Engineer Pass: Colorado

99Discovery

Adventurer
This is kind of a delayed report. Most Overlanders take this pass and combine it with Cinnamon Pass to form the Alpine Loop. We did it a little different due to the size of our groups and did one half from Ouray to Animas Forks and then from Animas Forks over the pass to Lake City.

This trail is definitely a classic, IMO, featuring grand vistas, shelf roads, and in the case of Ouray County Road 18, actual technical 4-wheeling that I would rate somewhere in the 3-4 range (stock vehicle capable with experience, traction aids recommended).

I'm going to attach some still screen grabs (most of my footage was video) as well as a link to my brief trail review. Highly recommended and I look forward to returning, this time with more time.
engineer 4 pass top.JPGengineer 3 top.JPGengineer 2 shelf road.JPGengineer 1.JPG

 

stoicalpear

Member
Thanks for sharing! My wife and I are going to get back out to that part of the state this summer (thinking FJ summit) and I cant wait.
 

Stryder106

Explorer
Beautiful. We were doing a weeklong trip overlanding the high passes in the Rockies and it included Engineer Pass, but things went sideways before we got that far and never made it to that point. It's beautiful - bummed I didn't get to see that part.
 

Ashton

Newbie
Nice video. Do you use any hand held stabilizers and what kinda drone you working with? I'm thinking about putting off new a/v tools till next year, but...
 

Stryder106

Explorer
This looks fantastic. Heading out in the fall hopefully. @Stryder106 what was your route supposed to be?
The intent was a big loop from Carbondale running East then South then West then North and East back to Carbondale. The plan was: Start in Carbondale, then head East towards Leadville, then South to St. Elmo, Tin Cup, Pitkin, then towards Ouray area. The route was altering a bit due to weather (it rained every single day) but working our way over the Continental Divide via 26 of the highest summit passes was the route.

We stopped at Pitkin due to an issue in the group. I didn't plan it and it was surprise every step of the way but I think it was a combination of the Alpine Loop and Golden Triangle routes. Also - some more rugged and remote trails in the mix of that to get us more off the beaten path. I know Engineer Pass, Imogene Pass, and Black Bear Pass were all planned. But, beyond Pitkin I couldn't really tell you which trails we were supposed to take other than those.

Here are the details of how far we made it: Day 1: Carbondale -> 82 (South) -> Basalt (town) -> Frying Pan Rd (CR104) (East) -> Frying Pan Rd (FR105) (East) -> Hagerman Pass Rd (Southeast) (Hagerman Pass) -> FR105 (East) -> Turquoise Lake Rd (East) -> Leadville (town) -> 24 (South) -> Buena Vista (town) (fuel) -> CR306 (West) -> CR321 (South) -> CR162 (West) -> Mt Princeton Campground (camp).

Day 2: CR162 (West) -> St. Elmo (occupied ghost town) -> CR295 (South) -> Hancock -> FT1439 (West and North) (Hancock Pass) -> FR267 (North) (Tin Cup Pass) -> East Willow Creek Rd (West) -> Tin Cup (occupied ghost town) -> Cumberland Pass Rd (South) (Cumberland Pass) -> Pitkin (town very small).

We were supposed to be on the trail for 7 days, but things didn't work out. Day 2 was supposed to be 11 passes in all - the entire trip was supposed to be 26.

It is spectacular country that's for sure. Pay very close attention to the trails - it's easy to get distracted by the scenery. Don't let that happen - even on the wide ones.
 

99Discovery

Adventurer
Nice video. Do you use any hand held stabilizers and what kinda drone you working with? I'm thinking about putting off new a/v tools till next year, but...
No, you can see in my videos that there is quite a bit of annoying shakiness. It was all handheld using built-in stabilizers (if needed) and the DSLR footage was put through a panning-stabilization algorithm in Vegas Pro. Sadly, a LOT of good footage was unusable due to poor technique. I've been training my wife and family members how to properly support a camera (the camcorder footage was the worst....that stupid strap that goes around your wrist with the thumb to turn on and off recording just begs the user for shaky footage). After some pointers, my footage is better. I'm usually the one driving, so I don't get to film as often as I'd like, but I have some "essential tremors" so my hands shake anyway, so I typically rely on at LEAST a monopod, or crouching down to make sure I have 3 points of contact on the camera.

The drone shots were from the Mavic Pro, but I only got those few shots since I tried to land on the roof of a JKU (no suitable landing spots) and the Jeep was tilted enough for the drone to slide once it touched down and it crashed into the rear of an open TJ and landed on one of our party's lap! Luckily, the motors were powered off and there was "no harm-no foul", but the props broke and my spare set was back in Utah. :(.

I'm looking into getting a DJI Osmo for in-car stabilized shots and a Sony mirrorless for high-quality multi-purpose footage. My current kit includes:

A few 1st Generation Garmin Virbs (for the action/in dash shots)
A Nikon D800
Olympus Tough TG2 and TG4....the Olympus Tough TG series is the most versatile, heavy duty point and shoot I've ever used and LOVE them to death, every adventurer should have one in his/her pocket everytime they go out (crush proof, water proof, good video, etc).
Canon Vixia camcorder
Canon XH-A1 HDV camcorder (a bit bulky for off-road use, and while the footage it captures is analog and raw, it comes out quite nicely when you DO get shots).

The only downside to my kit is that other than the Mavic Pro, I'm stuck at 1080p. It will take thousands to get everything updated to 4k, and that's not happening anytime soon.
 

JKJenn

Adventurer
Nice report! I am considering doing the portion from Animas Forks to Engineer Pass in Spetember. I ran the part from Ouray to Animas Forks when I had my JKU. The Animas Forks to Engineer Pass does not look like clearance would be a huge issue. Do you see any issues running that in my WK2 stock Trailhawk?
 

DaveInDenver

Expedition Leader
The only issue is what part of September. It's the shoulder season, could be snowing by then and by late September you have to plan on the potential for winter weather.
 

JKJenn

Adventurer
Thanks, yeah, I probably would wait and see what the weather was like. It can be wet that time of year and really cloudy. I would only go if the weather was clear. We are going towards the end of the month. It snowed last year when I was there, above 7,000' it stuck to the ground. I would be content to be snowed out. The foliage is stunning with snow on it.
 

dreadlocks

Well-known member
Never know how the weather will turn out, but the last several autumn have been exceptionally mild and pleasant.. Last year I hadda try pretty hard to find snow in December.. couldent even take the kiddos sledding in leadville over xmas holiday, was just icy grass on the hill.

With the drought trend, you can likely expect more mild weather at altitude this time around.. but who knows, after getting snowed on in July on a 14er w/no top or doors I always go out prepared for the worst.. All forecasts past 48h are worthless, and even within that are a total crap shoot.
 

DaveInDenver

Expedition Leader
This past winter was terrible in a warm and dry way. If this winter is anything like it the orchards around here are going to be hurting bad, they need a really wet winter this year.

The fall of 2013 was a different animal. We tried doing the San Juan huts the first week of September and it took us 12 hours of slogging to make it from Silverton to the first hut through rain, then mud, then snow on Rolling Pass, back to mud. We bailed because we ran into the party one night ahead of us and apparently it only got worse along the route.
 

LR Max

Local Oaf
Should be fine. Ran the Engineer pass section last month with a stock LR3. No problem and I don't think I even needed spotter help. We did see some subarus out there on the trail.

Mineral creek gave us some challenges but that is fine. Also ran Poughkeepsie. If you keep off the "side" trail to the wall, its quite enjoyable in a stock 4x4.
 

99Discovery

Adventurer
Nice report! I am considering doing the portion from Animas Forks to Engineer Pass in Spetember. I ran the part from Ouray to Animas Forks when I had my JKU. The Animas Forks to Engineer Pass does not look like clearance would be a huge issue. Do you see any issues running that in my WK2 stock Trailhawk?

As others have said, you should be fine. The weather will be more of an issue vs. trail conditions. I'd rate the trail a 3/10 tops from Animas Forks through Engineer Pass, and that's primarily because you'll want low-range for speed control. I can't recall any technical terrain on that side (but remember....it's been over a year since I've done that side). As LR Max mentioned, Mineral Creek is where the fun-stuff is at, and it's from Ouray to Animas Forks. It can be bypassed. Even then, the rating is a 4. If your trailhawk is stock, it might have some trouble in the looser stuff due to lack of flex, but you should be able to accomplish it. Animas Forks to Engineer Pass and on to Lake City should be trivial. Again, this is all based on memory
 
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