Stony Pass

Silverton, Colorado (SanJuan County)
Last Updated: 08/13/2018
5/5 (2 reviews)
Information
Nearby Trails
Status: Open
Difficulty: 3-4
(EASY)
Length: 40.6 miles
Highest Elevation: 13082 feet
Duration: About 3 hours 30 minutes
Shape of Trail: Straight Through
Best Direction to Travel: East
Nearest Town: Silverton
Nearest Town w/ Services: Silverton
Official Road Name: 737 and 520
Management Agency: San Juan National Forest and Rio Grande National Forest Divide Ranger District
District:
Distance:
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Highlights

Highlight: Stony Pass

Situated in the San Juan Mountains near Silverton, Colorado, Stony Pass crosses the Continental Divide and is one of the longest uninterrupted off-road climbs in the entire state. It used to be a major supply route into Silverton from the east until 1882 when the Durango to Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad made it obsolete. It became just a road utilized for mining before it was abandoned. The road was reopened as a four-wheel drive route by the US Forest Service in the 1950s. Optional side trips are available that allow you travel up to the historic Buffalo Boy Tram Station and beyond up to 13,000' in elevation. Wildflowers, alpine views, and mining history make this a trip worth taking.

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Route Information

Technical Rating: (3-4)
(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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Description

Stony Pass can be used as a route from Silverton over to Lake City, Creede, Kite Lake, or simply as an out and back. The route is not technical, but there are several spots that are steep and rocky. The roads are either maintained and unmaintained dirt and cobble depending on which part of the trail you are on. The optional side trip up to the Buffalo Boy Mine would pose the most difficult issue in wet weather where the road is steep and comprised of dirt making it very slippery. In the spring, the east of the Pass is known to have several deep creek crossings which should be traversed with care. Access, depending on the winter snowfall, is usually late May through October. You can couple this trail with either Engineers Pass or Cinnamon Pass to make for a multi-day overland trip. For up to date trail information:San Juans Public Land Office (970) 247-4874 and Rio grande National Forest Divide Ranger District (719) 658-2556.

Waypoints

1. Trailhead

Take the fork uphill. You should air down here, as many parts of the road are very rocky.

2. Ore Bucket Cables (0.7 mi)

Remnants of mining days of old. Ore buckets were used to bring ore from the high mountain mines to the mills below.

3. Optional Mines (1.5 mi)

Turn left/north to explore the old mine locations or right/south to continue on the trail to the Pass, Kite Lake, Creede, or Lake City. Allow a good 2 hours to really explore this exceptional side trip.

4. Straight or Right Uphill (1.7 mi)

The short spur straight ahead takes you the Gary Owen Mine, while the tight right/south turn takes you to the Buffalo Boy Mine.

5. Gary Owen Mine (1.8 mi)

These are just small remnants of what was a vast complex of mines that ran until about 1952. For more historical information on the Gary Owen Mine and the surrounding complex visit the San Juan County Historical Society.

6. Buffalo Boy Mine (3.3 mi)

The Buffalo Boy was worked during, after, and with the Old Hundred Mine where ore was taken down the mountain by tram to the Niegoldstown area mill. Today the tram house still exists along with the cables still hanging. There is evidence of recent working as power lines were run to the tram house.

7. Scenic (3.8 mi)

After you explore the Buffalo Boy Mine, you can continue to the top of the hill for more scenery. This section can be very slippery in wet weather and caution should be taken if wet conditions are present. Return back to waypoint 3 and go straight.

8. Go Uphill and Unknown Road (6.3 mi)

Continue following the main road uphill.

9. Gulch (6.5 mi)

Follow the main road uphill at the gulch.

10. Spur Road (6.9 mi)

Continue straight on the main road. The spur goes back to private property and a very dangerous mine entrance.

11. Scenic (7.6 mi)

As you follow the road, you get above timberline with all the alpine views.

12. Stony Pass (8.7 mi)

Continue straight for the entire route, or turn back the way you came. There is ample parking at the top for several rigs. Stony Pass sits just below Canby Mountain at an elevation is 12,650 feet above sea level. Wild Flowers are abundant on each side of the pass typically in the month of August. Interestingly, just to the east of Canby Mountain, lay the headwaters of the Rio Grand River.

13. Creek Crossing (14.5 mi)

Continue straight through the hard bottom Pole Creek. There are also a couple of large camping spots on the west side of the creek. Pole Creek runs directly into the Rio Grande which is just to your southwest.

14. Straight To Creede 520.4 and 506.1 to Kite Lake (14.8 mi)

Continue straight to Creede, or go right/south to Kite Lake.

15. Shelf and Rocky (17.2 mi)

Continue straight. The road turns into loose rock and becomes more narrow.

16. Camping (17.7 mi)

Turn right for epic camping along the Rio Grande River.

17. Scenic (18.4 mi)

Continue straight as you look at interesting rock formations to your north and the Weminuche Wilderness Area to the south. This area is called "Brewster Park".

18. Scenic (19.6 mi)

Continue straight.

19. Brewster Park (19.9 mi)

Follow the road into the trees as you leave Brewster Park.

20. Straight (20.5 mi)

Continue straight. There are many places to disperse camp in this area. The side road takes you down to the Rio Grande River with a small campsite, however, the road is washed out and not safe.

21. Scenic Rio Grande (20.7 mi)

Continue straight or take a walk over to the edge of the Rio Grande River.

22. Camping (21.3 mi)

Continue straight. Camping in this area is abundant.

23. Straight Right (21.5 mi)

24. Straight (21.7 mi)

Continue straight.

25. Straight (22 mi)

Continue straight.

26. Lost Creek Hiking Trail (22.9 mi)

Continue straight.

27. Lost Trail Campground (23.4 mi)

Continue straight. Improved camping in this area.

28. 1805 Intersection (23.9 mi)

Continue straight at the junction of 1805.

29. Ute Creek Trail (24.1 mi)

Continue straight.

30. Rio Grande Reservoir (25.8 mi)

Follow along the edge of the Rio Grande Reservoir. There are plenty of turnouts for parking.

31. Rio Grande Reservoir Access (28.3 mi)

Continue straight. There is access down to the water right here.

32. Scenic (28.4 mi)

Continue straight.

33. Picnic Area (28.9 mi)

Continue straight. There are plenty of areas to pull off for lunch and a leg stretch for the last miles of this trail.

34. Thirty Mile Campground (30.4 mi)

Continue straight. Improved camping.

35. River Hill Campground (31.9 mi)

Continue straight. Improved camping.

36. Intersection (33 mi)

Continue straight on the main road.

37. Road Canyon Campground (35.1 mi)

Continue straight on the main road. Improved camping.

38. Intersection (38.2 mi)

Continue straight.

39. End/Start (40.6 mi)

Righ/south to Creede, or left/north for Lake City.

Directions to Trailhead

Trailhead Coordinates: 37.815307, -107.578303
Follow the signs north out of Silverton, Colorado on CR-2 for about four miles and look for the sign "Cunningham Gulch", "Old 100 Mine Tour", and "Stony Pass" all on the right. Take road 4 (right) and then follow the sign markers to Stony Pass.

Camping

There are plenty of dispersed and improved camping opportunities east of Stony Pass. If you look, you can find great dispersed camping just along the edge of the Rio Grande River.
Camping: Stony Pass

Writer Information

Todd

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Todd is an avid wheeler who loves to explore new trails whenever and wherever he can. They say necessity is the mother of all invention and that holds true for Todd. His want and desire to find passable trails and new nooks and crannies of the Great American West to explore were his reasons behind starting Trailsoffroad.com. On any given weekend you can find Todd on some obscure 4x4 trail or using his legs to hike to an alpine lake.

Community

Questions & Answers (3)

Q: Hi Todd--we're gearing up for trip this week. Any beta on the timber hill section? We'll be in a stock 4wd 2015 Grand Cherokee. I'm novice/light intermediate w jeeping . . . Grew up in Ouray so I've definitely done some. Any advice appreciated.
–Chris Wood (09/04/2017)
A: A stock 4x4 grand cherokee will make it up Timber Hill just fine. There are only a couple a really rough spots (nothing like Imogene) that need to be taken slowly otherwise Stony is not very difficult.
–L wetherill (02/10/2018)
A: Chris, I am not sure I understand your question. If you mean going up beyond the Buffalo Boy Mine, do not do it when wet. As with all off-road adventures, never go alone and never be afraid to turn around when you are beyond your comfort level. The most difficult part of the trail would be that hill beyond Buffalo Boy Mine when wet, or at waypoint 15 where it was considerably more rocky than the rest of the trail.
–Todd (09/05/2017)
Q: Looking to take my family over from Silverton side to Creede in early September. 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4X4. Any extra advice? Best spot to camp for a couple nights and explore from?
–Chris Wood (08/20/2017)
A: Hey, Chris sounds like you will have a fun time! Right around Waypoint 13, there were some really good camp spots, but my personal favorite was at Waypoint 16.
–Todd (08/20/2017)
Q: Do you think that a 4wd Ford F250 can make the trail without problems? Looking to go from 149 all the way to Silverton
–Christopher (06/10/2017)
A: Potentially if you take the turn left at waypoint 3 to explore the mines you may need a couple multipoint turns. At waypoint 15 the trail got fairly narrow and rocky, and there are a few spots in the area you will have to navigate in between trees while the trail meandered through them. For reference, the guide was written in an 80 series Landcruiser which is 189.8 inches long and had no problems.
–Todd (06/10/2017)

Trail Reviews (3)

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
I drove the full length of Stony Pass from Silverton to Hwy 149 in my 1988 Isuzu Trooper. The road is open and in good condition. There are a few wet spots but overall dry. From Silverton to Kite Lake intersection (Waypoint 14) I was with a group from Isuzu Wheelers (Facebook group). Together, we drove the spur road up to Buffalo Boy Mine, then back down and over the pass, and up-and-back to Kite Lake. After completing Kite Lake, I proceeded east to Creede and the others went back to Silverton. This is a fantastic connector road with lots of history/mining artifacts and wonderful mountain scenery.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Open and completely dry and clear, road in good condition.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Per Ouray County, Stony Pass is now open.