Caribou Creek

Caribou Creek (Nederland)

  • It is an off road trail rated at a 2-3 – meaning that most moderate to high clearance stock SUV with a clearance of about 8+” could handle it granted the driver is comfortable taking the risk of off roading.
    • The trail is rated a 2 to 3 (out of 10) mostly for its dirt/mud and water crossings.  This means that the trail can theoretically be done with a rating of 2 (stock SUVs could handle it) but there are ways to make it a 3 (moderate clearance SUVs minimum)
  • 2.7 miles and is a looped trail with a select few pull off spots if people are doing the trail in the opposite direction as you.  When I did the trail, we only saw one other guy going the opposite way as us in a super lifted Ford Bronco, so he was flying down the trail.  We had my 2001 Nissan Pathfinder (8.3″ clearance) and my friend’s 2006 Nissan Xterra War-Machine Edition (about 9.3″ clearance or so).
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This artist’s flare on a horse-crossing sign lets you know you are in the right place

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Shortly after you begin on the dirt trail, you’ll come across an abandoned old stone house.  There is a small dirt area to park in and explore around.  Pretty neat!

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My friend, Smitty, was clearly here at some point!

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Now the trail begins to pick up a bit.  The rocks and whoop-de-doos aren’t really that bad in a stock SUV.  Eventually you’ll begin to reach some water crossings.  The first major one is when you escape the trees for a moment into a large dirt area with giant holes filled with water.  Careful on your first cross through them as some may have rocks or be deeper than you think.  Once you go through once and make sure it is clear, then you can get some speed and crash through the puddles to spray water everywhere!

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This was an average-sized pit. There were ones that were certainly deeper and may have risked submerging my air-intake. Not worth it if I can easily cross here!

Now things begin to get a little interesting.  When we went (late June-early July) there was a huge mud pit that proved challenging due to a lack of traction.

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The drivers and passengers studying the put to find the best approach through. We did have a tow cable and 2 trucks, so we could pull the other guy out, but we wanted to play it safe if we could.
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It is the exit right here (with that big jutting lift) that proved the difficult part because it would either hit your differentials or lift one tire out of the pit, giving you even less traction.
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My car in the middle of the pit. Surprisingly, I made it on one of my first (if not first attempt). Granted, Ben took a few tries in his Xterra until we figured out the best way to negotiate the pit.
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A side view – it was a pretty beastly mud pit!

After that we thought we were in the clear – but we were wrong.  The hardest section is yet to come.  The reason for this is that is was deep whoop-de-doos on a steep hill.  Thus, even with our very powerful Nissan engines, we had to come at the hill with speed and keep the engines revving the entire way up the hill.  It required 4wd low for each of us as you often had one tire a little lifted as you went through a whoop-de-doo.  Ben’s Xterra has more clearance and a more powerful engine (plus better springs) so he only needed a few attempts at the hill before he conquered it.  I, on the other hand, required 10+ attempts before I finally made it up.  Ben was already getting out the tow cable as it was looking bleak that I would conquer this hill.

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This is the best picture I have, but it hardly does justice. It is steep, sandy (very little traction as you are revving your engine up a hill) and bumpy. I usually made it about 3/4 up before the final bump would stop me. Once you stop, you have to back all the way down and try again because you won’t have enough momentum. For that reason, this section is VERY easy to bottom out on if you don’t have high-clearance vehicles. So, I would rate this trail at a 3, not a 2-3, because I don’t believe anything lower or less powerful than my Pathfinder would stand a chance. Make sure to have a buddy and tow cable on this trail, or else you will be turning around here (which won’t be an easy feat either, taking that mud pit backwards will prove challenging as well).

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Overall, this was a super fun and quick trail that we did in a couple of cars as a quick getaway from Boulder.  It is challenging, but certainly possible with high clearance SUVs, powerful engine, and experienced drivers who know how to find the best lines.  Have a tow cable/winch with one of the vehicles at least.

A skill I learned here was feathering with the brake (left foot) and gas (right foot) IF you are in an automatic.  This can help you crawl over difficult obstacles (like exiting the mud pit) while keeping your RPMs high for optimal torque.  This proved to be a very effective technique that I have employed since learning it here at Caribou Creek.

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A bit of flexing on my back axle.

Would I do this trail again?  Yeah!  It was short enough with plenty of hiking available around and on the trail that I didn’t feel bored just offorading.  It is close to Boulder and Nederland offers lots of other great hiking for after the offroading.

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