Fairplay, Colorado (Park) Technical Rating: 1-4
Last Updated: 03-22-2017
Weston Pass, Brown's Pass , South Park: FS Road 426, South Park: FS Road 173
Pike National Forest/South Park Ranger District
Breakneck Pass Highlights
Breakneck Pass and nearby roads are hidden gems among Colorado four-wheel drive roads along the U.S. Highway 285 corridor. Breakneck Pass features easy to moderate climbs and descents, but surprisingly reaches above timberline into a bowl southwest of Sheep Mountain. This stretch provides amazing views in all directions. This area of South Park is remote and far less traveled than other passes, making it a desirable destination for weekend overland exploration. The Motor Vehicle User Map (MVUM) shows the road open year-round, however due to elevation, it likely becomes impassible during winter.
Technical rating: (1-4) 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 Highway 5. Take this easy dirt road for 1.7 miles to signs for Breakneck Pass on the right.
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 five miles. Turn right on Highway 5 for 1.7 miles to signs for Breakneck Pass on the right.
Breakneck Pass is relatively easy with a few rocky sections and occasional ruts and mud puddles. From the trailhead at County Road 5, the road climbs gradually for about two miles, then begins a steep ascent. Once atop the saddle between Round Hill and Sheep Ridge, the road turns and descends gradually into the valley below, traveling parallel to Sheep Creek in a northwesterly direction. At the northern end, beyond the intersection with FS Road 176 (Brown’s Pass), the road becomes very rocky and climbs west toward a massive bowl, facing Horseshoe Mountain (elev. 13,905’) in the distance.
1: Trailhead (0.0mi)
The trailhead is clearly marked with Forest Service signs. There is adequate space here to air-down tires and double-check equipment.
2: National Forest Boundary (1.6mi)
Continue straight across the cattle guard and beyond the fence marking the National Forest boundary.
3: Hill Climb (2.9mi)
After a peaceful stroll through the woods, the road climbs sharply with rutted culverts and loose rocks.
4: Breakneck Pass (3.4mi)
Continue straight on Breakneck Pass as the terrain levels-out; there is an old unmarked trail to the left which is not on the Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM), so consider it an unauthorized road.
6: Scenic (4.6mi)
This point is where the foliage gets thin and enables a view across the valley below to the ridgeline beyond.
7: Intersection FS Road 173 (4.9mi)
Continue past the intersection with FS Road 173. Alternatively, if time permits, take this out-and-back road to view Twelvemile Creek, or hike the trail by the same name.
9: Scenic (6.4mi)
This point provides another fantastic panorama including Sheep Mountain, Sheep Ridge, and a view to the broadening valley toward the south.
10: Browns Pass/FS Road 176 Trailhead (6.6mi)
Take a left (north-northwest) at the Y in the road. A right turn (east) climbs over Brown's Pass.
11: Rough (8.0mi)
Conditions change rapidly from dirt to rock. Shift down, slow-down, and continue climbing!
12: End (8.1mi)
The turn-around point is 3/4 the way up an enormous bowl facing directly west. From this vantage point, the ridge and mountains seem close enough as though you could reach out and touch them. This point would be ideal for a small overlanding campsite (leave no trace), especially for a night to view a notable astronomical event .
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.
Breakneck Pass / FS Road 175 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 (TMP). Over the next year, some roads may be partially or completely closed while this evaluation proceeds. The TMP process is scheduled over the next 5 years. It is imperative that the OHV-user 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 as an OHV enthusiast.
Camping and Lodging
There are numerous dispersed campsites along Breakneck Pass and connecting/nearby trails. Some 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).
See the South Park Ranger District website for more information.