Black Bear Pass is one of the toughest around. No small feat in an area known for its amazing backcountry roads with breathtaking drops and views topping out near 13,000 feet. But black bear pass adds an additional element in the form of a series of sharp and tight switchbacks with extreme exposures topping 1,000 vertical feet. To navigate these corners in a jeep requires very tight clutch control as you will have to make 3+ point turns to find your way down the trail.
Remember though that Black Bear Pass is one way in the direction of Red Mountain Pass to Telluride. Once you start descending you’re ‘all in’. To get to the trailhead from Telluride head over Ophir pass, have lunch at the Golden Block and then head back up to the top of Red Mountain Pass.
Here is a short video of the stairs above the switchbacks from some self described flat lander rednecks who’ve been off roading twice.They call this section of Black Bear Pass the stairs because it feels like you’re driving down a set of stairs. I chose it for the color commentary but there is some strong language- which is actually very typical at this point in the trail and something you can likely expect in your own vehicle at several times during your journey. Unfortunately, the video doesn’t really translate how steep this section is as you’re staring down at the valley a few thousand feet below you but the next one does. If you’re experienced in backcountry 4×4 riding and considering this route scroll down to the next video.
Once you’re past the stairs, you encounter a series of tight switchbacks like these. Trucks with long wheel bases will find this especially difficult. I personally drive a 90 suburban and would not take it on this road. However, a couple hummers are seen navigating one of the tight corners here.
Black Bear Pass connects hwy 550 at the top of Red Mountain Pass to the town of Telluride. It tops out at 12,800 feet in elevation and is rated as one of the toughest trails around so use extreme caution. Black Bear Pass has one way traffic from Red Mountain Pass (Point B) to Telluride (Point A.)
Bridal Veil Falls are an amazing sight to behold when they’re flowing strong. You’ll only realize you’ve been driving next to them if you keep a close eye out and listen for the water. Otherwise, when you get to Telluride make sure to look back over your shoulder or you’ll miss this.
If you get to Telluride and are ready for a more leisurely return route to Silverton try Ophir Pass (near the town of Ophir, South of Telluride and Mountain Village.) It’s a lot easier and will get you back to Silverton in 90 minutes or less. We hope you enjoy Black Bear Pass and that you come by for a pizza and some beer after you’re done. If you ride Black Bear Pass pass you will remember it forever, guaranteed!
If you are serious about doing black bear pass then please watch this entire video so you know what you’re getting into. The good stuff starts around the 9 minute mark.