Schofield Pass

Marble, Colorado (Gunnison County)

Last Updated: 09/19/2021
4.9 / 5 ( 19 reviews )
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Highlights

Highlight: Schofield Pass
Schofield Pass is one of Colorado's most notable four-wheel drive roads. Situated between Crested Butte and Marble, Schofield Pass Road features granite mountain peaks, expansive meadows, dense forests, wildlife, wildflowers, and the ice-cold Crystal River. It connects numerous other popular roads and trails (Paradise Divide, Lead King Basin, and the Crystal City Trail), not to mention the historic mountain towns and their unique attractions. Make a point to include Schofield Pass among your must-see summer four-wheeling destinations.

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Route Information

Advanced Rating System

Recommended Vehicle:
Stock SUV with High Clearance and 4 Low
Concerns:
Summary:
Conditions change frequently on the "Devil's Punchbowl" segment between Waypoints 5 (rock obstacle) and 6 (bridge) making this segment the most difficult portion of Schofield Pass.

Technical Rating

MANDATORY
4
MODERATE
OPTIONAL
4
MODERATE
Typically, more rock or undulated road surface. Potential rocks and/or tree stumps less than 18" tall and/or vertical ledges less than 18" tall and/or near vertical ledges or waterfalls less than 36" inches. Tire placement becomes more difficult. Can be steep and off-camber.
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Community Consensus

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Description

Schofield Pass is an iconic 4WD road featuring rock, water crossings, and the infamous shelf road segment through Crystal Canyon known as the Devil's Punchbowl. From the southeastern trailhead (intersection of Gothic Road and Slate River Road), the road travels through an enormous meadow (Schofield Park) which transitions to pine forest as it descends toward Crystal Canyon. Where the road enters the canyon (aka Devil's Punchbowl) the terrain becomes very rocky with much fewer trees. The road is perched atop a narrow shelf that parallels the Crystal River. Sometimes the road is merely 10 feet above the river, elsewhere it is 300 feet, but always a perilous steep grade. Beyond the Devil's Punchbowl, the road and river diverge. The road re-enters the forest canopy and soon merges with the Crystal City Trail at the eastern trailhead to Lead King Basin, roughly one-half mile east of Crystal. Notes on SEASONAL CLOSURE: Schofield Pass (FS Road 317 in the Gunnison National Forest) closes seasonally February 28th to July 1st each year. The seasonal designated closure is from the village of Gothic north to the boundary with White River National Forest. See the latest published MVUM (2016) online here: https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd514897.pdf Schofield Pass (FS Road 314 in the White River National Forest) closes November 22nd to May 21st each year from Mile Post 8.1 (at the intersection of FS Road 315, Lead King Basin) south/southeast to Mile Post 17.3 (boundary with Gunnison National Forest). See the latest published MVUM (2017) here: https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd506000.pdf
Narrow shelf road within the Devil's Punchbowl segment, with few places to allow traffic to pass. Remember: UPHILL has the right of way. Narrow corridor of pin-stripe willows between Waypoint 4 and Waypoint 5.

Waypoints

1. Trailhead (0 mi)
The southeast trailhead is approximately one-half mile from Schofield Park, where the Slate River Road and Gothic Road intersect.
2. West Maroon Parking Area (0.6 mi)
Continue straight past the parking area.
3. Warning Sign (2 mi)
Continue straight past the "Rough Road--4WD Recommended" warning sign. There is a parking area for low clearance vehicles. This sign exists because the road from Crested Butte to this point is suitable for low clearance/2WD vehicles.
4. Water Crossing (2.1 mi)
Proceed though the stream, conditions permitting. Water depth and velocity varies depending upon season and recent precipitation.
5. Rock Obstacle (3 mi)
This point is notorious for rock slides so be aware that conditions change frequently.
6. Bridge (3.3 mi)
Continue straight across the bridge. It is narrow and somewhat intimidating, so a ground guide/spotter may increase your confidence.
7. End (4.5 mi)
The Schofield Pass Road ends where it intersects with the Crystal City trail, at the eastern trailhead for Lead King Basin. Turn up the switchback to Lead King Basin, or proceed straight to Crystal and the iconic Crystal Mill.

Directions to Trailhead

Starting Point: Glenwood Springs

Schofield Pass can be driven from either direction--northwest to southeast (uphill) or southeast to northwest (downhill). The northwestern trailhead is one-half mile east of Crystal, at the end of the Crystal City Trail where it intersects with Lead King Basin. The southeastern trailhead is accessed from Crested Butte via either branch of the Paradise Divide (Slate River Road or Gothic Road) where the two intersect with Schofield Pass Road, roughly half a mile southeast of the parking area for the West Maroon hiking trail. From Glenwood Springs, drive south to Carbondale on Highway 82, and then continue south on County Road 133 toward Redstone. Five miles beyond Redstone, turn east on Highway 3 toward Marble. In Marble, at the intersection of Second Street and Silver Street, turn east toward Beaver Lake; this is the Crystal City Trail. Follow it past the Crystal Mill and Crystal to the three way intersection with Lead King Basin and Schofield Pass. From Crested Butte, travel north on Gothic Road (County Road 317) to the intersection with Slate River Road (County Road 734). Proceed straight on CR 317, or turn left on CR 734. These roads form an approximate 25-mile loop (Paradise Divide), converging one-half mile south of Schofield Park. The Schofield Pass Road begins where these intersect (where the brown Forest Service sign indicates "Schofield Park").

Camping

Dispersed
Improved
Designated
Schofield Pass has plenty of dispersed campsites especially on the higher elevation portion in the vicinity of West Maroon Trailhead before dropping into Crystal River Canyon (the Devil's Punchbowl). Unfortunately, there are few on the lower portion (toward Crystal) where much of the land adjacent to the road is private property. Dispersed camping is permitted on Lead King Basin and the northern portion of the Paradise Divide (connecting roads), as well as Daisy Pass Road (nearby road). Designated campsites can be found on the eastern portion of Paradise Divide (Gothic Road), as well as the Oh Be Joyful Campground (fee sites) on the western portion (Slate River Road).
Camping: Schofield Pass

Trail Reviews (31)

Questions & Answers (11)

Q: This trail is rated as a 4/4 and when driving it, seems way more difficult than any other 4/4. It is also touted as the most dangerous road in CO. Shouldn't the rating be higher?
–Patrick Dodge (07/26/2021)
A: Answering my own question as I ran the trail again. While it is a tough trail, it is certainly more psychological with its narrow shelfs than it is technical.
–Patrick Dodge (08/30/2021)
Q: The description of Waypoint 5 says, "This rock slide obstacle was moved and now is merely a bump in the road." Is this a recent update? Has the large rock been moved sufficiently to where you don't have to drive over it? I have a GX 460 with 2.5" lift and 32's. I'd really like run that gorgeous trail, but I'm not sure I have the clearance to drive my passenger side over that rock. Thanks!
–Dean Pecce (07/24/2021)
A: Dean, no that text was updated long ago (see my trail review photos dated 8/28/2017). I will update the text today. For the most recent photo of that spot, see Moe's trail review below (dated 7/7/2021). The boulder closest to the river has been exposed by more soil erosion; another boulder has fallen from above creating a new obstacle (see photo in Bill's trail report below dated 8/17/2020).
–Tracy Barker (07/25/2021)
Q: Is it possible to get a 12ft teardrop trailer on 31s through here. From the pictures the rock obstacle is the main concern. If not, is there a place near the NW trailhead to leave it?
–Nate (07/22/2020)
A: I would not recommend taking a trailer of any type along this trail, let alone a 12 foot teardrop. The trail is extremely tight from Crystal City, all the way through the climb above the Devils Punchbowl. There are not many large pullouts to pass oncoming traffic so you would be at the mercy of everyone else getting out of your way. This is NOT a good trail for a trailer. There are plenty of places near Crystal City to leave the trailer.
–Ryan Boudreau (07/24/2020)
A: Nate, it's possible but may require some significant stacking at the rock obstacle. If you're not traveling solo, a buddy can spot for you and stack rocks as necessary. If you are solo, it will take longer to spot, move, stop, and stack. The latter is more precarious because if you get stuck then you have no immediate aid and will be at the mercy of the first passer-by. If you choose to park the teardrop near the NW trailhead, I'd recommend the town of Crystal. There is a wide area on the east side sufficient to park it for a couple of hours up and back down the Punchbowl. An alternate route to Crested Butte, if you are starting on the north side (Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, Redstone) is to use Kebler Pass (County Road 12).
–Tracy Barker (07/23/2020)
Q: Any recent traveler through Schofield Pass? I want to plan a trip on 4th July weekend. Is there any trails closed due to COVID19 or road way issues?
–Jerry Mendoza (06/28/2020)
A: Jerry, sorry for the late reply, but Schofield is open.
–Tracy Barker (07/13/2020)
Q: Hello, I’m interested in running this in my stock Tacoma in July 2020. But I saw the post from steven last September that says the rock obstacle is still an issue without rock sliders, which I don’t yet have. He even posted some pictures. But I also note that there are 2 answers to questions make it seem like it’s been cleared in 2018. Could you clarify please and thanks in advance?
–Dehru Cromer (06/18/2020)
A: Dehru, yes the rock obstacle at WP5 is probably going to be an issue. I was there last September (see trip report dated 9/12/2019 with white Land Cruiser photo on the rock) and several of us scraped the sliders. My friend with the white Land Cruiser had no sliders, so we stacked rocks on both uphill side and downhill side--with some finesse and spotting he made it over without scraping (2.5" suspension lift, 33" tires). In the summer of 2017, it appeared that the FS had built a dirt berm to minimize this obstacle (see pictures of my stock Isuzu Trooper on the obstacle in the trip report dated 8/28/2017). If you stack rocks for clearance, but sure to disperse them after you drive over. Another tip--before descending, park at the top and walk down to scout the obstacle, and also to make sure no traffic is coming up; uphill has the "right of way" so be sure the road is clear before committing.
–Tracy Barker (06/19/2020)
Q: There is a recent Sep 12, 2019 video of a motorcycle rider falling off of the trail (with bike included). Is this the same trail? The trail looks very rocky and narrow in spots. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlb8ic6ivcg&fbclid=IwAR1aWMSIaNir-EQ8ttLReSn99cuJsfbKZ095XEqh1FWrNaJNLaxvmR1kNEM
–Marc Nitz (09/13/2019)
A: Yes, this is the same trail (Devil's Punchbowl is a segment of the Schofield Pass). In fact, we went down the Punchbowl on Thursday, 9-12-2019, literally minutes after the motorcycle was retrieved/recovered from the river. As we started down, a motorcycle came up and told us that the recovery was almost complete and asked us to give them 20-30 minutes before proceeding. We waited mid-way down and subsequently met the recovery crew in Crystal. We got to see the actual bike, too. You can see more photos and videos at Roads_End_Adventures (David Phillips) on Instagram.
–Tracy Barker (09/16/2019)
Q: 8/6/19 About to try Paradise Divide and Scholfield Pass tomorrow from Crested Butte but would like an opinion as I know the season has been pushed back this year. Last note this year in late June was that it was impassable. Would welcome any update.
–Gregg Macaluso (08/06/2019)
A: Still impassable from the Crested Butte side. The slide on there end has not been cleared.
–Ryan Boudreau (08/07/2019)
Q: Hey there, Planning to do this in a few days from Marble to CB. I should be fine in my 5th Gen 4runner yeah? 2.5 in lift and fully skidded...
–Ashton Ray Hansen (08/13/2018)
A: Yes, you'll have no problems--just pick good lines going up/down the Devil's Punchbowl section to avoid scrapes on the skids. I've done it in my stock 1988 Isuzu Trooper on 29" All-Terrains (hit the skids a few times, haha).
–Tracy Barker (08/15/2018)
Q: Has the rock that fell at devils punchbowl been cleared from the trail?
–Dean gross (07/14/2018)
A: Yes, please see trip report/trail review below--rock slide was reported clear on June 26th.
–Tracy Barker (08/10/2018)
Q: Hi Tracy, thanks so much for the detailed updates. Do you know if the rockfall has been cleared or is the USFS "open" status really only intended for motos currently? -Thanks in advance.
–Tim (07/02/2018)
A: Tim, yes I called the Carbondale Office today (July 5th) to verify it is open to 4x4 vehicles.
–Tracy Barker (07/05/2018)
Q: Just out of curiosity, if you were to take the road from the Marble side/Lead King road side, could you still get a ways in enough to find some nice dispersed camping?
–Tony T (06/18/2018)
A: The marble side has fewer sites for dispersed camping due to the topography (Valley with a river) and the fact that much of the area is marked private property. Beyond Crystal and the eastern end of Lead King, there isn't much due to the sloped rocky ground. There is a pull-out at the bottom of Devil's Punchbowl, very close to the narrow bridge.
–Tracy Barker (06/22/2018)

Writer Information

Tracy Barker

Mapping Crew - Colorado

Tracy is an outdoor enthusiast originally from north Alabama. His family moved to central Utah when Tracy was a child, and subsequently to southern Utah, where he fell in love with the Rocky Mountains. His favorite activities are family trail rides and camping with small groups. He started many years ago in his dad's F-150 pickup truck, and subsequently his own 4x4 acquisition, a 1975 Ford Bronco (in 1991).
For individual use only, not to be shared.