Black Bear Imogene Loop -- Summer 2002

Black Bear

Starting from Ouray we headed South down the Million Dollar Highway towards the beginning of the Black Bear Pass trail. The way up had some nice views toward the East and was the same general steepness as most of the trails in that region can get. The trail was good hard packed dirt and not a problem at all. At the top of the pass we stopped to take a break and get some pictures taken before heading down the other side of the trail towards Telluride. Heading down we traversed our way down through a beautiful valley on what were still some very nice roads. Old mines and mining equipment are littered throughout this area of Southern Colorado and Black Bear Pass is no exception.

About this time we passed a tour that was stopped for a break or something. Well, we just keep going on down the trail and finally get to what I personally thought was the part of the trail that would be the worst to have a failure on. The steps, which are right above the switchbacks are fairly steep, were pretty loose when we headed down them and have a rock wall on one side and a stream on the other. At the bottom of the steps we took a sharp right and up to that point we were looking straight down on the town of Telluride. The switchbacks at the top are a little tight, but posed no real problem for the short wheelbase of the FJ40. Longer wheelbase vehicles shouldn't have too big a problem with them, as long as some care is taken in choosing the proper line. From there on the road becomes very nice and we headed into Teluride and stopped at a park for some lunch we had brought with us.


After lunch we headed into the heart of town and up a side street to the start of the trail for Imogene Pass. I can't remember the exact directions so check a 4WD book or a local shop for directions. The first half wasn't too bad on the noce shelf road and had some spectacular views of Black Bear and Telluride. Around halfway to the top it started to rain quite hard. At this point I still had the top off and the windshield down and was bundled up in my winter coat, rain pants, snow boots. Seat covers were keeping the cruiser comfortable. We managed to stay pretty dry with all that and had what is probably the most important soft top lesson of my life. I learned to at least put the bikini top or full soft top on BEFORE I need it.

Near the top are the remains of the Tomboy Mine. We stopped here to let the Grand Cherokee cool off before we made the final climb to the top (he had been having mild overheating problems all week. The jury is still out on that problem). The final short climb to the top of the pass is no problem as long as you don't have severe low altitude power problems. The pass is over 13,000 feet and has very nice views. Coming down the other side you may encounter a few steep spots which should be accounted for before flying down them at breakneck speed and wetting yourself. The trail is fairly mild overall and comes out into Yankee Boy Basin. We took a while to look around before heading back to Ouray at the end of a long and very nice day to spend cruising in the 40.