Best time to visit Colorado

Black Bear Pass in Colorado

You don't have to be crazy to drive this road, but it helps—the road sign says

Best time: mid-July–September

Black Bear Pass

Black Bear Pass is one of the highest mountain roads of Colorado with an elevation of 12,840 feet (3,910 m), located in San Juan and San Miguel counties of Colorado. Black Bear Road or Forest Service Road 648 is a dangerous narrow dirt jeep trail with abrupt edges that give drivers shivers down the spine. The Black Bear Pass trail is marked with the infamous sign that reads: TELLURIDE —> CITY OF GOLD. 12 MILES – 2 HOURS. YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE CRAZY TO DRIVE THIS ROAD, BUT IT HELPS. JEEPS ONLY. So don't say, you haven't been warned.

Is Black Bear Pass one-way

Drivers can ride this road only one-way, starting from Red Mountain Pass at 11,018 feet (3,358 m) down to Telluride. The drive starts from State Highway 550 (Forest Road 823) between Ouray and Silverton, descending through numerous switchback turns and passing scenic spots such as Bridal Veil Falls, the state's highest waterfall. Only once a year, during the annual Jeeper's Jamboree the traffic can go up the hill.

When does Black Bear Pass open

Black Bear Road is open for just a few months, roughly from mid-to-late July to early fall, depending on the weather. The pass is closed to traffic for the rest of the year due to snow and ice, causing avalanches and landslides that can occur anytime. For the current road conditions, visit the official website of San Miguel County, CO. Additionally, have a look at the Black Bear Pass map below and make all your bookings in advance. Also note that if you come late in the season, you might want to visit the annual Telluride Film Festival or have a glimpse of Colorado fall colors around Telluride and San Juan Mountains.

Practical info

What is the altitude of Black Bear Pass?

At an altitude of 12,840 feet (3,910 m) above sea level, Black Bear Pass is uniquely one of the highest mountain roads in Colorado. During mid-July through early fall, visitors can drive along this one-way road for spectacular views of San Miguel and San Juan counties. The road is open to the public provided the snow and ice have melted which transforms the road into a stunning scenic tour. Show more

What type of vehicles can drive on Black Bear Pass Road?

Only four-wheel drive vehicles that are high clearance and low-range gearing are capable of driving on Black Bear Pass Road. The road is narrow with steep inclines and abrupt edges. It is not recommended for standard vehicles. While driving, it is essential to take extreme caution due to potential hazards. Visitors with an adventurous spirit can conquer this stunning, albeit challenging pass in their jeep or other high clearance vehicles. Show more

What is the best time to visit Black Bear Pass?

The best time to visit Black Bear Pass is typically during mid-July through early fall, contingent upon weather conditions. It is essential to look out for current road conditions, which can be accessed through the official website of San Miguel County, CO. To make sure an itinerary is met, visitors should book their accommodations in advance due to the popularity of the site during peak season. Show more

What is unique about Black Bear Pass?

Black Bear Pass is infamous for its heart-stopping journey with a narrow one-way road set amidst steep grades and vertical edges. Passengers soak up the best views of Colorado’s impressive natural scenery, including Bridal Veil Falls, the loftiest waterfall in Colorado. Because of the unpredictable driving conditions, it is mandatory that drivers follow safety measures and proceed with extreme caution. Take the Forest Road 823 between Ouray and Silverton to Telluride to embark on this one-of-a-kind adventure. Show more

What are some other activities to do in the area besides driving Black Bear Pass?

Aside from Black Bear Pass, visitors can enjoy the scenic beauty of Telluride, a peaceful small town. Various activities are accessible in this area, including hiking, fishing, camping, and mountain biking. Tourists may witness the stunning fall colors of the San Juan Mountains and attend the annual Telluride Film Festival. Visitors can also explore the impressive view at the nearby San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway. Show more

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Authors: Olha Savych