Black Bear Road Telluride, CO
Updated August 3, 2015
Black Bear is a very narrow road that runs from hwy 550 South of Ouray at the top of Red Mt Pass to Telluride in Southern Colorado. The road is one way going into Telluride except for once a year when there is a special trail ride out of Telluride. The trail is right next to Bridal Vail Falls which is the site of one of the early Westinghouse / Tesla A/C generating plants that supplied power to the Smuggler Union Mine. It's also a beautiful scenic place to get married.
The trail off of 550 is a regular rock bottom road until you end up on a narrow ledge just wide enough for a Hummer or about 8 feet wide. The right side is a vertical cliff wall and the left is a 1000 foot or more drop. I remember driving it with my head out the window making sure my left front wheel was still on the edge. This section curves around to the right. and comes out to a series of very tight switchbacks. 2 or 3 of the switchbacks took about 100 turns (just kidding) to get through with spotters. There is a good amount of 'pucker factor' because the edge of each switchback is a shear major drop. Once you get past the first 3 switchbacks the drive down is a cakewalk.
I took the picture on the left from the road up to the Tomboy mine and Imogene pass out of Telluride. You can see bridal vail falls on the top right.
Sheriff Calls for the Closure of Black Bear Pass to Motor Vehicles - August 2nd, 2015 - by Christophe Noel
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.
Fatal Accident in the summer of 2004
A vacationing couple from Missouri was killed Tuesday evening when their Jeep slipped off Black Bear Pass and rolled more than 900 feet down a steep slope. Both were pronounced dead at the scene at 7 p.m., according to a report from the Colorado State Patrol. Westcott said the first call about the accident came into the Sheriff's Office a little after 4 p.m. from another driver on the road who had seen the Jeep roll by in his rearview mirror.
The victims of Saint Peters, Mo., slid off Black Bear Pass road while taking a left hand turn on one of the switchbacks above the top of falls at about 4:15 p.m., police said. The couple was descending the steep mountain road in a soft-top Jeep Wrangler when the accident occurred. Neither was wearing a seatbelt and both were eventually ejected from the vehicle, suffering multiple traumatic head and chest injuries, according to a report from county coroner Bob Dempsey. The Jeep came to rest, on its roof and back on the road approximately 930 feet down the hill, according to police and coroner's reports.
The Jeep was "totally crushed," according to Dempsey's report.
Though Black Bear Pass road is in places exceedingly steep and narrow, especially in a pitched rock section above Ingram Falls referred to as "The Stairs," fatal car accidents on it are rare, and there has not been a fatality in recent memory, police said.
This picture was from a 1975 Warn winch add. I found out that this picture may not be from Black Bear but it demonstrates how narrow and scary this trail really is.
Don't let anyone tell you that a Hummer is too wide for Blackbear
There are two really tight switchbacks on the way down. Here's where 4 wheel steering would help. Notice that my left front wheel is up in the air.
This was a real tight switchback just below the very narrow ledge with a shear drop-off.
This is why Black Bear supplies you with major "pucker factor". It's 1000 feet over the edge.