Alpine Tunnel East

Buena Vista, Colorado (Chaffee County)

Last Updated: 05/10/2022
4.7 / 5 ( 6 reviews )
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Highlight: Alpine Tunnel East
Situated near the famous ghost town of St. Elmo and within the San Isabel National Forest, this trail will lead you through an area with some of the most historic and beautiful country that Colorful Colorado has to offer. If turn of the century railroads, mining history, and ghost towns are what you are looking for, you will not be disappointed. You will travel through the ghost town of Romley which existed as a service town for the Mary Murphy Mine. Romley was also known as the "red town" because all it's buildings were painted red with white trim. It was originally called Murphy's Switch because of the presence of it's railroad siding. With an even more scenic setting, you come to the ghost town of Hancock, with only its log foundations still showing. Hancock served the workers who built the famous Alpine Tunnel. Its main population peak was in the 1880's and 1890's while the tunnel was being built. The train ran through Hancock carrying miners, passengers and supplies. It is said Mark Twain took the ride one time just for the experience.


Route Information

Advanced Rating System

Recommended Vehicle:
2WD Vehicle with High Clearance
Apline Tunnel East is a graded, semi-maintained road. Two wheel-drive vehicles can complete this trail.

Technical Rating

Dirt and/or rocky road. Potential rocks and/or tree stumps less than 5" tall and/or vertical ledges less than 5" tall and/or near vertical ledges or waterfalls less than 6" inches. Good tire placement likely. Can be steep, but with good traction.
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Community Consensus

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The route mostly follows the old railroad grade as it gains elevation toward the east side of the Alpine Tunnel. For the most part the dirt road is smooth and wide, passing is not an issue. There are no obstacles and the route is suitable for any stock high clearance SUV in good weather.
**A word of caution: This is a popular ATV/UTV route so check your blind curves.**


1. Trailhead (0 mi)
As you approach St. Elmo you will pass a National Forest restroom and parking lot on your left. The road will split shortly after where you will turn left and take the upper road. If you have made it into St. Elmo you have gone to far.
2. Grizzly Lake Trail (0.25 mi)
Continue straight here as the Grizzly Lake Trail departs to the left.
3. Iron Chest Mine Trail (0.5 mi)
Continue straight here. There is a small parking area on the left and the start of the Iron Chest Mine Trail.
4. Railroad Trestle (2.73 mi)
The trail takes a bypass downhill to the right to avoid going over the remains of an old rail trestle. There are several opportunities for picture of the trestle in this area.
5. Pomeroy Lake Trail (2.9 mi)
Continue straight on the main road as the Pomeroy Lakes Trail begins on the left. This area was also once the site of the town of Romley
6. Allie Belle Mine (4.53 mi)
Continuing on the main road. The Allie Bell Mining structure stood straight until somewhere in the mid-50s. It started collapsing into a strange pose and looks as if it's overhanging the road. The structure should only be visited from the outside of the building.
7. Hancock Townsite (5.6 mi)
Hancock, now a ghost town, originally served the workers who built the famous Alpine Tunnel. Its main population peak was in the 1880's and 1890's while the tunnel was being built. Mining was secondary in Hancock. There is only one remaining structure left, which you can walk up to and see its log foundations.
8. End (5.66 mi)
The trail ends at a parking area for the hiking trail to Alpine Tunnel East Portal. There is plenty of room for several vehicles in the parking area. The Hancock Lake Trail begins to the left.

Directions to Trailhead

From Buena Vista head south on 285 to Route 162 near Nathrop. Take 162 west 15 miles to turn left on Hancock Road marked 295. If you reached the town of St. Elmo, you have gone just a little too far.


Dispersed camping is not available along the Alpine Tunnel East Road. There are, however, several areas to camp along the Pomeroy Lakes Trail and the Hancock Lake Trail.
Camping: Alpine Tunnel East

Land Use Issues

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 that is requiring 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 takes place over the next 5 years. It is imperative that the OHV community let's their voices be heard on this issue. If we do nothing, those 500 miles will be shutdown. Contact the local ranger districts and let them know why the area is important to you and the history you have there. Salida Forest Service District Office Leadville Forest Service District Office

Trail Reviews (10)

Questions & Answers (1)

Q: Marcus; I am coming to that area the last week in July. I am looking for places to drive my F150 Supercrew FX4. I am a novice at off roading and looking for some suggestions. We are staying in Maysville, CO. Thanks for the help.
–David Langley (07/10/2018)
A: Hi David! Thanks for your question, you will have several options for trails you could tackle with your truck. Billings Lake Trail starts from Maysville so it's an easy one to get to. You would also enjoy the Bald Mountain Gulch Area, there are several trails in the Fourmile Area, Cottonwood Lake and Mineral Basin are also good options. You can find all these trails by searching their names on TrailsOffroad. Hope you have fun!
–Marcus Trusty (07/11/2018)

Writer Information

Marcus Trusty

Mapping Crew - Colorado

Marcus is a 4th generation Buena Vista, Colorado native who grew up bouncing around the central Colorado mountains in the back of his dad's CJ5. During his younger years, Marcus grew to appreciate public lands and the recreation opportunities backroads and 4-wheel drive trails offer. Marcus has been wheeling for 20 years now and has wheeled in Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and California. Until a few years ago Marcus had just been a participant in the wheeling community, but he has become much more active in preserving trails and working to make sure the wheeling community has their access maintained for future generations. In 2017 Marcus helped to found Colorado Off Road Enterprise - CORE, based out of Buena Vista. CORE has worked with the Forest Service and BLM and has volunteer agreements in place with both organizations. CORE also has a Forest Service trail adoption agreement in place for Grizzly Lake, Pomeroy Lake, Hancock Lake, Hancock Pass, and Tincup Pass, Tomichi Pass, Williams Pass, Ptarmigan Lake, Mineral Basin, Clohesy Lake, Lost Canyon, Champion Mill, Iron Mike Mine, and Slide Lake. If Marcus is not working you can generally find him somewhere out on the trails around Buena Vista.
For individual use only, not to be shared.