The FJ Summit: Overlanders Takeover Ouray, CO

Image courtesy of Davon Cook

Ouray, Colorado isn’t the most well-known household name for outdoor adventures. But those who are familiar with the small Colorado mountain town know it’s a treasure trove for recreation and exploration — home to cascading waterfalls, endless hiking trails, canyoneering and four-wheeling, Outside Magazine named Ouray one of the 5 best southwestern adventures in North America.

The dramatically steep peaks that surround the quaint town of Ouray have earned the town another name that’s popular with locals and visitors alike: “The Switzerland of America.” But for overlanders, Ouray has earned yet a different name: the “Jeeping Capital of the World”.

With its mountainous terrain and breathtaking views, it’s no wonder the FJ Summit takes advantage of Ouray’s dynamic landscape to bring together overlanders from across the world for a long weekend of adventure and camaraderie — two of our favorite words here at Roofnest.

The 13th annual FJ Summit kicks off on July 17 and lasts through July 21. During this long weekend, four-wheeling fanatics from all over will flock to Ouray to traverse a variety of terrain from high mountain passes and rugged winding roads to galloping hills flanked by wildflowers.

Nearly 400 vehicles and 700 overlanders plan on attending this year’s festivities. And although this year’s event is sold out, you’ll want to keep reading to discover the incredible overland trails you can explore all summer long.

From group trail runs to local attractions and other can’t-miss outdoor activities, here’s the ultimate overlander guide to the FJ Summit in Ouray, Colorado.

What is the FJ Summit?

Aptly named after the Toyota FJ Cruisers, the FJ Summit brings together Toyota lovers and overland enthusiasts alike to traverse one of the most scenic areas in the world.

While four-wheeling is the main focus, the FJ Summit is more than just organized trail runs:

  • Attendees can attend clinics and learn off-road and vehicle skills from expert instructors in the field
  • Vendors don’t just sit behind their booths — they’re on the trails networking with attendees
  • Evening social activities and sponsored dinners give you the chance to meet and mingle with other outdoor enthusiasts

FJ Summit makes it a priority to the environment, too — they’ve given over $150,000 over the last 12 years to conservation organizations including Stay The Trail, Ouray Mountain Rescue, Ouray’s local fire fighters and Sheriff’s Department, and more.

Ouray Overland Trails

Get ready to feel the wind in your hair — this year’s FJ Summit has more trails to tear up than ever before. With 17 trails of varying difficulty to try out, four-wheelers of every experience level are sure to have an adventure of a lifetime.

Throughout the event, FJ Summit offers organized trail runs ranging from easy to difficult. You can spend the morning summiting mountain peaks with other outdoor enthusiasts, and take to the trails in the afternoon for a solo excursion.

Easy Trail Runs

Cork Screw Pass
Image courtesy of FJSummit.org

Although the “easy” designated trail runs at the FJ summit may not be technically challenging, the sweeping views and amazing attractions make these trails an incredible experience for overlanders of every skill level (including a stop at a ghost town!).

The easy trails range from a handful of hours to a full-day adventure, giving you more incredible sights to soak up and more practice on the trail.

Below are FJ Summit’s Easy trail runs, in order from shortest to longest excursion:

  • California Pass (1.5-3 hours)
  • Ophir Pass (1-3 hours)
  • Cinnamon Pass (2-3.5 hours)
  • Cork Screw Pass (4-6 hours)
  • The Alpine Loop (6-9 hours, includes lunch)
  • Stoney Pass to Kite Lake (6-9 hours)

Moderate Trail Runs

Imogen Pass
Image courtesy of FJSummit.org

Whether you’re looking to graduate from easier trails or just want to start the weekend off with a healthy challenge, the moderate trail runs at the FJ Summit provide panoramic views and winding trails that’ll get you gripping the wheel a little tighter.

Moderate trail runs from shortest to longest excursion time:

  • Engineer Pass (1-2.5 hours)
  • Imogen Pass (6-9 hours)
  • Mineral Creek (2-3 hours)
  • Northern Gulches (6-8 hours)
  • Southern Gulches (6-8 hours)

Difficult Trail Runs

Black Bear Pass
Image courtesy of FJSummit.org

For those who love a good white-knuckler, the difficult trails in Ouray offer no shortage of heart-stopping, breath-taking fun for you and your off-road vehicle. If you’re looking for a challenge, these trails will let you get your toes wet (in some cases, literally) in some of the most challenging yet rewarding trails in the state (just look at those views!)

Difficult trail runs from shortest to longest excursion time:

  • Sydney Basin* (3-4 hours)
  • Poughkeepsie** Gulch (4-6 hours)
  • Black Bear Pass (5-7 hours)

* Recommended equipment: Lifted and armored vehicles. FJ Summit doesn’t recommend a stock vehicle for this trail. Undercarriage damage is possible, and there may not be turn-arounds to avoid obstacles.

** Recommended equipment: Lifted and armored. FJ Summit reports stock vehicle MAY be okay, but you’ll need to be very cautious to avoid undercarriage damage. Optional obstacles near the end of the trail may require winching.

What Should I Bring to the FJ Summit?

  • YOUR CAMERA. Seriously, you can’t miss the opportunity to snap these landscapes.
  • Sunblock (you’ll be at high altitude all week)
  • Water bottle
  • CB Radio — your experience will be many times better knowing that you can communicate with friends both old and new on the trail. Plus, a CB radio offers trail leaders the opportunity to tell stories, teach history, and relay safety information.
  • Your family — the FJ Summit isn’t just for hardcore four-wheelers, it’s an exciting and enriching experience for the whole family.

Other Attractions Around Ouray

You can’t leave the FJ Summit without planning a few other activities around Ouray. Ouray is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream, and your choices for summer recreation are unlimited.

Biking

Strap on your mountain bike and get geared up for even more mountain adventures — this time on two wheels. Ouray County offers mountain bikers of every skill level over 20 miles of interconnected trail systems. From adrenaline-inducing high mountain passes to loping scenic trails, you’ll enjoy panoramic views no matter which path you choose.

Fly Fishing

Rushing rivers, cascading waterfalls, and shimmering alpine lakes make up the gorgeous landscape of Ouray. Most every trail or Jeep road you follow will lead you to a crystalline body of water, beckoning you to throw in a line and wait for a feisty mountain trout to give it a tug.

Hiking

Put away the jeep and bike for a day and set out on one of Ouray’s many incredible hiking trails. Green vistas, blue skies, and purple wild flowers await hikers of every experience level, so don’t forget the camera (or the sunscreen), and make sure to pack out everything you pack in.

Hot Springs

After a long day on the trail, nothing feels better than soaking off the dust in Ouray’s famous sulfur-free hot springs. There are 5 public and private hot springs to indulge in, all surrounded by Ouray’s awe-inspiring mountain peaks.

Arts & Culture

Ouray isn’t just an outdoor enthusiast’s dream come true — it’s also home to an esteemed opera house and performing arts theater, along with arts & crafts festivals, chamber music festivals, and more. And when you’re there for the FJ Festival in July, you can catch the Ridgeway Concert Series that happens every Thursday in July.

Overlook Overbooked Hotels From Your Rooftop Tent

Whether attending the FJ Summit or heading to Ouray for a solo four-wheeling adventure, summer is a popular time in Ouray. That means cramped hotels and limited availability for accomodations.

Bringing along a Roofnest rooftop tent means you can comfortably sleep under the stars wherever you park your vehicle at the end of the day. And with models like the Sandpiper which hosts a built-in aluminum rack, you can bring all your favorite outdoor toys with you, too.

Image courtesy of Davon Cook

One of our favorite parts about Roofnest is that it takes your comfort to a new level when camping. But we’ve also learned a few tricks on the trail to help make your next camping experience even more enjoyable.

Say goodbye to chilly feet and mosquitos with these ten genius camping hacks you need to read before your next camp trip »

Destination of the Month Telluride, CO

This month we’re back and bringing you a new, exciting destination blog to get your adventure juice flowing! We’re excited to highlight a city in our Roofnest home base state, Colorado. If you’re not familiar with it, Telluride is a former mining town in southwestern Colorado. The city itself is located in a box canyon, surrounded by steep cliffs and mountains, and Bridal Veil Falls at the canyon’s head. The central part of town is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, and is brimming with ski shops, coffee shops, and local artisan retailers. Telluride hits its peak popularity during the ski season, so this summer is the time to take advantage of all the exciting things this city has to offer.

Outdoor Activities

When in Telluride, there is no shortage of things to do outdoors to take in the incredible views surrounding you. One of the most sought after activities in Telluride is the Via Ferrata climb. This climb isn’t for the weak-hearted, as at its thickest point you’ll be standing on one iron ledge and attached to a harness at over 500ft. While you are strapped in at all times, we recommend taking a guided climb or going with a very experienced pal who’s gone before. It’s long, strenuous, but utterly unique in the experience and views its provides to those who take it on. Climbing gear and basic technical skills are required.

Via Ferrata Climb

Another popular outdoor adventure in Telluride is the hike along Bear Creek Falls. The hike is open all year round, and totals in 2.5 miles roundtrip. Unlike the Via Ferrata, this is a great opportunity to get all the family and friends involved. Along the hike you’ll cruise by streams, clearings, and ultimately end up at Bear Creek Falls.

Bear Creek Falls

Campsites

Camping in Telluride can be an experience unlike any other. Scoping out sites before your trip will provide you with some pretty unimaginable views, so we’re here to give you the low-down on two of Telluride’s most popular and cherished campsites: Alta Lakes and Blue Lake.

Alta Lakes Campground is by far the most popular site in the area. This campsite is easily accessible for the whole family, and provides tons of things to do right from your campsite, perfect for our Flock on their family adventures. The campground is one destination, but provides three lakes. In the morning, walk right out of your tent and go fly fishing, paddleboarding, or hiking. This campsite practices No Trace camping, and is increasingly popular during the summer for its one-of-a-kind experience. Be sure to check for availability before packing up and heading out!

Blue Lake camping is for those who are seeking more of a back-packing experience. The views you reach at the end of the hike are more than worth the effort. You’ll need to bring all your supplies on back and prepare to hike through the Mt. Sneffels wilderness. When you finally reach the stunning Blue Lake, you’ll be able to hike down and locate the flattened land area for camping. Throughout the night, it tends to drop down and still get cold, even in the summer. Make sure if you head out to this site without your Roofnest, to still pack your Roofnest down blanket, which is light to carry and warm to sleep under.

Blue Lake

Local Attractions

Aside from all of the outdoor magic, Telluride has tons to offer in the heart of Town. Telluride Brewing Co. is one of the largest microbreweries in the United States, and has several awards to show for it. Stop in and grab a drink or take a tour, but again, be sure to call and check availability this summer as it gets very popular for tourists passing through. The Telluride Food Tasting Tour is another exciting summer feature in this town. The tour is about 3 hours long, and introduces you to the many different cuisines and the folks who have crafted them for you. Be sure to book a tour sooner than later!

So there you have it, adventurers, Telluride in a nutshell. Check back soon for another destination highlight and get your summer planners out and ready.

June Ambassador Highlight

Todd Hendrickson

We’re bringing you another Flock Ambassador Highlight, and this month we’re featuring Todd Hendrickson! He’s been a Flock member for two years and we’re excited to show you a little bit of what his world of adventure is like. Check out his Instagram and follow along! @hoptodd

Tell us a little about yourself:

I’m Todd, I’m 52 years old, and I’m the CEO of Aquascape, an ultra-high end swimming pool builder.

What do you like to do in your free time?

Explore as often as possible. I tend to wander when I am traveling alone so I can turn down any random road or trail. Rarely will I look at a map, and many of my favorite campsites were found this way. Once I have scouted out an area I then save the best sites to go back to with friends to further enjoy the area.

How has Roofnest helped you with your travels?

I have camped and wandered my whole life and have slept in cars, trucks, and tents. I was driving past a local used car dealer and saw my jeep for sale around the end of November 2017 and went in and bought it on a whim. I tried sleeping in the back a few times and was not happy, so I looked online for “jeep camping” and saw people were sleeping in roof top tents. I had actually never heard of them, so I then typed in roof top tents on Craigslist and happened to buy an almost new Roofnest Sparrow. A guy had bought it new and it didn’t fit in his garage. The rest is history. I keep my tent on the jeep year round and have all my gear always packed in the garage. I can depart anytime and go, go, go.  

What’s your favorite part of your Roofnest?

I loved my old Sparrow (and sold it to my brother) but really love the new Sandpiper. I was stoked to get one of the first few. The racks are amazing, and it’s great I can keep my gear on top when the tent is open. Having the tent set up in under 30 seconds lets me explore until I find a spot I love and not worry about picking a semi-ok spot so I have time to unpack an old fashioned ground tent, bedding, etc. It’s a complete game changer. Everywhere I go people want to see the tent and climb in, it’s super cool.

Tell us a quick summary about your most recent favorite trip:

One of my favorite recent trips was down to Death Valley to meet a group of friends for 5 days. I left Northern CA around 5pm, drove until 5am to an area near our 7am meetup, popped up the tent and took a power nap, and then off to our trip kickoff meeting at 7. We then drove about 80 miles a day through the deepest nooks and crannies of Death Valley, camping each night at an epic different location.  We went from high mountains, canyons, and ravines to crazy giant sand dunes. In the end I did 1500 miles in 4 nights/5 days.

Anything else you want our audience to know?

I have seen more of California’s back roads in the last 15 months than I have in my entire life.  A good roof top tent is well worth the investment. My Roofnest has kept me warm, dry, well rested, and safe for all of these adventures. Heavy wind, rain, snow, dust, bugs, critters, creepers: you name it and I have seen it. I won’t ever camp on the ground again. Also, I would say you get what you pay for and buying a cheaper tent will greatly lower your enjoyment and experiences. Do it right the first time and buy a Roofnest!

Look out next month for another ambassador highlight, and above all, reach out to u on Instagram @roofnest if you’d like to be featured!