The National Forests of Colorado offer many dirt road driving ventures that range from mild to wild. Some of the dirt roads are well maintained and smooth enough for passenger cars, while others are so rough and dangerous that only a modified 4x4 can do the trip. Regardless of the conditions, it is best to refer to any Rocky Mountain range dirt road as a Jeep trail, simply because this indicates that a trip on the smoothest dirt road may involve a few stone chips and possibly a flat tire, which passenger car drivers would rather avoid, especially since many modern cars are not equipped with a spare tire. A high ground clearance SUV or pickup truck is always the best choice even on the smoothest dirt road highways up in the mountains, simply because the small dents and dings will just be minor battle scars and a spare tire is included in the package.
Owl Pass Road actually is a very smooth dirt road highway, so just about any vehicle can do the trip, as long as you do not mind a few stone chips on the paint. This dirt highway begins at the intersection of Highway 550 near Ridgway, Colorado, which is a good place to stock up for a camping trip. Planning on doing some camping is the way to go along Owl Pass Road, because there are so many points of interest to explore. The jagged mountain peaks that are known as the needles, which can be viewed in the distance from Ridgway, is once such place where Owl Pass Road goes and just this imagery alone is an indicator of the adventures that lie in store.
Shortly after Owl Pass Road starts heading uphill into the high elevations, there are endless panoramic views to be found that stretch out to the distant horizon. The agricultural zone ends at about 9,000 feet up and this is where the Uncompahgre National Forest wilderness takes over. The aspen trees become more common the higher one goes and the forest becomes thickest near the trailheads to the needles rock formations, so finding an unobstructed view will be a challenge. Owl Pass Road continues climbing up to the high elevation pass, which is a lush area where Owl Creek passes through on the way down the slopes. Owl Creek Pass is a cool refreshing picnic spot even on the hottest summer day, so this is truly is a great place to relax while listening to the sounds of the forest.
There are very few camping opportunities along the dirt road to Owl Pass, but shorty after crossing to the other side of the mountain this all changes. The downhill run through the alpine forest ends in a high elevation meadow where several camping areas can be found. In fact, the mountain meadows are a premium ATV basecamp and there are usually several groups camping in this area. Owl Pass Road (Forest Road 858) continues onward to the Silver Jack reservoir recreation area and the dirt road finally ends at the intersection of Highway 50 near the Black Canyon Of The Gunnison National Park, where even more adventures await. Owl Pass Road is a smooth alpine dirt road like no other, so be sure to plan on doing the trip!
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