Picture this: You’re in the Colorado Rockies driving on Black Bear Pass, elevation 12,840 feet. The views are picture-postcard perfect, especially Bridal Veil Falls! You have to stop to admire the view, even if it causes a bit of a traffic jam: Overlooking the town of Telluride, complete with a power station on top, the falls cascade down 365-feet, making them the tallest in Colorado (and the power generated by the falls produces 25 percent of the electricity used in Telluride).
While the views are second to none, that’s not what makes this moment special – it’s the fact that it’s part of the 8th Annual FJ Summit and you’re sharing this experience with a group of like-minded off-road enthusiasts who enjoy taking their Toyotas into the real world and enjoying everything nature has to offer. This year, there were 330 vehicles and 805 participants from 42 different states, four countries and two continents making the FJ Summit a global success!
To investigate what it’s like driving the trails around Ouray, Colorado during the FJ Summit, TRD sent Ted Moncure, TRD Product Development Manager, to discover first-hand how much fun the Toyota drivers had at the 2014 FJ Summit. Ted was the perfect person for the job as his job at TRD is coming up with new products that appeal to Toyota owners, so attending events like the FJ Summit allow him to get feedback directly from owners (and in this case, enthusiastic owners).
“The first time anyone attends an event like this, they are blown away,” said Ted. “There is so much to see and do… plus, this is truly a family event. It attracts hard-core off-road enthusiasts, as everyone drives their FJ or 4Runner to the event – there are no trailer queens here. Plus, many bring along their kids and dogs, too. The most fun is sitting around at the end of each day listening to everyone’s stories about the trails they drove that day, or the modifications they have made to their Toyota.”
Again, because this is organized as a family event, in many cases, the wives get a chance to drive, too. Ted added, “The wives love it… they can drive the trails and then they truly understand why off-roading is so much fun!”
Off-roading is very popular in the land down under, and in Australia, the FJ has a cult-like following. So when the legend of the FJ Summit reached Oz, Toyota Australia (the local Toyota distributor) decided to send a contingent to the event. The group included two Toyota Australia employees plus a group of Australian automotive journalists who tagged along to see what this celebration was all about.
All who attended the FJ Summit were in awe of the scenery and trails around Ouray. Trent Nikolic, CarAdvice.com.au, said, “After a weekend of climbing, we had hit the summit of six peaks taller than 3900m. Think sheer drops of more than 1000m on one side, and sheer cliffs higher than 1000m on the other - not for the fainthearted, and no place for soft-roaders either". Probably the most enthusiastic journalist was Sally Dominguez, reporting for Drive.com.au, as she said it was one of the best events she had ever attended. Who knows, there might be a whole lot more Aussies in attendance in 2015!
The beauty of the FJ Summit is that participants have total freedom to do what they want to do during the event, with the most popular activity being driving on one of the many trails around Ouray. In fact, these trails are considered some of the best off-road routes in the U.S. – everything from high mountain passes to winding roads highlighted by spectacular wildflowers. Plus, the trails range from easy to difficult, so drivers can select the ones that are just right for them. According to Ted, here are some of the trails you want to try during the next FJ Summit: California Pass/Corkscrew Gulch, Black Bear Pass, Poughkeepsie Gulch, and Imogene Pass/Yankee Boy Basin.
A lot of people don’t realize that the FJ Summit is a non-profit event and much of the money generated during the event goes back to the community. In fact, one of the highlights of the event is the FJ Summit raffle, which included over $40,000 in raffle prizes this year.
Another highlight is the Ouray Volunteer Fire Department Car Wash – they bring out their big ladder truck, then use “the big hose” to blow the mud off dirty Toyotas. Donations also help fund the Ouray High School Women’s Volleyball team – this is truly a global event that has a strong local impact.
The event also grants two $1,000 FJ Summit Scholarships each year to local high school students – and this year, the students and their families were in attendance at the event!
Now that the 2014 event is in the books, the organizers are busy laying the groundwork for the 2015 event. The FJ Summit is a rare opportunity to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and spend five days surrounded by off-road Toyota enthusiasts, enjoying some of the most picturesque terrain the earth has to offer.
There are very few stock FJ Cruisers and 4Runners at the FJ Summit as everyone enjoys putting their own personal stamp on their vehicle. When it comes to TRD accessories, one of the most popular at the FJ Summit are TRD wheels. These Toyota owners told us the reason they prefer TRD wheels over aftermarket wheels are because they deliver factory fit and finish, plus, they are designed for the serious off-roader.