Rollins Pass East

Rollinsville, Colorado (Gilpin County)
Last Updated: 12/22/2018
5/5 (1 review)
Nearby Trails
Status: Open
Typically Open: Year Round
Difficulty: 2-3
Length: 12.1 miles
Highest Elevation: 11331 feet
Duration: About 2 hours
Shape of Trail: Out & Back
Best Direction to Travel: N/A
Nearest Town: Rollinsville
Nearest Town w/ Services: Nederland
Official Road Name: 117
Management Agency: Arapaho Nationa Forest
District: Boulder Ranger District
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Highlight: Rollins Pass East

Rollins Pass East is a beautiful drive through the Roosevelt National Forest that takes you up a 4% grade, above timberline, where you get endless views of the Colorado Front Range, access to beautiful fishing spots, a more challenging four-wheel drive road, and good hiking opportunities. There is also some history to Rollins Pass East that can really make you appreciate the past.


Route Information

Technical Rating: (2-3)

Dirt road. Rutted, washes, or gulches. Water crossings up to 6" depth. Passable mud. Grades up to 10 degrees. Small rocks or holes. 4WD recommended but 2WD possible under good conditions and with adequate ground clearance and skill. No width problems for any normal vehicle. Vehicle passing spots frequently available if less than two vehicles wide.

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Rollins Pass East is a very rocky dirt road with minimal maintenance. It travels from the Moffat Tunnel Valley up the Continental Divide to Needles Eye Tunnel above timberline. Most of the trail is hard packed rocks with an endless amount of pot holes. This off-road trail is suitable for most stock SUVs with at least six inches of clearance. Rollins Pass is open year round but is mostly snowed in from December until July.

Seasonal Information

Spring:Wet with snow drifts on the road.
Fall:Dry with potential light snow cover
Winter:Snow the get deeper the further you travel up the road.


1. Start Rollins Pass East

Beginning of Rollins Pass East with a large parking lot for trailers and groups to air down.

2. Shelf Road (1 mi)

Section of shelf road that is eroding. Use caution and watch for oncoming traffic since there is no passing here. If you look over the edge you can see a car mangled at the bottom.

3. Unmarked Trail (3.2 mi)

A left turn to an unmarked trail. Stay right (East) to continue on Rollins Pass East.

4. Rocky Road (3.8 mi)

Section of rocky road, one of the areas to give this trail its level 3 rating.

5. Rocky Road 2 (4.6 mi)

Another section of rocky road, giving this trail its current rating of level 3.

6. Jenny Creek Trailhead (5.4 mi)

Right turn to Jenny Creek jeep trail, stay left (East) to continue on Rollins Pass East

7. Scenic (8.1 mi)

A nice Scenic area with an amazing view.

8. Yankee Doodle Lake (9.4 mi)

Yankee Doodle Lake has some challenging fishing and can be a destination of this trail. Also, the Jenny Creek jeep trail ends here meeting back up with Rollins Pass East.

9. Jenny Lake Turn (10.1 mi)

A right turn up a short spur trail to Jenny Lake. It's located just below the Needles Eye Tunnel with excellent views of the continental divide above. Also, a good fishing lake with crystal clear water.

10. End Rollins Pass East (12.1 mi)

Block in the road marking the end of the trail. The trail has been blocked since 1990 after a piece of the ceiling fell in the tunnel injuring a Denver firefighter. You can hike to the Needles Eye Tunnel from here if you would like but cannot enter the tunnel due to a wall built at the entrance.

Directions to Trailhead

Trailhead Coordinates: 39.905173, -105.630873

Starting Point: Rollinsville, CO

Take Highway 119 to Rollinsville. Turn West onto CR 16 (Moffat Tunnel Road) and continue for 7.3 miles and you will find the trailhead on the right with a parking area and sign.


There are dispersed primitive campsites all along the trail that are suitable for tents with some larger campsites about 6 miles up the trail. Although it's not recommended due to the very rocky nature of this off-road trail, it is possible to get a camper in the larger spots, but no bigger than a pop-up tent trailer. All campsites have an established fire pit, please use this same pits and leave the campsite in as good or better condition than when you showed up. As an outdoor enthusiast, it is your responsibility to take care of the places we all enjoy.
Camping: Rollins Pass East

Writer Information

Bradley & Rhea Mikkelson

Mapping Crew - Colorado
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Bradley and Rhea are currently living in Fort Collins, Colorado with their two daughters, Riley and Dakota, and their dogs, Nyx and Cujo. Bradley was raised in Northern Colorado, while Rhea was raised in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Growing up in these environments, the mountains are where they like to spend their free time. Since meeting in July 2011, they have been fishing, camping, and wheeling together ever since. For the Mikkelson family, owning a Jeep is essential to the mountaineering lifestyle. They have two Jeeps, a built 1995 Jeep Cherokee and a bone-stock 1996 Jeep Grand Cherokee. As members of their local 4wheel drive club, TrailsOffroad mapping crew, and avid nature lovers, the Mikkelson's strongly encourage responsible trail usage, and respect for our forests. Always stay the trail, pack out what you pack in, and enjoy the adventure!


Questions & Answers (6)

Q: Anyone know the current snow status? Was thinking about going up this weekend but I've heard other areas have been getting hit pretty hard
–Chris (11/05/2018)
A: Sorry for the late response Chris. We recently had someone do a trip report for this trail so now i have the info you are looking for. The Rockies have been hammer with snow this fall/winter and current conditions heavy snow pack with mostly impassable conditions. The trail is open but it is packed with snow and drifts making it a very challenging drive even with the most equip vehicles. It's recommended only to vehicles with large tires, lockers, recovery points and winches. Hope this helps, have fun and be safe!
–Bradley & Rhea Mikkelson (12/26/2018)
Q: Looking at Google Maps, there appears to be a connecting trail starting just east of Yankee Doodle Lake, continuing across the north to Rollins Pass West. Anyone know if it's actually passable and in what condition?
–Sam (08/21/2018)
A: That would be the Boulder Wagon Road, which is currently closed to motor vehicles, though arguably illegally so. The land use section of the entry for Rollins Pass West on this site has this to say about it: Rollins Pass is a historic landmark that is now a divided trail to the east and west with no way to legally connect the two trails. Any attempts to restore the connection between Rollins Pass East and West by Grand and Gilpin Counties are met with resistance from Boulder County and the Boulder County Ranger District. "The Boulder Wagon Road was a four-wheel-drive road that was open prior to 2008 and in good condition. Unfortunately, this road remains to this day a subject of much controversy. In 2002 the James Peak Wilderness and Protection Area Bill (a.k.a. Public Law 107-216) was passed by Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush. The Bill specifically created a narrow road corridor between the Indian Peaks and James Peaks Wilderness areas and states that if any of the affected counties (Grand, Gilpin or Boulder) request, the Secretary of the USDA will cooperate and assist with the repair of the Rollins Pass Road and until that time the attendant road (the BWR) will remain open to motorized use. Boulder County officials and the USFS-Boulder Ranger District have resisted the wording of the law and have closed the BWR. Both Grand and Gilpin Counties have made numerous written requests to the Secretary for the repair of Rollins Pass Road but to date there has been no repair of the road or the barricaded Needle's Eye Tunnel. The reopening of the BWR, and/or repair of the Rollins Pass Road, and even the facts surrounding the 1990 accident in the tunnel, have become contentious and ongoing issues." Source, [Wikipedia]( [Rollins Pass Restoration Association](
–Patrick McKay (08/22/2018)
A: I have seen that before on the satellite maps as well. Unfortunately non of these routes are open. They are all blocked and closed permanently. As awesome as it would be, sadly their are no legal routes over the divide on Rollins Pass.
–Bradley & Rhea Mikkelson (08/21/2018)
Q: The stats list the duration as 4 hours and the trail is listed as out & back so I was wondering if the duration includes out & back or is that one way so the total duration would be 8 hours?
–Jared (08/09/2018)
A: Here at TrailsOffroad, we like to list our trail durations as one way. On this trail, its listed incorrectly making the 4 hours about the total time for going up and back down the trail. I'll edit the page so it shows a 2-hour duration.
–Bradley & Rhea Mikkelson (08/15/2018)
Q: any status report on the trail?
–Nick (06/26/2018)
A: Drove it yesterday. Quite busy. There's one snowdrift near the top of the lake that is impassable for cars(I pulled out a nissan juke), but anyone with 4wd should be able to get through.
–Luke (06/30/2018)
Q: Anyone drive this trail recently? Can you get to the top in a stock F150 or Tacoma?
–Prosper Wang (06/06/2018)
A: I drove it today. You can't make it to the top right now, there's a large snowdrift blocking the trail right where the trail cuts through the rock in the photo above under "Scenic" 8.1 miles in. There's another large snowdrift past that, so it's not worth it to try and get through the snow.
–Colin (06/07/2018)
A: Unfortunately, I or anyone I know has run this trail recently. Most years the snow doesn't clear from the top of the trail until late July. The road is passable by a stock 4x4 vehicles for the entire trail, so an F-150 or Tacoma should do just fine. With the warmer temperatures lately the majority of the trail should be clear, hopefully, all the way to Yankee Doodle Lake and maybe Jenny Lake. If you decide to go up there have fun and be sure to check back with a trip report!
–Bradley & Rhea Mikkelson (06/06/2018)
Q: What is the etiquette for the single lane shelf road portion when you come across a vehicle going the other direction?
–Josh (07/08/2017)
A: On any offroad trail, the laws of trail are, the vehicle traveling uphill has the right-of-way. If you are in a situation where only one vehicle can pass then whoever is traveling in an uphill direction goes first. There will be certain situations where it makes the most sense to have the downhill vehicle go first, but only when it's easier for the uphill driver to pull over. In these situations, as a driver on the trail, it is your responsibility to make the right decision. Just remember, uphill has the right-of-way. Happy Trails!
–Bradley & Rhea Mikkelson (07/08/2017)

Trail Reviews (4)

Author: Official Crew
Status: Partially Open
Offroaded on:
Had a group of very well equipped Jeeps on large tires. The snow is deep and sugary through most of the trail. The beginning was very icy under a fresh layer of snow. There were a number of pretty good drifts in the really shaded parts that we really had to work to get through, but we made it almost 6 miles until we met a giant snow drift covering the road. Stock vehicles should not attempt this trail until the snow clears.

Status: Open
Offroaded on:
road is open but there is a large snowdrift blocking the road at about 10327', about halfway between the entrance and exit of the Jenny Creek trail. It's not worth it to try and get past that drift, because there's another bigger one right past it.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Partially Open
Offroaded on:
For the time of year, the snow is very minimal right now. There were a couple fresh inches at the beginning, but that was it really. We didn't encounter significant snow untill about waypoint 5. It appears there were some large drifts maybe a week or 2 ago, but those had been busted by previous drivers, leaving only a couple inches from the last storm. We made it almost to the lake, but we're stopped by a large, off camber, wind blown drift at 9.3 miles. No other issues or recovery needed except at the 9.3 mile mark.

Status: Partially Open
Offroaded on:
Road is open and in good shape until about 1/2 mile before checkpoint 8. There are 3 curves that have deeps drifts. First one doesn't look as bad and then the 2nd and 3rd one are much bigger. Saw a Rubicon on 37s tackle the first set of drifts, but didn't look like he went for the second. Some side by sides came through too with no problem. With the right gear it would be doable, but I was in a stock TRD OR Tacoma.