Fairplay, Colorado (Park) Technical Rating: 2-4
Last Updated: 03-22-2017
Pike National Forest/South Park Ranger District
Brown's Pass Highlights
Brown’s Pass is situated in the Pike National Forest a few miles south of Fairplay, Colorado. This area of South Park is remote and far less traveled than other passes, making it a desirable destination for weekend overland exploration. Brown’s Pass features moderate climbs and descents, with several connected roads providing spectacular views above the timberline. The Motor Vehicle User Map (MVUM) shows the road open year-round, however due to elevation, it often becomes impassible during winter.
Technical rating: (2-4) Easy
Rutted and/or rocky road. No shelves but rocks to 9". Water crossings usually less than hub deep. Passable mud. Grades moderate, up to 15 degrees. Side hill moderate up to 15 degrees. 4WD under most conditions. No width problems, vehicle passing spots frequently available if less than two vehicles wide.
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Directions to Trailhead
From Denver, take Highway 285 past Fairplay and turn right on County Road 20 for approximately one mile, then turn right on County Road 658, marked as Brown's Pass.
From Colorado Springs, take Highway 24 west to Hartsel, then Highway 9 north toward Fairplay. At the intersection with Highway 285 south of Fairplay, turn left for approximately two miles. Turn right on County Road 20 for approximately one mile, then turn right on County Road 658, marked as Brown's Pass.
Alternatively from both, drive Brown’s Pass as a loop combined with Breakneck Pass; proceed one mile further down Highway 285 to Highway 5, turn right for 1.75 miles, and look for Breakneck Pass trailhead markers on the right.
Brown’s Pass (FS Road 176) can be driven from east to west, or from west to east when combined with Breakneck Pass (FS Road 175) as a loop. The road features relatively easy conditions with a few rocky sections and occasional ruts and mud puddles. From the western trailhead (at FS Road 175) the road climbs immediately with a steep, rocky ascent. Prior to cresting the ridge, the grade moderates and transitions into a gradual descent through mixed forest. It emerges onto a high, rolling plain that travels briefly through private property and then intersects County Road 20, which takes you to U.S. Highway 285.
1: Upper Trailhead/Intersection FS Road 175 (0.0mi)
From FS Road 175, turn east onto FS Road 176 and proceed up the mountain.
2: Rocky Climb (0.1mi)
This is the most difficult part of Brown's Pass; it is a steep, narrow, and rocky climb (heading east). Be sure to leave a large interval between vehicles in case someone stalls.
3: Cabins (0.5mi)
The ascent becomes moderate here. Two dilapidated log cabins make a picturesque setting on the south side of the road.
4: Intersection FS Road 176.a (0.6mi)
Continue straight past the spur road on the north side of Brown's Pass. 176.A is a dead end road. If travelling in the direction of this guide, you will have glimpses of the valley below as you descend.
7: Intersection FS Road 179 (3.0mi)
Continue straight past the intersection with FS Road 179 on the north side of Brown's Pass Road. FSR 179 leads to hiking trails which traverse Sheep Mountain.
In accordance with USDA Forest Service Order, Number PSICC-2016-15 dated 1 November 2016 , numerous roads and trails are closed for a specified period.
Brown's Pass / FS Road 176 is closed to motor vehicle use, except as indicated, pursuant to the stated order for the period 1 January to 15 June, annually.
This area is part of Pike-San Isabel National Forest, and as such is part of the 2011 Lawsuit where a coalition of conservation and recreation groups are suing the U.S. Forest Service over what they say is the illegal addition of 500 miles of motorized roads and trails. A settlement was reached in late 2015 which requires the U.S. Forest Service to re-evaluate the roads and create a new travel management plan. Over the next year, 30 roads will be partially or completely closed while this evaluation proceeds over the next 5 years. It is imperative that the OHV community voices their interests on this issue. If we do nothing, those 500 miles may be shutdown. Contact the local Ranger Districts and let them know why the area is important to you.
Camping and Lodging
There are numerous dispersed campsites along Brown’s Pass and connecting/nearby trails. Some road segments are not suitable for camping due to the incline, however the large meadow near Sheep Creek is superb. Private property borders the National Forest to the south of Round Hill, so be aware of your location. The U.S. Forest Service maintains two campgrounds in the immediate area, both north of Sheep Mountain (accessed by County Road 18).