in Overlanding / by Roofnest Team
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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