Ouray, Colorado is know as the “Jeeping Capital of the World” and for good reason. The Husband’s and my favorite part of our trip was four-wheeling near Ouray. Our kids didn’t love it at first but it grew on them. Little Miss enjoyed it more when we started to get into the more technical sections. Little Mister started to enjoy it once I traded him seats and let him sit up front.
Before hitting the trails we stopped at the Visitor Center in Ouray to discuss our options. The gentleman we spoke with was incredibly helpful. He asked about our vehicle, experience four-wheeling, and how much time we had and then made some suggestions. We collected a brochure listing the trails and a map of the area. The trails near Ouray are rated 1 – 5 for their difficulty with 1 being easy and 5 being crazy, don’t try this unless you are really skilled and aren’t afraid of narrow roads with crazy steep drop offs. The two trails we chose were in the 2 category.
Animas Forks Ghost Town
Animas Forks is a ghost town outside of Silverton, Colorado. Silverton is a 45 minute drive from Ouray along Highway 550, better known as the Million Dollar Highway. Animas Forks is 13 miles from Silverton down a dirt road. The road is marked as a 4×4 trail but I would not consider it very technical. I do not recall any spots where I held my breath, unlike a trail we hit up the next day.
The road follows the Animas River and is very scenic.
Animas Forks sits at an elevation of 11,200 feet and was founded in 1880. At one point nearly 450 people occupied the town. Now only a handful of buildings remain. You are able to enter the houses which makes this a really fun stop.
We enjoyed touring the houses and seeing floor plans from 100+ years ago. The house in the picture below is two stories and some of the floor boards were a little soft. Walking around upstairs made me super nervous so I quickly headed back downstairs.
Our plan was to stop at Animas Forks and continue on to Cinnamon Pass with an eventual destination of Lake San Cristobal. Thunder storms were predicted in the afternoon and we decided to turn around after Animas Forks. While we were stopped the clouds started to roll in and we didn’t want to be above the tree line during a thunderstorm. I’m bummed we didn’t continue on but we’ll be back. There are many miles of trails still to explore.
Yankee Boy Basin
Yankee Boy Basin was the highlight of our vacation for The Husband and me. The views will forever be etched into my brain. It is truly one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. The trail is rated a 2 but I would consider it a true 4×4 trail, unlike Animas Forks which we did the previous day. The trail is steeper and has many drop-offs. The drop-offs only bother me when two cars are passing and with a popular trail that’s bound to happen. The craziest moment was when we were headed down the trail and two vehicles were headed up. So basically a traffic jam on a road only wide enough for 1.5 vehicles. Fortunately, this was not one of the spots with a steep drop-off on one side. The first vehicle was able to pass us with the help of a spotter. I’m fairly certain I was not breathing during the entire maneuver. At one point I looked over and the vehicle was literally inches from our car. The Husband was driving and was thoroughly enjoying the experience. I’m glad one of us was. 😉
The trail starts just outside of Ouray, right off the 550 near the entrance for Box Canyon Falls. The scenery is beautiful to start and it just keeps getting better. The wildflowers were in bloom and were everywhere. So much color everywhere we turned.
The road starts off as just a dirt road and gets more technical the higher you go. Some people leave their cars when the road starts to get gnarly and hike the rest of the way up. More towards the top you will come across Twin Falls. It’s a double waterfall up top and merges into a single waterfall at the bottom. There is a path to walk to the edge of the falls.
Everywhere you turn are mountains, and not just any mountains – 14ers, wild flowers, and trees. Absolutely breathtaking.
The Husband posted the picture below on social media and everyone kept commenting that it looked like it was out of a Toyota ad. 🙂
If you are ever in Ouray in the summer, particularly in July, I would highly recommend a trip up to Yankee Boy Basin. If you don’t have a 4×4 there are plenty of rental shops in town or if you’re not comfortable driving off road many of the rental shops offer guided tours.