Hayden Pass sign

Hayden Pass

Still too early in the season to get through Hayden Pass in late May. A snowstorm dumped about 2 1/2 feet of snow last weekend, with remnants still covering the pass.

Sign with hazard warnings

We scouted out this trail for our group that would be arriving the next day, since everyone was still deliberating on which trails to do.

Tacoma on trail

There were a few big branches in the roadway to clear.

Man clearing fallen limbs from trail

Two miles into the trail we encountered impassable snow drifts.

Toyota FJ stuck in snow drift

Unfortunately, there is no safe turn-around point. The trail narrows, and numerous rocks make the grade difficult alongside the cliff drop-off.

We had to travel in reverse gear with a spotter for awhile before we were able to turn around.

Man spotting FJ as it backs downhill

This is where the passengers said "No way," and opted to walk down the road.

3 passengers walking down a maountain trail

We will have to attempt this trail again later in the season, once the winter storms are over. It is a beautiful area.

Beautiful mountain view

Texas Creek 6040

The weather was touch and go in the area in late May, but the skies were kind to us at Texas Creek this time. There are two trails here designated for full-size off road vehicles.

Five vehicles turned out for this ride, hailing from Pueblo, Pueblo West, Manitou and Penrose. Some of us camped nearby at Cutty's Resort.

Group picture of 4x4 trail participants

Though the trail took us high into the mountains, the "pucker factor" was low, as there are very few steep dropoffs. There are some steep inclines that have zero visibility of the opposite side. These hills are not on cliffs, and are relatively safe.

Blue Toyota FJ traversing small steep hill

A higher clearance vehicle is definitely recommended. There are some obstacles that require a little more technical skill. A couple of us used a spotter to maneuver trickier areas.

Silver FJ climbing rocky mountain trail

The trail is quite narrow in places, with protruding boulders to the side which should be carefully avoided. Expect the trail to scratch up your vehicle with the close-growing trees and shrubs. Mountain pin-striping!

Silver Toyota Tacoma rolling over bumpy dirt obstacle Traffic was not bad, perhaps because it was early in the season and still chilly. Mostly we encountered side-by-side vehicles or motorcycles. Two toyotas travelling up pretty dirt trail The climb took a leisurely 2 hours to reach the summit, where we were rewarded with impressive mountain vistas. The view was nothing short of stunning, especially with weather systems moving across the landscape. 5 vehicle Toyota caravan lined up against mountain vista

Texas Creek ranks as one of our favorite trails. The progressively difficult ride and beautiful sights with low danger make this a ride we will definitely do again!

Rainbow Lake

It was a beautiful day for a rocky drive up to Rainbow Lake in June. There was a small rainshower, and a subsequent rainbow - how perfect, considering its namesake!

We just had two vehicles in our caravan this time.

The terrain is pretty rocky, and while not technically difficult, it is a constant bouncy ride. You better have a strong enough bladder to withstand it!

The elevation is pretty high. This means there are some steep dropoffs from the shoulder of the road, and some of these occur on switchbacks - so its best to take it slow and easy. The big rocks have you bouncing all over, and the last thing you want to do is bounce off the cliff by going too fast.

Another thing to be aware of with the elevation is the potential for altitude sickness. Though we are Colorado natives and used to living up here, the mountain is a marked difference from being down in town. When we arrived at Rainbow Lake, there is a short hike down to the water, and that bit of exertion was enough to cause signs of altitude sickness in my wife. When that happens, just find a place to sit, slow it down and drink plenty of water.

The lake itself was beautiful, surrounded on all sides by hills, so we appeared to be in a bowl.

The landscape was the most interesting part of the drive. The area had seen some wildfires in the recent past, and the tree trunks were still blackened and stripped.

The view below was a gorgeous valley, surrounded by nothing but mountains for miles.

The drive down went a little faster than the drive up. Maybe too fast, as our trail partner bottomed out on some protruding rocks and left his blue scuffs as evidence.

Medano Pass

September is an excellent time to travel Medano Pass. The Colorado fall colors can peak any time between September and October, and it's a gorgeous experience when you can catch nature at her most brilliant.

We had a good turn-out for this ride, and our convoy had 6 Toyotas. We equipped the lead vehicle and the rear vehicle with CB radios in order to keep the group moving together.

Once we reach the trailhead, everyone stopped to air down their tires. This enables better traction on sand and rough terrain.

We used a trail app on our phones to make sure we were headed the right way. Although so many trails snaked into one another it was still hit or miss determining the trail path.

Mostly if the road was open, we took it.

The trail is easy going and fun.

We crossed several small streams - but the conditions of these streams may vary based on the watershed for the year.

We encountered quite a bit of traffic on the trail, and passing oncoming vehicles sometimes required patience and clever maneuvering.

The trail eventually gives way to sand as we near the Great Sand Dunes National Park.

Once on the sand, we had to keep moving to avoid getting stuck. We pulled over to the side of the trail briefly, and patrol vehicles quickly discovered us and insisted we move on.

The dunes themselves were a fun exercise. We still have a beach-load of sand in our shoes from that day, and well-defined calves.