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Get in Gear: How to Start Off-Roading in Colorado

Beginner Trails: Arapaho National Forest

Gear up for an unguided side-by-side adventure near Grand Lake.

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Located roughly three miles from downtown Grand Lake and just feet from Arapaho National Forest’s Bowen Gulch Protection Area, On The Trail Rentals is off-roading’s version of a gondola-adjacent ski rental shop. With fleets of shiny OHVs lined up outside, a wall of helmets inside, and staff who will guide you toward experience-level-appropriate routes, On The Trail provides everything required to spend a few hours bouncing along 130 miles of trails lined with lodgepole pine, aspens, gin-clear mountain streams, and wildflowers. For the uninitiated, reserving a side-by-side (two passengers; $255 for two hours) is the least intimidating way to get an off-highway adrenaline rush. Outfitted with a roll cage, grip bars, seat belts, and a typical steering-wheel-and-two-pedals setup, these cousins of the dune buggy feel secure, whether you’re Tokyo Drift-ing it along gravelly forest system roads (speed limit: 25 mph) or pitching and rolling along two-track paths. And since you’ll grab a hard-copy map of the trail system—color-coded by the good folks at On The Trail, which at press time was scheduled to open for the season in mid-June—you don’t have to worry about getting lost or ending up on some switchback-laden, double-fall-line trailway to hell.

Map Your Course: For a leisurely two-hour spin—with time built in to ooh and aah at the views of Shadow Mountain Reservoir and Grand Lake—drive your UTV out of On The Trail’s gate onto North Supply Road (trail number 120.4), veer left onto South Supply Road (119.1), and hang a left onto Kawuneeche Road (120). You’ll cruise 120 south until you reach the parking lot at the Idleglen trailhead; there you’ll look for a way-too-skinny gate along the north end of the lot. It’s a tight fit, but your UTV will squeeze through, putting you on Soda Pass Trail, a rollicking two-mile ATV route that loops you back to Kawuneeche Road.

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