I get questions all the time about what to bring when offroading in Colorado, what the rules of etiquette are, and how often there are bathrooms along the way (the answer is not often)! A lot of you out-of-staters ask what you need to know about driving offroad in Colorado and I answer some of your questions here…
What to Bring
This will differ depending on your experience level, but I usually take:
- A 4WD with good tire tread!
- Maps. I don’t care how well you think you know the area, take a map; Sometimes you may accidentally take a secondary road off the main road and need to be able to find your way out.
- Snacks! You never know how long you will take, so pack a lunch or some Power Bars.
- Camera or videocamera. There are photo opps everywhere!
- First aid kit with bandaids and ointment. Also, if you have one, pack an ankle support brace; sometimes you twist your ankles exploring.
- Rain poncho
- Toilet paper! Always pack it out or use the biodegradable ones.
- Pocket knife
- Folding shovel for those times when you get stuck.
- If you are traveling uphill, you have the right-of-way. So, that means when you are going downhill, you have to yield to the driver driving uphill toward you. This is because it is easier to see to back up if you are going downhill.
- Drive very slowly around blind curves. If you reach a shelf road or one-lane part of the trail, stop and get out to look for vehicles that may be approaching before heading across. Sometimes it’s impossible to pass or very dangerous to back up, so avoid having to do either if possible!
- Don’t pick the wildflowers and don’t drive or walk on alpine tundra. It can take 10 years for a tiny plant to grow back.
- Tread Lightly and pack out all trash!
How to Drive a 4WD in the Mountains
Many people in non-mountainous states (we call them Flatlanders in Colorado) have never used the low gear of their SUV except to push through mud. Back in Texas we would go mudding and that’s the only time I ever saw a $wd put to good use. Here in Colorado it’s a bit different!
When to Use Low Gear (Granny Low)
- You are heading up a steep incline and need that extra gear
- You are going down a sttep incline and need to control your speed
- You are going over very rocky terrain or moguls. The lower gear will keep you from slipping around.
Things Not to Do
- Don’t straddle a large boulder, it might take out your differentials.
- Don’t attempt to cross a stream that’s moving too swiftly.
- Don’t attempt to cross a stream whose depth you are not sure.
- Don’t get high-centered. Ruts or large rocks can cause this. Use common sense when placing your tires and you’ll be fine!
- Do not let yourself get sideways on a steep hill because you could roll. Approach steep inclines or declines straight on.
- Don’t get a late start; if you plan on driving above timberline, don’t start your ascent past noon or you might risk getting caught in a thunderstorm, which brings us to…
Weather in Colorado
Colorado weather can be unpredictable. In the summer months, thunderstorms can occur every day, even when you have blue skies in the morning. They often occur around mid afternoon, like between 2 pm and 3 pm. Don’t be above timberline when they hit!
A lot of this is just plain common sense, so just drive cautiously and have fun!Share