Tincup Pass

St. Elmo, Colorado (Chaffee County)

Last Updated: 07/03/2019
4.8 /5 ( 6 reviews )
Information
Nearby Trails
Status: Partially Open
Typically Open: Year Round
Permit Information: Permit Required - Click Here
Difficulty: 4-6
(MODERATE - DIFFICULT)
Length: 12.28 miles
Highest Elevation: 12115 feet
Duration: About 2 hours
Shape of Trail: Straight Through
Best Direction to Travel: N/A
Nearest Town: St. Elmo
Nearest Town w/ Services: Buena Vista
Official Road Name: 267
Management Agency: Gunnison National Foresat & San Isabel National Forest
District: Salida Ranger District
Distance:
Showing 0 trails within 2 miles

Highlights

Highlight: Tincup Pass

Cutting through two National Forests and crossing the Continental Divide at 12,154 feet, this off-road trail offers beautiful high alpine views while following the same route used by miners and prospectors searching for their fortunes in the late 1800's. This relatively easy route takes you from one historic mountain town, right into another. St. Elmo is a true ghost town that was built during the mining boom of the 1880's, while Tincup, originally called Virginia City, has been resurrected as a popular summer destination with many historic buildings still in use today.

Video

Weather

7 day forecast for Tincup Pass

Route Information

Advanced Rating System (BETA)

Recommended Vehicle:
Stock SUV with High Clearance and 4 Low
Concerns:

Technical Rating: 4-6
(MODERATE - DIFFICULT)

Rocky or undulated road surface. Potential rocks less than 36" tall and/or vertical ledges less than 36" tall and/or near vertical ledges or waterfalls less than 84" inches. Tire placement becomes more difficult. Can be steep and off-camber.

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Description

Tincup Pass can be ran from either side and neither direction makes the trip harder than the other direction. Starting in St. Elmo, follow signs through town to reach the start of the trail. The route is slightly rocky with a lot of smooth sections on the east side of the pass. Driving through the trees, you pass many awesome primitive camp spots that tend to fill up rather quickly during the weekends. Once above treeline, the trail narrows a bit with a few switchbacks that lead you across a shelf portion that can have snow covering it into early July. The north side of the pass is slightly more rocky than the south but is still relatively easy if you stay on the primary route. The route can be made more difficult if taking the old tincup route which has one large boulder section and is very narrow with overgrown brush. NOTE: The GPX track available here follows the hardest path through Old Tincup. If you are unsure of your rig's capabilities through this section, please stay on the primary route described in waypoint 8. Follow the trail down to a water crossing at Mirror Lake where it becomes a graded dirt road just past the parking area.
Boulders along the Old Tincup Route are much larger than the main Tincup route.

Waypoints

1. St. Elmo

Although considered a ghost town, St. Elmo is still inhabited and the general store welcomes visitors every summer. The town was once home to 2,000 people after it was founded in 1880. The declining mining industry of the 1920s, and the discontinued railroad service drastically changed the town, and by 1952, even the postal service was discontinued.

2. Right at Sign to Tincup Pass (0.03 mi)

In the center of town, turn north and follow the sign for Tincup Pass.

3. Left at sign for Tincup Pass (0.1 mi)

Just past the wooden bridge, turn left and head west, again following the sign for Tincup Pass.

4. Start of Trail (0.22 mi)

The offical start of the trail begins at FSR 267. Turn right, and head uphill following the rocky path.

5. Cross the Colorado Trail (3.98 mi)

The Colorado Trail is an established, marked, and mostly non-motorized trail open to hikers, horse riders, and bicyclists. From the eastern terminus at Waterton Canyon, southwest of Denver, the trail winds its way for 486 miles through the state's most mountainous regions, to its final conclusion, just north of Durango. Along the way, it passes through eight mountain ranges, six National Forests, and six wilderness areas. For more information, check out The Colorado Trail Foundation.

6. Hit Tree Line (5 mi)

As you approach the final climb up the pass, this would be a good location for a potty break as the trees thin out.

7. Tincup Pass (6.17 mi)

At 12,154 feet, you pass over the Continental Divide, leaving San Isabel National Forest and enter Gunnison National Forest. The area is large enough to accommodate many users without blocking the trail. To the southwest you will see Fitzpatrick Peak. To the northeast you see Emma Burr Mountain.

8. Old Tincup (6.77 mi)

If you are looking for more of a challenge, this is where Tincup gathers it's high end 6 rating. The primary route heads west at the FSR 267 marker, while the Old Tincup route heads north at this Y intersection. Old Tincup is a shorter distance route, but is much more difficult with large boulders and overgrown brush making it difficult to pass oncoming traffic.

9. Unknown Road (6.96 mi)

Along the Old Tincup route, stay right and continue downhill at this unknown road spur.

10. Return to Primary Route (7.22 mi)

Continue moving downhill as the two routes merge once again.

11. Mirror Lake (9.08 mi)

The road passes through the water on the southeast edge of Mirror Lake where the water levels will change depending on the time of year. Some years, the entire road along the east side of the lake can totally be submerged due to spring runoff. On the north end of the lake, you will find a small parking area usually filled with vehicles that brought up the many fisherman who fish the lake.

12. FS 765 (12.28 mi)

Tincup ends at FSR 765. Heading north will take you to Taylor Park and Cottonwood Pass leading you into Buena Vista. Heading south will take you over Cumberland Pass into Pitkin and towards the Alpine Tunnel.

Directions to Trailhead

Trailhead Coordinates: 38.703430, -106.345580

Starting Point: Johnson Village

Head south on Highway 285 for 6 miles. Just past Nathrop, head west on C.R. 162 for about 15 miles. Immediately after a parking area with a toilet, bear right and follow signs into St. Elmo. In the middle of town, turn right and follow signs to Tincup Pass. Cross over the wooden bridge and turn left again following signs for Tincup Pass.

Camping

Dispersed

Camping on the Pitkin side of the pass has been reevaluated as of May 2017. Please refer to THIS MAP for camping restrictions. There are many dispersed camping spots along both ends of the pass, many of them large enough for any size group. Please follow any fire bans that might be in place at the time. There are many developed campgrounds off CR 162, east of St. Elmo, including Iron City Campground, Cascade Campground, and many others.

Camping: Tincup Pass

Land Use Issues

Travel along the "Old Tincup" route mentioned in waypoint 8 requires an OHV Permit for ALL vehicles, including street legal plated vehicles. Visit the Colorado Parks & Wildlife website to read more information on how to purchase OHV registrations and permits, and the projects that the OHV Registration program funds, call (303) 791-1920, or visit one of the OHV Registration Locations.

Community

Trail Reviews (12)

Author: Official Crew
Status: Partially Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Forest Order PSICC-2019-19 has now been rescinded. Thanks to Colorado Off Road Enterprise and Mile-Hi Jeep Club working with the Salida Ranger district to clear the avalanche debris that closed the trail on the St Elmo side. The trail is mostly clear with a few patches of snow and very wet conditions up to treeline at waypoint 6. From this point on, snow fields are almost constant with a few patches of dirt. Snow is extremely deep and off camber before ever approaching the switchbacks. Please be sure to stay on the trail and drive over snow drifts and not around them at all. On the Tincup side, the road has been reported as flooded out due to high water in Mirror Lake.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Temporary Closure
Offroaded on:
Per Forest Order PSICC-2019-19, Tincup Pass is closed on the Salida Ranger District side (Waypoints 1-7) until September 1st, or until the order is rescinded. There are currently two large avalanches that cover the road in debris and those need to melt out and be cleared by heavy equipment before they will open the road. You can find the order here: https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd624784.pdf?fbclid=IwAR0F9JmIoQOrC5VRqdi5AGmG-Y94yTYRgj1g4Ve4kedoobF08y5x_7yDIZc and the map here: https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd624786.pdf?fbclid=IwAR1a9mcjz-x6Afr5yUPxDCaYjeuvpEQyfht2d6lp0bVfDb-AIUKCbCXETaw

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Great time! I love this trail and can't wait to go back. I met up with a group of dirt bikers that I work with at Taylor Park and ran the trail as simultaneously as is practical with a Jeep vs bikes - meaning I went through Tincup and they took a side trail to Mirror Lake, and I waited for them at the summit, then waited for them again for dinner in BV while they did another singletrack route. I do tend to disagree with the bottom end of the difficulty being a 3. I'm not really sure whether my track fell all or in part of the more difficult "Old Tincup" route but when I compare to other trails that fall into the 3-5 range (Cinnamon and Engineer Passes, Bull Park, etc), the size of the rocks doesn't feel like it deserves any less than a 5 - at least if you're going up from Tincup.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
My vehicle is an '02 Dodge Dakota 4x4. I visited Tincup Pass on 09/09/17 and had little trouble with the trail, so went back on 07/22/18 and found that the trail was a bit degraded due to erosion from the previous year, still I was able to drive the trail without using 4 whl drive. The scenery is great and the folks we met while traversing the Pass were great and mindful of the rules of the road. Numerous camping sites, many of which were occupied by people with large 4x4s and camping trailers. St Elmo Store is open from 9 am to 5 pm and will remain open until the end of September depending on the weather. Check their website for hours.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Ran this as our final trip of the day after running Hancock and Cumberland first. This giant loop makes for a long day, but it certainly is a fun one rich in history. We were running the trail in reverse of this guide. By the late afternoon, there wasn't a lot of traffic on the trail, but there were still a lot of people at Mirror Lake. We came up the Old Tincup route and going uphill on those boulders definitely challenges you. Fun day in the hills as always.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Trail was open and we didn't see any snow along the route. Didn't take the Old Tincup route and the rocks weren't anything to worry too much about. My 7 month old had the best nap of the last week on this drive.

Author:
Status: Partially Open
Offroaded on:
Trail was good today. Temps were in the 40s for the most part. The trail up to Tincup Pass was open and in good shape with only a couple of small trickles across the trail. Up on top the wind had picked up (of course). The trail after the pass was closed, not sure of the reason. That part of the trail looked much wetter than the St. Elmo side. Saw just a few tiny snowflakes along the way with some patches of snow in shady areas. When we made our way back down to St. Elmo, it started raining. I suspect that it was snowing up higher.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Open and beautiful. This trail has changed very little from year-to-year. My local 4X4 group visited the Buena Vista area for the week and this trail was our first choice. The trail was exceptionally busy with vehicles going both directions. We ran Tincup Pass from St. Elmo to the town of Tincup then back. Jeeps, ATV's and Side-by-sides were all abundant on the trail. Afternoon rain showers greeted our trip back to Buena Vista. The light rain knocked the dust for the trip.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Partially Open
Offroaded on:
Almost ready to summit. I ran the trail as part of the Set Them Free Off-road event which was held in the area during the first weekend of July. Tincup Pass was in great shape, until you reach the last few hundred yards at the summit. A large snow field still sits on the road waiting for the sun to do it's deed. We were able to walk across the snow field to the summit sign (Waypoint 7). The snow field is still about 200 yards long. Another few weeks will be necessary until the snow melts away. The ghost town of St. Elmo was busy with visitors. While on the trail, we needed to rescue a vehicle that teetered over the edge of the road. The impatient driver tried to pass in a narrow spot and put both passenger side wheels over the edge. Luckily for him, there were plenty of experienced wheelers there to get him back on the road.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Partially Open
Offroaded on:
It was an extremely warm day around the Collegiate Peaks. 4 of us on 37s+ with dual lockers and around 5lbs of air in the tires, headed up Tincup from St Elmo. The trail was very wet and soggy at the start with a little bit of snow here and there on the trail till about 2 miles in. At that point, it became mostly snow, with little dirt. The snow was about 2 feet deep until we reached tree line. At that point, it was easily 4'-5' deep. You can see in one of my photos my buddy is standing on the dirt while I take a photo at the snow level. You can barely see his head. There is a TON of snow up on the pass still. We were able to make it as far as we did because the snow was still very hard and our single digit tire pressures allowed us to float on top of the snow. Because of the amount of snow, I would not recommend traveling alone on this trail for the time being. Please stay on the trail and do not avoid snow drifts. There was evidence of this happening already. If you cannot get through the snow on the trail, turn around and try a different day. The first 2 miles of the trail have lots of open camping areas where we didn't see a single soul.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
It was day two of the Unlimited LJ Adventure and we started our day in St. Elmo in an effort to run Tincup Pass and one other trail that day. There was a ton of RZR traffic on the trail as we found out there was a RZR Rally in Taylor Park with some 650 people. The trail was totally dry and had many campers camping out on it, and although there was a lot of traffic, the trail is wide enough in most spots that we were able to continue moving even with oncoming traffic. We made it to the top, snapped some group photos, and continued down the Old Tincup route on our way to Mirror Lake.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
I have done this trail in a stock CJ-5 a few times. It is probably one of the more difficult trails in the Taylor area, besides Taylor Pass. Access to the trail depends on how high Mirror Lake is. A lot of the time you will have to ford through the lake. I believe you can see and or hike to the Fairview Peak Fire Lookout. The hike is a lot harder than it seems, and I have not done it.

Questions & Answers (2)

Q: could a '15 power wagon make the old Tin Cup trail? LArge truck - but comes with good 4x4 platform (front/rear locker and sway bar disconnect, etc.) Mine has 35" tires as well - thx
–Matt Rotter (01/20/2019)
A: Honestly, I am not sure, It is tight with some big boulders and if you get in there and decide it's not for you, there is no place to turn around. All of the boulders are on the north end so if you are coming from Mirror Lake, you can easily park on the main route and walk in a little ways to decide for yourself if you can make it.
–Ryan Boudreau (01/21/2019)
Q: Is it possible to bypass Old Tincup Pass Road, and continue on FSR 267?
–Tony (07/16/2018)
A: Absolutely. Old Tin Cup is 100% optional. Sticking to the primary route keeps the rating at about a 3-4.
–Ryan Boudreau (07/16/2018)

Writer Information

Ryan Boudreau

Mapping Crew - Colorado

Hi, I'm Ryan! I am a Colorado native and I've been wheeling since I was 16 years old. I grew up with a relentless passion for all things Jeep and off road related, and that passion has never died out. I am a member of the Mile-Hi Jeep Club, Patrol 16 Sasquatch Jeepers and currently own an '06 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited (LJ) nicknamed "Minion". I am a huge supporter of Stay the Trail and Tread Lightly, and have participated and even been in charge of many trail restoration projects. I have been a trail leader several times for events such as All-4-Fun, ColoradoFest, Set Them Free, 14er Fest, and other. I am also the creator of the Unlimited LJ Adventure. My rig is built for extreme offroading, but I love to get my tires dirty on any kind of trail whether it's rock crawling or just scenic high Alpine drives. I've wheeled all over the country including Colorado, Utah, Kansas, the Carolinas, AZ, and I have even ran the historic Rubicon Trail. I love a great adventure, and love even more to share those adventures with others. If you see the "minion" out on the trail, make sure to stop and say hello.