You’ve rented your Jeep and now you’ve got 12 hours to burn—what should you do?
Oftentimes, folks who want to rent a Jeep are a little reluctant to take on the high alpine climbs that seemingly transport you to the top of the world. They know that they want to explore the high country, but also recognize that these trails aren’t your average dirt roads.
With a Colorado 145 Jeep, you could spend days navigating each and every mountain trail in the area and it would not be time wasted. However, we also recognize that most folks aren’t keen on sitting in a vehicle for hours on end. Which is why we’re here to help you plan out your day, setting you up for a successful and fun time in the mountains of Southwest Colorado.
The infamous Imogene Pass
If you’ve been to the Telluride-Ouray-Silverton area before, you’ve likely heard of Imogene Pass. The 17-mile alpine pass is a two-way trail that connects the communities of Telluride and Ouray in beautiful fashion. Reaching the summit has you at 13,114 feet of elevation and provides unparalleled views of the surrounding area.
The pass takes anywhere from three to four hours to complete, one way, but the driving is fun and the views are phenomenal. Rain or shine, Imogene Pass gets our bid as the trail to start your day with.
The Town of Ouray
The town of Ouray, otherwise known as the “Switzerland of America,” is the small box-canyon town that you arrive in after your excursion over Imogene Pass.
Founded in 1876, the town is named after Chief Ouray of the Native American Ute Tribe; however, it was the miners chasing gold and silver that established the town itself. Said to have had more horses and mules than people at one point, Ouray had more than 30 active mining operations at the apex of the mining boom. Camp Bird Mine, which was built in 1897, had pulled close to 200,000 ounces of gold out of the ground by 1902. By 1916, it had produced over one million ounces of gold.
Now, the town serves as a hot spot for tourists from around the world. Especially in the summer months, Ouray has become an icon in the Southwest Colorado region. After making your way over Imogene Pass, we recommend spending some time in this quaint little mountain town.
The Ouray Hot Springs have long been popular among locals and tourists, and with their recent renovation, they’re better than ever.
For those with a sweet tooth, Mouse’s Chocolates provides unforgettable milkshakes, chocolates, ice creams and cookies (try the scrap cookie). Maggie’s Kitchen is the local burger joint and their green chili burger has actually been featured on the Food Network. Other notable spots include hiking the Ouray perimeter trail and stepping inside the Wiesbaden Hotel vapor cave.
Taking Ophir Pass home
You’ve crawled up over Imogene Pass, spent some time in Ouray, and now it’s time to head home. You could take the hour-and-fifteen-minute drive back to Telluride on the highway, but that wouldn’t end the day on a high note. Now that you’re an experienced off-road driver, Ophir Pass is how you want to get back to Telluride. Driving down the Million Dollar Highway (US-550) from Ouray for about 18 miles, Ophir Pass starts as a dirt road on Forest Rd 679. As you make your way along this road, eventually the environment opens up to reveal the exciting shelf-road that is Ophir Pass. The pass takes an hour to an hour-and-a-half to finish, depending on traffic, but once you’re through the town of Ophir, you’re a quick 10-minute drive back to Mountain Village. Offering an exciting ride and equally exciting views, Ophir Pass is the shortcut off-road enthusiasts take to bridge the gap between the Ouray/Silverton area over to Telluride.
Once you’ve made it home, you can say you had a successful day in the mountains of Southwest Colorado.