the top of the pass up until the start of the switchbacks is the difficult part. Multiple rock ledges and obstacles that require careful driving and line selection in order to keep the vehicle right side up. I was up on 3 wheels more times than I can remember. (that tends to happen often on the stock suspension :laugh:) With a good driver, any stock rig with 4 low and decent tires could do this trail. If you are aren't confident in your skills, do not attempt. A Rubicon on 35's wouldn't have any trouble, obviously.

After that, it was time to start heading east. We did stop by Great Sand Dunes National Park, but unfortunately the weather turned bad and we had to cut the trip short. I had wanted to complete Medano Pass, but with heavy rains and thunderstorms, I thought it wise to save it for next time.

And that's it! Trip stats: 4783.1 miles, 17.6mpg according to the computer, and 98 hours driving within the span of 10 days.

I know the 4x4 and Offroad forum is pretty dead these days, so I figure I should do my part to help add some content. :beer:

Edit: Photos should be up.

2020 Subaru Ascent & 2020 Subaru WRX
1,873 Posts
Thanks for putting this together. I enjoyed your other threads as well that you linked. These really deserve to be in the sticky thread in the car lounge too.


The photos of dropping in to Black Bear Pass always make me queasy haha!

17,317 Posts
Great thread. Thanks for sharing.

I love off roading out west. Since I got rid of my Jeep in favor of a boat out here in MA, all my offroading has been done when I've been traveling to NV, UT, AZ, and CA. I'll probably get some in TX this coming December too so that will be fun.

Keep the posts coming.
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