Birdseye Gulch

Leadville, Colorado (Lake County)
Last Updated: 10/10/2017
5/5 (1 review)
Nearby Trails
Status: Impassable
Typically Open: Year Round
Difficulty: 5-5
Length: 4.6 miles
Highest Elevation: 12118 feet
Duration: About 2 hours
Shape of Trail: Straight Through
Best Direction to Travel: South
Nearest Town: Leadville
Nearest Town w/ Services: Leadville
Official Road Name:
Management Agency:
District: Leadville Ranger District
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Highlight: Birdseye Gulch

Located just outside of the highest incorporated city in US, this 4wd off-road trail combines every feature of a classic Jeep road. Birdseye is narrow, rocky, steep, with standing water in places, creek crossings, gorgeous high alpine views, and even some mud. This trail is a side trip off of Mosquito Pass and a much more interesting route than taking the county road up from Leadville.


Route Information

Technical Rating: (5-5)

Rutted and/or rocky road. No shelves. Rocks up to 12" and water crossings up to 12" with possible currents. Passable mud. Moderate grades to 15 degrees. 6" holes. Side hill to 20 degrees. 4WD required. No width problems.

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Birdseye can be run in either direction, but we found that running it up hill from highway 91 makes the trip a bit more challenging. Start on the valley floor weaving your way around private property before entering dense forest and climbing a rocky, narrow road uphill between Mosquito Peak and Prospect Mountain. Work your way through the trees, across the creek, and even over a set of railroad tracks for an active tourist train. Just as you think the trail is opening up, it surprises you with a stretch of slightly tippy trail leaning you towards the gulch below. Back into more dense forest with slightly larger rocks and more standing water. You finally surpass treeline and start your trek across the alpine tundra and work your way towards the top of the ridge. Once you have crested the ridge, you are now free to explore the many other dirt roads and trails in the area.

Seasonal Information

Spring:Trail is impassable due to snow
Summer:Snow can linger early in the summer but the trail is usually open and snow free July through September
Fall:Snow will begin falling and making the trail impassable as early as October
Winter:Trail is impassable due to snow


1. Start of Birdseye Gulch

Between mile markers 5 & 6, on the east side of highway 91, look for a dirt road leaving the highway and crossing under the power lines. Immediately after leaving the highway, there will be a black mailbox on your left marked, "5340". This wide area is the ideal location to air down.

2. Creek Crossing (1.3 mi)

After some climbing through the trees for a little bit, you make a hard 90° left turn and come to this gorgeous water crossing. The water at this crossing should be easily passable by any stock 4x4 even during peak runoff.

3. Railroad Crossing (1.41 mi)

Shortly after the river crossing, you come across a railroad crossing. This is an active crossing for the Leadville Colorado & Southern Railroad. The train moves very slowly and also blasts it's horn while coming to the crossing, so do not feel like you have to rush across the tracks to beat a high-speed train. This train takes you on a 2.5hr journey through the woods to the continental divide along the historic route of past miners. Departure times from Leadville very depending on the month. Check out the link above for more info.

4. Stay Right (2.06 mi)

Stay right and go southwest at the first Y intersection you reach after the railroad crossing and climb uphill to stay on the main trail. Going to the left leads you to a few, high alpine secluded camping spots.

5. Steep, Loose, Rocky Climb (2.19 mi)

This rocky climb could be a challenge for low clearance, stock SUVs. Vehicles with good clearance should find it to be no problem.

6. Repaired Mud Bog (3.08 mi)

Once the location of the famous mud bog, this area was repaired by a local Jeep Club using funds from the Colorado State Parks OHV Sticker Fund.

7. Stay Left (4.27 mi)

Stay left and go east as you crest the top of the ridge. At this point you will see Mosquito Pass climbing the switchbacks in front of you. Turning right and heading west here will take you on a short trip to the top of 12,500ft Prospect Mountain.

8. Intersect with Mosquito Pass (4.6 mi)

Turn right here and head west to go down into Leadville, or go left and head east to continue over Mosquito Pass and into Alma. Lakes you will pass heading down to Leadville include Mountain Lake, Diamond Lake and Conley Lake.

Directions to Trailhead

Trailhead Coordinates: 39.314890, -106.224890
From Denver, take I-70 west to highway 191 south. The trail head is on the left, shortly after mile marker 6. From Leadville, take highway 191 north. The trail head is on the right, 5.4 miles from the intersection of highway 91 and highway 24. If you reach mile marker 6, you have gone too far.


Dispersed camping can be found in a number of areas along Birdseye Gulch. There are also a number of hotels located in Leadville.
Camping: Birdseye Gulch

Writer Information

Ryan Boudreau

Mapping Crew - Colorado
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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.


Questions & Answers (2)

Q: Are ATV's allowed to go over Mosquito Pass?
–Sandy Rothe (07/04/2017)
A: We started a few miles west of Alma and unloaded utvs and atvs before mine and creek crossing. At mine is was tricky to find the trailas someone (mine?) had called it off. We went around the cable over the pass to Leadville and back. Take the side trip north at the top of the pass if you are narrow enough and have the balls. On way back across the pass headed East we someohow avoided the cable and the trail dumped us right onto county road near our trucks and trailer. This was maybe 4 or 5 years ago
–ted (04/16/2018)
A: We have seen atvs on the west side of the pass, but you would need to contact Leadville Ranger District to get a concrete ruling on the legality of them on that road. South Park Ranger District is the controlling jurisdiction on the east side. I would check with them too.
–Ryan Boudreau (07/05/2017)
Q: Is Birdseye Gulch closed seasonally? Can't find that info or I missed it. Thanks for a great site!!
–Adam (02/09/2017)
A: If by seasonally closed you mean, does it have a gate? Then no, there are no seasonal gates on Birdseye. We do not have a current report on the trail, but it is covered in snow and listed as partially open due to the fact it does not have a gate but is not passable from beginning to finish due to snow.
–Ryan Boudreau (02/09/2017)

Trail Reviews (1)

Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Overall a fun trail with a good mix of challenges including of rocks, mud/water, and side hill sections. I ran the trail from the Mosquito Pass end (so going downhill). Overall the trail is fairly rough. I was aired down to about 16psi and would definitely recommend doing so on this trail if you can. Some key things that I can mention: - There are in many places bypasses or multiple line options at the tricky sections if you're not comfortable with some of the looser rocks. - In the rock gardens, there are a few jagged rocks that stick out on either side in places, so watch your sidewalls (and wheels, if you care about them). - There are also a few longer sections (1/8 to 1/4 mile maybe?) of trail in the wooded part that are narrow and have no room for passing, so keep an eye out for pull-offs that you could access by backing up if necessary to allow passing oncoming traffic. (Sorry my pictures are blurry. Phone camera couldn't handle the low light as I ran this near sunset).