Pearl Pass

Aspen, Colorado (Pitkin County)

Last Updated: 10/10/2020
5 / 5 ( 18 reviews )
Information
Nearby Trails
Status: Seasonal Closure
Typically Open: 05/27 - 11/22
Length: 19.1 miles
Highest Elevation: 12705 feet
Duration: About 4 hours
Shape of Trail: Straight Through
Best Direction to Travel: N/A
Nearest Town: Aspen
Nearest Town w/ Services: Aspen
Official Road Name: 102
Management Agency: Gunnison National Forest & White River National Forest
District: Gunnison Ranger District
Showing 0 trails within 2 miles

Highlights

Highlight: Pearl Pass
Located just south of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, this high alpine off road trail trekking between Aspen and Crested Butte provides a variety of different terrain from grassy hillsides and water crossings, to coarse rock fields and towering mountains. You will truly be amazed while traveling in some of the most remote terrain in the state taking in incredible views as you cross the Continental Divide at 12,705 feet. Snow can linger very late into the summer, and some years this pass doesn't even fully open due to snow blockage.

Video

Weather

7 day forecast for Pearl Pass

Route Information

Technical Rating:
(DIFFICULT )

Read more about our rating system

Waypoints

1. FS 102 (0 mi)
The trail starts on the west side of Express Creek Road just before the road ends. There is a large kiosk here with a map and information about the area.

Directions to Trailhead

Trailhead Coordinates: 39.029150, -106.807860
From Aspen: From the roundabout on Highway 85 just west of Aspen, take Castle Creek Road about 13 miles till the road dead-ends. Turn right at the road closed sign following the sign for Pearl Pass. From Crested Butte: Head south on Highway 135 and turn northeast on Brush Creek Road, Forest Service Road 738.

Camping

Dispersed
Designated

Trail Reviews (24)

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Fun and technical trail. Came up from CB side to Aspen. Took us 7 hours. We took our sweet time with lots of pullovers for sight seeing and spent and hour up top. We saw nobody on the trail with us that day. 3" lift with sliders definitely helped. Stock 4runner would be very hard but doable challenge with the perfect lines.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Beautiful day!

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
This trails ranks in my top 5 for all of Colorado. Everything about it was amazing, to include the drive to Aspen as the leaves were changing color, all the way up the trail to the peak and down the other side. The complete journey had so many different diverse sections to it, all with unique monumental views. The beginning had scenic switchbacks, then as we reached the peak it opened up to a huge basin that looked like a picture of another planet. Once you hit the summit and work your way down, you're surrounded by a beautiful valley. We camped at the 10,000' point heading into Crested Butte. Definitely a lot more camping as you head into Crested Butte along the river.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Ran the trail from CB to Aspen on Friday. All the snow on the trail is gone and the fall colors are in full swing. I had the place to myself. Definitely one of my favorites of the year. I don't think my stock 4Runner could have done this, but I was fine with a 3" lift.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Drove the Pearl Pass Road on Sunday, September 6, 2020. Had not driven this road since 2016, so it was a treat to get back on 'Ol Pearl with a friend visiting from out of state. Found the road conditions more difficult than years ago (erosion on the CB side has exposed more rock obstacles). We camped on the CB side in the pines and aspens. Great trip!!!

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Ran this trail from Crested Butte side towards Aspen. Great camping spots the first couple miles outside crested butte. We drove in a bit and got away from a majority of the crowds. Pass was pretty moderate, only hard section was really between waypoints 6 and 7 where we kissed our trailer hitch with a couple other areas where loose rocks made the incline tricky. Absolutely great views. Was able to snag another spot to camp on the Aspen side the second night but may have been more difficult if you are looking later in the day. I’m in a 2008 Tacoma with 3 inch lift on 35x12.5r17 front and rear locked on 4.88s (didn’t use the lockers at all and 4lo for a tiny section). My buddy had a 2018 Tacoma with 3 inch lift and a rear locker on 34s. Off camber was really the only issue. The mud bog was relatively dry, there is a deeper section that was some fun but is optional.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Great views! awesome trail. Crested butte side has narrower trail due trees and branches so i got a couple of stretches that i cannot escape, but other than that it is beautiful!

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Completed Saturday with a Rubicon, No Lift (but slightly bigger tires (285/75/17 so 33"s)- pulling a small expedition trailer. Guide should include pinstriping and mild off camber. There are 2 spots one on each side of the pass that put you off camber. The one on the CB side, is inbetween waypoints 10 and 11. A built rig might take a different line and avoid it, I was avoiding rock issues. The one on the Aspen side is unavoidable as it is along a single track section near treeline about the second switchback above waypoint 6. In stock rig you WILL drag some rocks on both side of the pass, mostly on Aspen side. CB side only had a few spots where I scraped. My Trailer is an ex military jeep trailer with 3 axis hitch. It is LIGHT. I almost did NOT make it up the loose rock section before the shoulder on the CB side. Lost momentum and then was digging in. Aired down further(under 20psi) and turn on lockers and made it up. It was questionable for a bit if I would make it. In other words, yes I made it stock, but weather(wet) or other things might prevent it. If you dont want rock scrapes you better be lifted. I was extremely lucky with where I ran into people going the other way. The shelf road on the CB side you can see most of the way from the shoulder, it was clear when I started, but ran into someone about 1/2 to 2/3 the way up. Luckily I was going uphill and had "right of way" that combined with trailer and I convinced him to back up to the pass. Coming down the aspen side each time I ran into someone we luckily had a spot available. There were placed there was no way I could back up with a trailer. Scenery is excellent. Challenge is rig dependent of course.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
This trail has the views. It has everything right now. The flowers are amazing. The rock gardens add a variety of challenges in lines to pick. The streams are phenomenal. The mud is not too bad but adds a little fun. This trail gets very narrow on the Crested Butte side with brush and shrubs. The boulder fields will bounce you around fairly bad but it adds a certain level of fun. I would say a 5-6 is accurate in my opinion.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
We ran the entire trail from CB to Aspen, views from the top was amazing, would definitely recommend. The snow drift blocking the trail (see review below) has been shoveled and allows a small path to fit through. There was a Jeep (gen 1 Grand Cherokee?) on street tires halfway gone off the trail near the bottom on the cb side and was a really tight squeeze in my Tacoma and I had to drive a good way into the brush to make it past so full sized trucks beware. Pic doesn’t really do it justice it was definitely tight.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Just did the trail up from the Crested Butte side, turned around at the top and back down the same way. The trail is awesome and on this Tuesday, we didn't see a single other person or vehicle past the Pearl Pass sign down in the Aspens just past Brush Creek.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Partially Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
We made it a quarter mile from the forest boundary line on the Crested Butte side when we were stopped by a small snow drift. I would guess in a week or two it should be passable. Amazing views on this trail, a beautiful alpine lake, numerous hiking and camping spots. It’s worth noting there was a major Miller moth migration happening at the time.

Author:
Status: Partially Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
We ran most of Pearl Pass this Saturday from the Crested Butte side in our Toyota Tundra. We stopped about a mile from the pass summit between waypoint 8 and 9 on the way up to take a break and eat lunch. The mudbog was nearly dry on the easy route and the harder mud section still looked to be deep. There are very steep rocky climbs along the shelf road between waypoints 8 and 9 and that's part of the reason we did not continue further. about a mile from the summit there was one particularly steep / very rocky section with a sharp turn (up near the alpine runoff lake under the shale field). I probably would have hit the diff and rear bumper on both the way up and way down in my Tundra, so we chose not to continue further. I had quite a few brush/tree branch scraped on my paint since my vehicle is much wider than most offroad rigs. Lucky for us a group of ATVs we ran into a few times on the trail were on their way down and said the trail was blocked with snow a little further up. Although, I forgot to ask them if they meant the summit was blocked or if it was a part of the Aspen side that was blocked. Nonetheless you still cannot complete the full trail yet. We found a great camp spot on the Crested Butte side off of Brush Creek just before between waypoints 12 and 13. This was a fantastic remote camp spot with amazing views all around. The scenery on so many parts of this trail is simply stunning. Definitely worth your time if you're in the area even if you don't reach the top.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Partially Open
Offroaded on:
Trail is open on the Crested Butte side to the summit but blocked by snow dropping back down on the Aspen Sied

Author:
Status: Impassable
Offroaded on:
Avalanche destruction

Author: Official Crew
Status: Impassable
Offroaded on:
Pearl Pass will likely not open this year due to significant avalanche debris on the Aspen side. Pitkin county is not likely to help open the road with dozers because of other priorities so the massive amount of debris will take a long time to clear by hand and saw.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Ran the pass from Aspen to CB on 9/6/18. The log+wet shale obstacle between waypoint 6/7 was challenging in my XJ on 33’s. Lockers would be helpful but experienced drivers on the right line can get by with open diffs. Gorgeous view from top, passable mud on CB side was enjoyable after all the rocks up top. It took us 7 hours from Aspen to CB, stopped a few times to let the dogs run and take in views.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Overall...WOW WHAT A TRAIL. I was in a Tacoma with 33's and open diffs. My buddy got his silverado with 33's and open diffs over it just fine. It took us 7 hours, but we spent a good amount of time taking it all in. There is a fairly challenging feature mentioned in another trail review, that IMO, should be a waypoint also. I had my GF take one pic, but it doesn't do it justice. It may have been the hardest obstacle of the whole trail. It is in between waypoints 6-7(last picture of review). You need to hop over a log (12-15" tall), and then gas it up some wet shale. I tried once and slipped, had to reverse, and just goosed it until I got up. No damage taken. This trail has a lot of narrow shelf road segments and passing can be EXTREMELY DIFFICULT AND DANGEROUS. Please, go out there with communications and relay information to your crew. Take the opportunity to pull over to let ongoing traffic pass you if you can, regardless of letting uphill have the right of way. We encountered a Rubicon going up as we were coming down, who reversed about 1/4 mile into some gnarly rocks to let us by on the Crested Butte side. I cant thank him enough. The trail is not necessarily difficult, but it is mentally exhausting. It is very much moderately difficult the entire distance. Plan on taking a bit more than 4 hours to soak it all in.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Definitely my favorite trail so far this season. The views are incredible and the varying terrains and difficulties make for a really fun ride. The pass definitely challenged my stock 5th gen 4Runner TRD Pro. Clearance was an issue for me but we made it from Aspen to CB with no issues. There were two places where I needed to make second attempts. Other than that, beat up my factory skids and sliders a bit. There is a notorious obstacle on the pass that I'm surprised isn't a way point on the guide. Everyone on the trail was talking about it. Coming up from the Aspen side, there is an off-camber shelf section of wet shale steps. There was running snow melt down the steps that made them very slick. I do not have any pictures or a mileage marker but it is between way points 6 and 7 of the above guide. We met the Mayor of Pearl Pass during our run and chatted with him for about 30 minutes. Carl is an awesome guy that does a ton of trail maintenance and makes a huge effort to get the Aspen side of the trail open as soon as possible after the winter season. Check out his story at the link below. https://www.aspendailynews.com/pearl-pass-caretaker-fulfills-personal-mission-on-iconic-roadway/article_b6ad7736-40e1-5321-ac45-aa5aecc89fb5.html

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
We just completed the trail this past weekend and it is completely open. It was an incredible drive and the views and scenery was amazing. There are some large rocks to navigate, but it wasn't too bad. I did it in a 2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, and it was perfect for the trail. There was a guy that came up in an older Montero , and it made it up just fine. The large rocks gave him some trouble at one time but he made it no problem.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Pearl Pass is open fully. Repairs have been made by the Blue Masa 4wheelers. Today's trip had a fresh dusting of snow. This made the trip enjoyable with a few spots that challenged my '17 JKUR Recon on 37's. This was completely acceptable as nothing was more than could be handled. The colors are amazing this time of year. And quite enjoyable. The water crossing were low and clear. Made them with ease. The CB side was clear of snow by the time I cleared the saddle of the pass. Highly recommend this trip!

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
A buddy from Pennsylvania (Keystone Cruisers) and his wife visited Crested Butte in mid-August. They hiked the Maroon Bells Trail from Crested Butte to Aspen, where I picked them up for the ride over Pearl Pass. We got a late start, which was compounded by the wet weather, but made the glacial moraine and pass before nightfall. The weather was wet and cold, especially at elevation, but moderated on the south side of the pass as we approached Crested Butte. The trail conditions were as expected--lots of rock, but none too difficult. I did slip off "my line" two times, which wedged a tire or the differential between rocks and required some recovery effort. On one instance, we stacked a few rocks and used the winch to clear the front diff (my truck is open-no lockers). As gloomy as the weather was, there's still no complaining; the pass is beautiful and the road is fun to drive. I hope more buddies from back east come out to visit me in Colorado!

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Two weekends in a row we were lucky enough to run this trail, thanks to the Unlimited LJ Adventure. There were 12 Jeeps on this event and Pearl Pass was the first trip of the final day. For it being a weekend, we saw little traffic on the trail and were making very quick time till we reached the mud bog. The bog was a little shallower than it was the weekend before and gave our group no issues. We stopped here for lunch and the remainder of the day took several more hours as we had 3 rigs break after lunch. None of the breaks were a direct cause of this trail. They were all caused by fatigue of mutiple days on the trail beating up our rigs.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
According to the locals, the pass was just cleared all the way through the weekend prior. We didn't run into any snow on the trail, but off the trail there was plenty of snow to see. It rained all morning, but by the time we started the trail, the skies had started to clear and it didn't rain on us at all luckily. Water was flowing down the trail in a few areas due to the rain the night before, and the mud bog was pretty watery, but overall the trail was in good shape and we had no issues.

Questions & Answers (8)

Q: can Pearl pass be done with a jku rubicon with lift & 35's & a small overlander trailer
–Clint Stringer (06/01/2019)
–Brian Holder (08/10/2020)
–Alex Reffett (07/06/2020)
–Ryan Boudreau (06/02/2019)
Q: Hmmm. 2012 Stock Range Rover Sport. I'm a little concerned about the rocks and the moraine.
–Allison Wood (04/10/2019)
–Ryan Boudreau (04/10/2019)
Q: How far can I get on Pearl Pass from the Crested Butte side in a moderately modified JK? I have a few years experience.
–Bill Lewis (10/04/2018)
–Ryan Boudreau (10/05/2018)
Q: Hi, as i asked for the Taylor Pass, i would ask you if i can do this trail with my full stock dodge ram. If not, are there any other off road trail to reach Aspen from Crested Butte? Thanks in advance for the answer!
–Lorenzo (07/03/2018)
–Lorenzo (07/03/2018)
–Ryan Boudreau (07/03/2018)
Q: I’m thinking of running this in mid July in a stock 100 series land cruiser with 33” KO2s. Any issues? Bit of a newbie here.
–Matt Hyde (04/08/2018)
–Jeff (05/22/2018)
–Ryan Boudreau (04/09/2018)
Q: Any guesses on trail condition by the end of march? Would love to hit this and Taylor Pass while I'm there.
–Brian Faris (03/01/2018)
–Ryan Boudreau (03/01/2018)
Q: Planning trip for Oct 12th. Was wondering is the pass is typically open around this time or if there will be to much snow. I will be riding in a wrangler rubicon with 3 in lift and 35s. Thanks and happy riding!
–Geoffrey Hannan (09/27/2017)
–Ryan Boudreau (10/10/2017)
–Ryan Boudreau (09/28/2017)
Q: I see the status as 'partially open'... is there any issue in utilizing this trail from Crested Butte to Aspen?
–Casey Wilson (08/16/2017)
–Ryan Boudreau (08/16/2017)

Writer Information

Ryan Boudreau

Mapping Crew - Colorado

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 California. 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.
For individual use only, not to be shared.