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INDEPENDENCE TRAIL SYSTEM

By Lee Arney

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Independence Trails
Chris Overacker negotiating one of the steep ledges leading to the trails.
Just 30 miles southwest of Colorado Springs is one of Colorado's toughest hardcore rockcrawling trails. The Independence Trail system currently consists of three patriotically named trails; Freedom Trail, Liberty Trail and Patriot Trail. In late August, three of us decided to salute these trails and leave a little red, white, and blue paint on the rocks.

The gang
Chris Overacker wheeled his 1995 YJ equipped with 35" Goodyears and an Atlas II transfer case bolted to an automatic transmission. This combo sends power to a Dana 30 locked front and Ford 8.8 locked rear end.

Kevin McGothlin brought his freshly stretched 1995 YJ, sporting 39.5" Swampers and Detroit Locker-filled Dynatrac ProRock 60s at each end.

Our 1998 TJ was ready with 38.5" SX tires turned by a spooled D60R rear and ARB'd Dana 44 front. A 700r4 and Tera-Low transfer case do the initial gear reduction duties.

Independence Trails
Ascending the steep ledges requires careful planning and maneuvering.
The Trail System
This trail system begins with three large ledges which need to be negotiated to drop down into the canyon where Liberty and Patriot begin. Each of these trails ends by climbing out of the canyon, so going down the ledges is required to enter the next trail. These obstacles demand alert spotting and careful tire placement due to the imminent possibility of a rollover. After the ledges, a short trip up the trail requires a choice between Liberty or Patriot trails. Signs mark the trials and we chose to do Patriot first. On the first obstacle into Patriot, Kevin's hubs blew, requiring a trip to Colorado Springs for replacements. While our friend went shopping, Chris and I wandered up this difficult, obstacle-rich trail in roughly four hours.

By the time we finished Patriot, Kevin had the new hubs purchased and bolted on, so we tackled descending the ledges again and took on Liberty. Liberty is longer than Patriot but not as difficult, however, there are plenty of fun technical challenges.

After Liberty, we helped Kevin over Patriot and then headed down the Freedom trail. This trail is a short bypass trip with a nice ledge at the top. Freedom dropped us off at the top of the three steep ledges entering the canyon.

Since all of the trails had been conquered and there was plenty of sun left, we decided to try going up the ledges. Chris sat out on this one, so Kevin and I gave them a shot. The winch line came out for both of us on the bottom ledge, but we climbed the remaining two unaided. The three of us had an absolute riot on these trails.

Independence Trails
With a few line modifications, Liberty can provide a few serious challenges.
Independence Trails
Kevin McGothlin on his side on Patriot. With the help of a strap, Kevin was able to drive out of this predicament.

How to Get There
The Independence Trail system is located near Penrose, Colorado. Penrose is on SR115. Just north of town SR115 curves to the east. Watch for the sign to Brush Hollow Reservoir and turn west onto 3rd Street. After two blocks, turn right, or north, on E. Street and follow it out into the country. After dropping into a small valley and starting the climb out, the road crosses a cattle guard marked with a stack of tires on both sides. This begins BLM land. The next left is the parking lot for the trail system. It would be difficult to miss the large metal sign marking the trail entrance.

WARNING: These trails are very extreme and should not be tackled by the inexperienced and/or poorly-equipped wheeler.

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