Breakneck Pass

Fairplay, Colorado (Park County)
Last Updated: 01/04/2018
4/5 (2 reviews)
Nearby Trails
Status: Partially Open
Typically Open: 06/15 - 12/15
Difficulty: 1-4
Length: 8.1 miles
Highest Elevation: 11427 feet
Duration: About 2 hours
Shape of Trail: Straight Through
Best Direction to Travel: N/A
Nearest Town: Fairplay
Nearest Town w/ Services: Fairplay
Official Road Name: 175
Management Agency: Pike National Forest
District: South Park Ranger District
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Highlight: Breakneck Pass

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. Breakneck Pass closes seasonally in December through June 15th.


Route Information

Technical Rating: (1-4)

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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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, near the intersection with FS Road 176 (Brown’s Pass), the road terminates facing Horseshoe Mountain (elev. 13,905’) in the distance. Exit via Brown's Pass, or the way from which you entered.

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. Trailhead

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 (1.6 mi)

Continue straight across the cattle guard and beyond the fence marking the National Forest boundary. Once beyond the boundary and into the trees, there are a few small campsites.

3. Hill Climb (2.9 mi)

After a peaceful stroll through the woods, the road climbs sharply with rutted culverts and loose rocks.

4. Breakneck Pass (3.4 mi)

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.

5. Intersection FS Road 426 (3.5 mi)

Proceed straight through the intersection with FS Road 426.

6. Scenic (4.6 mi)

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 (4.9 mi)

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.

8. Intersection FS Road 426 (5.1 mi)

Proceed beyond the intersection with FS Road 426.

9. Scenic (6.4 mi)

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 (6.6 mi)

UPDATE: SEPTEMBER 2018 the Forest Service has put a marker here indicating "No Motorized Vehicles" beyond this point. A right turn (east) climbs over Brown's Pass.

11. Rough (8 mi)

This point is no longer accessible by motor vehicle.

12. End (8.1 mi)

This point is no longer accessible by motor vehicle.

Directions to Trailhead

Trailhead Coordinates: 39.139819, -106.024316

Starting Point: Fairplay

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.


There are numerous dispersed campsites along Breakneck Pass and connecting/nearby trails such as Brown's Pass. Some segments of Breakneck Pass 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. Fourmile Campground Horseshoe Campground
Camping: Breakneck 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. 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.

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.


Questions & Answers (0)

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Trail Reviews (5)

Status: Partially Open
Offroaded on:
We ran Breakneck in conjunction with Brown's Pass. It took us about 1 hour to reach the top. We did about 3/4 of the trail in 2wd. The trail is well maintained. There are some sections of trail that are much too narrow for passing other vehicles, so keep and eye out for those places to turn-out, in case you need to back up. The trail is now closed shortly after WP 10 on the map. NOTE: There are multiple other off-shoot roads that branch off of Breakneck. Some of these connect to other trails, while others are just out-and-back types. Check them out as there are several that are quite fun.

Status: Partially Open
Offroaded on:
was open until about 6 miles in. about a half-mile past 176 it's closed for revegetation. lots of fun puddles and colors are changing already so lots of yellow Aspens. beautiful drive. at 5.5 miles or so just take 176 up Browns pass. I had to use 4 low but no problem with my stock XJ.

Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Tons of mud puddles because of all the recent rain, but it made the dirt pitch before Browns pass a little more interesting!!!! Glad I had the option of going out 176, would have been sketchy going down in the mud. The section to 12 was like being on a really cool ride with all the puddles!

Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Tons of mud puddles because of all the recent rain, but it made the dirt pitch before Browns pass a little more interesting!!!! Glad I had the option of going out 176, would have been sketchy going down in the mud. The section to 12 was like being on a really cool ride with all the puddles!

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
I took a quick run up the trail to find a camp spot. The trail is clear all the way through and i looped it with Browns Pass which is also clear. There is no snow on either of the trails and both are very dry and dusty.