Brown's Pass

Fairplay, Colorado (Park County)
Last Updated: 01/04/2018
5/5 (1 review)
Nearby Trails
Status: Impassable
Typically Open: 06/15 - 12/31
Difficulty: 2-4
Length: 4.2 miles
Highest Elevation: 11200 feet
Duration: About 1 hour
Shape of Trail: Connector
Best Direction to Travel: East
Nearest Town: Fairplay
Nearest Town w/ Services: Fairplay
Official Road Name: 176
Management Agency: Pike National Forest
District: South Park Ranger District
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Highlight: Brown's Pass

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. Brown's Pass closes seasonally each year from January 1 to June 15th.


Route Information

Technical Rating: (2-4)

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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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.

Seasonal Information

Spring:Closed seasonally each spring through June 15th
Summer:Trail is usually dry and dusty
Fall:Trail is usually dry and dusty
Winter:Usually impassible due to snow


1. Upper Trailhead/Intersection FS Road 175

From FS Road 175, turn east onto FS Road 176 and proceed up the mountain.

2. Rocky Climb (0.1 mi)

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 (0.5 mi)

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 (0.6 mi)

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.

5. Private Road (1.5 mi)

Proceed straight past this private access road.

6. Clearing (2.7 mi)

Proceed through the clearing, but take the time to appreciate the views!

7. Intersection FS Road 179 (3 mi)

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.

8. Intersection FS Road 178 (3.4 mi)

Continue straight past FS Road 178.

9. Lower Trailhead/End at Intersection County Road 20 (4.2 mi)

The dirt road merges into an improved surface road; continue east toward Highway 285. There is a large parking area, suitable for 9-10 vehicles, where you can air-up tires and secure equipment.

Directions to Trailhead

Trailhead Coordinates: 39.173050, -106.107652

Starting Point: Fairplay

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.


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). Fourmile Campground Horseshoe Campground
Camping: Brown's Pass

Land Use Issues

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.

Writer Information

Tracy Barker

Mapping Crew - Colorado
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Tracy is an outdoor enthusiast originally from north Alabama. Tracy's family moved to central Utah when he was a child, and subsequently to southern Utah. These family moves established a precedent, of sorts, as Tracy has lived in numerous states over the past three decades. Tracy is determined now, however, to settle down in Colorado Springs. His favorite activities are family trail rides and camping with small groups. This, too, is a precedent started many years ago in dad's pickup truck, followed by Tracy's first 4x4 acquisition, a 1975 Ford Bronco. Tracy aspires to climb some of Colorado's venerable 14'ers while traveling some of the notable and not-so-well-known 4x4 trails in the Centennial State. He's excited about contributing to Trails Offroad because the site and fellow contributors are committed to meet a critical 4-wheel drive enthusiast requirement--current and accurate trail data.


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Trail Reviews (2)

Status: Open
Offroaded on:
We did this trail in tandem with Breakneck Pass. Brown's Pass is very mild, mostly pretty smooth, and easy to navigate. Very dry and dusty right now. There are a few narrow spots where passing oncoming vehicles may require backing up to find a pull-off spot. There are a lot of trees and bushes close to the trail.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
I ran Browns and Breakneck Pass while looking for a camping spot. Both trails are clear, and are completely dry and dusty. They could use a little rain to do away with some dust. After strong winds, there could possibly be trees down on either trail so plan accordingly.