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Best Off-Road Trails in the USA: Colorado Edition

Posted by IAG Off-Road on May 10th 2024

Best Off-Road Trails in the USA: Colorado Edition

The snow is melting in Colorado, which means that off-roading season is just around the corner. From the majestic Rockies to expansive deserts and plains, Colorado offers a diverse landscape that beckons enthusiasts from all over the world to experience its untamed beauty and terrain. In this blog, we'll be checking out some of the most popular off-road trails that Colorado has to offer. With an abundance of trails to consider, we've narrowed it down to a handful of trails that showcase a mix of difficulty levels across various regions statewide. As part of a broader series covering the top trails in states like Utah, California, Arizona, Idaho, and more, we'll take a closer look at the diverse landscapes and thrilling challenges all across the country. Join us as we uncover the best off-roading experiences in America, starting with the Centennial State.


High above Denver, and just past the historic mining towns of Black Hawk and Central City is Loch Lomond Trail. While this trail is only 5 miles from beginning to end, it will take approximately 2.5 hours to complete this out-and-back adventure. Loch Lomond is better known for its breathtaking scenery than it is for its degree of off-roading difficulty. The trail does offer some off-road challenges, but its moderate 2- technical rating only seems relevant when the trail is muddy, or during the spring run-off when the melting snow can create rushing water crossings. On a clear, dry day, you won’t have to set foot outside the vehicle to perform any rigging duties, just a little light wheeling through some of the most stunning vistas and natural beauty that Colorado has to offer.

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Photo of Loch Lomond Trail in Colorado

Photo of Loch Lomond in Colorado


One of the major benefits of Loch Lomond Trail is that you can leave Denver in the morning, hit the trail, and even try your luck at the casinos in Black Hawk, all before lunch time. If you’re feeling adventurous, Lomond is part of a network of trails that offer passage to St. Mary’s Glacier (which is no longer a glacier, but is still referred to as a glacier by the locals, and is still a great place to check out), the back sides of Central City, and Oh My God Road, which is Colorado’s tamer version of Bolivia’s Road of Death.

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With a technical rating of 10+, Colorado’s Hard Nox Trail is no joke. Located in Billings Canyon, just outside of Grand Junction, the Hard Nox trailhead features a treacherous rock obstacle that you’ll have to pass over before you can even think about accessing the trail itself. While a bit dramatic, this clever trailhead acts as a sort of safety mechanism to weed out the inexperienced, ill-prepared, or faint of heart. If you can make it past the trailhead, you can embark on your hopeful ascent up the “trail”, which more closely resembles a wall.

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Photo of off-road vehicle on steep trail

Photo of ARB recovery bag


Depending on how your rock crawler is set up, and we do mean rock crawler, it will take anywhere from 2 to 4 hours to literally climb the first and most difficult 200 meters of Hard Nox. After that, the trail actually turns into something that more closely resembles a trail. Rated somewhere around an 8, the last 420 yards should feel glass-smooth in comparison, but you’ll still need a winch, some beadlocks, and all the underbody protection your rig can handle.

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Medano Pass is a scenic and easy-going dirt road that transitions into a primitive road that winds up and over the Sangre de Cristo mountain range down to Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes National Park. This 22 mile trail features 9 water crossings and has a difficulty rating around 2 to 3, which can fluctuate depending on the melting snow runoff. Seasoned off-road enthusiasts will enjoy an easy day splashing through Medano Creek, while newbies will have plenty of opportunity to practice water crossing techniques.

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Photo of off-road vehicle in water crossing

Photo of Great Sand Dunes in Colorado


The Medano Primitive Road takes about 2.5 to 3 hours to traverse, and if you started on the Wet Valley/Highway 69 side, you’ll end up on the edge of one of Colorado’s most unique and awe-inspiring landscapes; the Great Sand Dunes National Park. While Medano is not the most technical trail, the natural beauty of the lush Medano forest area is nothing short of spectacular.

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Twisting along the edge of the San Juan mountains, between the historic towns of Telluride and Ouray is the Imogene Pass Trail. If you really like wheeling on the narrowest road possible next to the steepest and longest drop possible, Imogene Pass is the trail for you. With a difficulty rating of 6, this 18 mile trail will take anywhere from 2.5 to 4 hours to complete. Narrow passages with tons of exposure are the best case scenario on Imogene Pass Trail, while an oncoming vehicle or a sudden flash storm can really test your technical abilities as well as make you question your life’s choices.

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Photo of vehicles traversing Imogene Pass

Photo of marmot


Experienced Imogene veterans recommend that you start your harrowing journey in Telluride so that you can drive downhill on the steeper, rockier parts because that is somehow less dicey. Of course, apart from the whole looming sense of impending doom vibe on this trail, Imogene does have her positive points; there’s a couple of ghost towns along the way, as well as the occasional marmot.

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Located in northern Colorado, just outside of Fort Collins is Kelly Flats. With a difficulty rating of 9, this 10.5 mile trail will take approximately 4 hours to negotiate. With trail section names like Heart Attack Hill and Aneurysm Hill, it stands to reason that your rig will need a winch, some solid body armor and a well appointed recovery bag. You’ll also want to bring a friend or two to share in the… fun? You’ll definitely want their verbal input to make it through the Chutes, which are too narrow to put all four wheels on the ground, so you’ll have to drive on both sides of the chute walls, simultaneously. As spectators are likely gathered above the chutes, be prepared to dazzle them with your feats of daring and acts of bravery.

For serious trails like Kelly Flats, you'll want a little extra protection-

Photo of off-road vehicle on rocky trail

With off-roading season just around the bend, now is the perfect time to fine-tune your rig and get ready for an unforgettable journey through some of Colorado's most iconic landscapes. From challenging mountain passes to leisurely scenic trails, the Centennial State offers a diverse array of off-road experiences for enthusiasts of all skill levels. Before you hit the trails, make sure your rig is properly equipped and prepared to handle the diverse terrain that Colorado has to offer. Need advice or assistance with outfitting your vehicle? Don't hesitate to reach out to us at (410) 840 - 3555 or send us an email at Happy trails!

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