Sheriff Calls for the Closure of Black Bear Pass to Motor Vehicles

Black Bear Pass is one of the most scenic and challenging trails in all of southwestern Colorado, and by its very nature draws thousands of visitors every season. Travelers come from around the world to ply its switchbacks overhanging the picturesque town of Telluride in everything from rented Jeeps to Hummers. As is the case nearly every year, some of those vehicles never complete the trail in one piece. Despite signs signaling the route’s inherent dangers, accidents are rife.


This weekend included one more incident as a couple from Florida rolled their vehicle causing a dispatch of rescue resources and the closure of the road for several hours. The couple escaped with non-life-threatening injuries, but this latest event may have been the straw to break the camel’s back. San Miguel County Sheriff Bill Masters is calling for a permanent closure of Black Bear Pass to all motorized vehicles.


“At this time of year we are seeing hundreds of vehicles traveling on this extremely hazardous terrain. It’s not safe, and it’s not safe for our community when all of our resources are tied up for an incident like this.” – Sheriff Masters.

Reports say the couple from Florida arrived at the trail’s famous “steps,” and decided to turn around. While navigating around a rock in the trail, the driver said the embankment gave way and the vehicle slid off the road before rolling several times, coming to rest on its roof. More than twenty responders from the local Search and Rescue team as well as EMS, Fire and Sheriff Deputies were on the scene to conduct the 90-minute extraction of the injured parties. Lined up behind the scene were more than 100 vehicles.


This call to close the pass comes on the heels of Sheriff Masters recent comments about other stresses placed on the community and it’s limited resources. In May he spoke out against increased abuses to local camping areas and the massive amounts of trash collecting in the pristine outlying areas around the town. With visitations to the area increasing with each year, something will have to give.


Special thanks goes to Overland International’s Sinuhe Xavier for bringing this important story to our attention.



Christophe Noel is a journalist from Prescott, Arizona. Born into a family of backcountry enthusiasts, Christophe grew up backpacking the mountains and deserts of the American West. An avid cyclist and bikepacker, he also has a passion for motorcycles, travel, food and overlanding.