Black Bear Pass is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 3.910m (12,840ft) above the sea level, located in Colorado, USA. The road to the summit is called Black Bear Road, a dangerous dirt track. This jeep trail, officially called Forest Service Road 648, starts at an elevation of 3.358m (11,018ft) above the sea level, and ends at Telluride, Colorado. It's one of the highest mountain roads of Colorado.
Located in San Miguel County in the southwestern portion of the U.S. state of Colorado, there is little room for error on this road. It's normal for your palms to sweat looking at those photos. It’s incredibly disorienting to look over the edge, or even just to see the valleys a couple thousand feet below you. It’s a mind numbing vertical drop of hundreds of meters so you might want to give it a miss on a windy day. This OHV route offers a very technical trail that is not for inexperienced drivers or riders. While most of the road is moderate in difficulty. the mile-long stretch of steep switchbacks on the Telluride side above Bridal Veil Falls is rated as difficult. Open to all motorized vehicles, however, strongly recommended for high clearance, short wheel base, 4-wheel drive vehicles.
The start of the trail is marked along U.S. 550 with the famous 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
But the sign was often stolen and eventually the responsible authorities ceased to replace it. Your wheels will be astounded at the wonderful views of the mountains spread out before you! They are terrible for drivers who are prone to vertigo. In many places the road is bordered by a drop of hundreds of meters (many hundreds of feet) unprotected by guardrails. Though Black Bear Pass road is in places exceedingly steep and narrow, it can be a reasonably easy drive in favourable conditions, but also has the potential to be a very difficult track and at times impassable after wet weather.
The road is only open a short period out the summer season
Beyond the Black Bear Pass, the road is a collection of infamous switchbacks going to Telluride. This road, which passes Bridal Veil Falls, the highest waterfall in Colorado, is open just some months, from late summer (usually the last week of July) to early fall, and it can be closed anytime when the access is not cleared of snow. Do not travel this pass in severe weather conditions. Avalanches, heavy snowfalls and landslides can occur anytime, being extremely dangerous due to frequent patches of ice. It has a well-deserved reputation for being dangerous because of unpredictable snowstorms and blizzards, and driving under these conditions, can be extremely challenging.
Pic: Stephen Bornhoft