Middle Fork Swan River

4.9/5 (53 reviews)
Breckenridge, Colorado (Summit County)
Last Updated: 07/17/2022
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Trail Information

Highlights

The Middle Fork Swan River 4WD trail follows the river up its valley through picturesque pine forest and onto the high alpine tundra between Whale Mountain and Wise Mountain. From the high saddle, there are spectacular views with Breckenridge Ski Resort visible to the west, and the iconic Red Cone descent to the east.

Trail Difficulty and Assessment

Trail Navigation

The Middle Fork Swan 4WD trail begins as a tight, rocky, but easy road. The crux of the trail is a very rocky hill climb just above treeline, Tombstone Hill. This climb has several variations. A good stock truck, with good driving technique, taking the right line, can summit. However, a built rig, taking the hardest lines will find plenty of challenge. Note: The .gpx track offered here takes the easiest route. As noted in the waypoint descriptions below, there are some more challenging lines that will deviate a bit but should end up back on the track after the obstacle. Enjoy the challenge, but please stay the trail! After summiting at a high saddle, Middle Fork Swan traverses high tundra to intersect with several other, popular trails. Because of the challenge of Tombstone Hill, Middle Fork Swan is usually run from west to east, beginning near Breckenridge. Connecting to North Fork Swan River makes a loop. Continuing on Deer Creek or Saints John leads down to Montezuma. Cell service is nonexistent in the Swan River Valley and only spotty on the high tundra. The nearest emergency room is at St. Anthony Summit Medical Center (970-668-3300), located just off CO-9 south of Frisco. Summit County Sheriff office (970-453-2232) is on CO-9 in Breckenridge.

Trail Reviews

4.9/5 (53 reviews)
Status: Open
Rated 5/5
Visited: 09/04/2022
Difficulty Accuracy: Harder

Well, as I was heading up the bypass at Tombstone hill I thought to myself "I don't remember it being this hard, and it seems like more than a 4", but I'm still novice enough to not trust my opinion. But I feel a lot better reading Trint's 7/17 review down below. I think this is my favorite of any trail I've driven. Fun and challenging enough for me and tremendous views at the top. We combine with Sts. John for an awesome day. As a bonus there were several good-sized herds of mountain goats up there.
Trail Review: Middle Fork Swan River - charlie wanek
Trail Review: Middle Fork Swan River - charlie wanek
Status: Open
Rated 4/5
Visited: 08/19/2022
Difficulty Accuracy: Spot On

A nice, fairly easy way to come down (if you start on the Montezuma side).
Status: Open
Visited: 08/06/2022
Difficulty Accuracy: Harder

Great trail. Love the different options and challenges of tombstone hill. I agree with the last few review that it’s a little harder then described or rated. It was a good challenge for my Cherokee which now has lockers front and rear. Made it all the way to the top with no issues but could see it being more challenging with stock rigs. I did not take the easiest route to the top took the moderate route as I was alone. It’s a great way to connect to other very cool trails.
Status: Open
Visited: 08/02/2022
Difficulty Accuracy: Spot On

Didn't go all the way turned around after the first bypass at around 4.5 miles but what a ride! Definitely worth the trip for us city folks.
Status: Open
Rated 5/5
Visited: 07/26/2022
Difficulty Accuracy: Harder

Beautiful trail and loads of fun, really appreciate all the different options for tombstone hill for each skill level. 2000 Nissan Xterra, 2 in lift, 33s, front lunchbox, rear LSD. I tried a couple different spots and would have to agree with others that even the bypasses are around a 5. The rock shelf is doable stock but you'll be scraping or fighting your way up, I had to bump a few times on the passenger line and still ended up in the hole on the driver's side. But the first ledge of it is the toughest. Above this you do have to know ahead of time which way you want to go but most are similar. Steep, loose rocks/boulders eating up all your momentum and traction. I took the bypass around the last vertical part since I didn't have a spoter and there's still rocks that tip you towards the edge on a steep climb and then a wash out on a tight turn that tips you pretty far towards the downhill if you don't have the suspension travel to compensate. Past that it's steep enough that I had to keep on the gas to hold momentum on the rest of the loose rock up to the summit. Although admittedly my rig is pretty gutless compared to most with the stock 2:1 transfer case gears.
Trail Review: Middle Fork Swan River - Andrew Hunter
Trail Review: Middle Fork Swan River - Andrew Hunter

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