27th Annual Ouray Jeep Jamboree
Bushwacker trekked from its headquarters in Portland, Oregon to the scenic mountain town of Ouray (pronounced “you-RAY”), Colorado for the 27th annual Ouray Jeep Jamboree, which was held September 11–13. Ouray is nestled in the San Juan Mountains at an elevation of nearly 7,800 ft. and features access to a variety of trails which offer access to ghost towns, incredible scenery, and some great off-roading.
The Jamboree had a mix of first-timers wheelers and off-road veterans. Some drivers were on their first Jeep Jamboree, other had 20+ Jamborees under their belt. Regardless, everyone in attendance was in for some amazingly scenic trails and great company both on and off the trail. All that scenery made for plenty of opportunities to enter the Bushwacker Jeep Jam Photo Contest, too.
Jeep Jamboree does a great job of organizing Jeep enthusiasts, ensuring their utmost safety on the trails and providing a fantastic family atmosphere. Whether with your actual family or not, you truly do feel like you’re a part of the Jeep Jamboree family when you’re there.
Our first day took our group up to the legendary Imogene Pass, which rises to an epic 13,114 ft., making it the second highest road in Colorado. At the trail head, we aired down our tires and were told to drink plenty of water to prevent any altitude sickness that might come from being up that high. One bit of information really hit home: If we were in aircraft, we’d be required to carry supplemental oxygen. That’s how high up we’d be going!
The trail up to Imogene wasn’t difficult from an obstacle standpoint, but many of the trails were narrow and had steep drop-offs on one side. As the Jeep Jamboree crew put it: The trails may not be difficult, but they’re unforgiving. You didn’t want to get too close to the edge, especially considering the area had received significant rainfall recently making some of the trails’ shoulders weaker than normal.
There were several water crossings, a few good climbs, and incredible vistas that can only be seen firsthand to truly appreciate. As you approach the pass’s summit, there’s a rather tight climb, and then suddenly the horizon opens up to a breathtaking view of the mountains. It was cold and windy, but the view was simply incredible. You could even see the Telluride Airport from up there.
Once we ascended, our tail gunner (aka the guide at the rear) noticed he’d gotten a flat tire on the way up. Nothing like changing a flat at 13,114 ft.!
We descended Imogene Pass through winding trails and more awesome views. We stopped for lunch at the abandoned Tomboy Mine. This ghost town had the remains of a booming mining industry, which had around 900 inhabitants at one point. It was sold for $2 million in 1897, and was closed in 1927. There were a few structures left but most were just ruins. It was, however, a great place to kick back, have some lunch, and enjoy the September sunshine.
Our group continued down the trail which passed several boarded-up mine entrances, views of the infamous Black Bear Pass, and finally into the town of Telluride. It’s a surreal feeling to come down from such an amazing view and literally exit into a suburban area of the city. A quick fuel stop, and then it was onto the next trail—Last Dollar Road.
Last Dollar Road used to be a mining supply route, but is now a winding dirt road that goes from Telluride through a plethora of aspen groves and ranches on the way back to the highway. While not difficult it was scenic and enjoyable.
Day two took our group up to the ghost town of Animas Forks, which is outside of Silverton. Located at 11,200 ft., the historic location’s first cabin was built in 1873 as part of the local mining boom. Several buildings were not only still standing, but you could walk through them in their various states of ruin. It made you think about what life must’ve been like in the 1880s when this location was buried under 25 ft. (yes, 25 ft.) of snow, not to mention the area was plagued with avalanches. The residents must’ve been very hearty people. (And they certainly didn’t have Jeeps!)
Next, our group headed up the mountain along a trail with abundant switchbacks and cliffs to the old Buffalo Boy tram house (above), which still has its aerial tram cable intact. They used this tram to bring ore down the mountain. It must’ve been quite a feat back then and it’s still impressive today despite it being abandoned and derelict. However, it has a certain rustic beauty about it that all of us Jeepers appreciated. It was also a somewhat eerie yet interesting place with endless photo ops.
We left Buffalo Boy for our last trail of the trip, which would take us up Stony Pass to an elevation 12,624 ft., which is where the above photo of our Jeep JK8 was taken. Again, it wasn’t the trail itself that was difficult so much as it was the super-tight switchbacks, narrow trails, and seemingly endless drop-offs that were sure to keep your concentration at its peak. It was a great way to cap off two days on the trails.
After our return to Ouray that evening, Bushwacker gave out some swag and some prizes at the Jeep Jamboree dinner raffle where we got to talk to a host of great people who all shared a love for off-roading, scenic views, the great outdoors, and of course, Jeeps. We had a lot of questions about our Jeep products, including our Trail Armor, and we enjoyed talking with everyone.
The Ouray Jeep Jamboree was amazing for so many reasons: The trails, the scenery, and the people. Many of us were already talking about coming back again, as it was certainly one of the most beautiful places we’d ever been.
This Jeep Jamboree event couldn’t have happened without all of the crew from Jeep Jamboree USA who put on a heck of an event, and we’re a proud sponsor of their events. We truly look forward to the next one!