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 to 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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ollow 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.
Ran this with a Jeep Jamboree group. We also did the ‘Rocky Gulch Road/Buffalo Boy Tramhouse’ spur. We ran this from Silverton to the top and then back down and over to Hwy 550 via Corkscrew Gulch. Fantastic day, trail is rocky, but not at all technical. The washout section is easy to navigate, but would be a challenge in the ‘wrong’ conditions.
*DISCLAIMER* This review is more geared towards other Subarus (or similar AWD crossovers) and not dedicated 4x4s.
Overall this trail was very scenic. We ran it from west to east and it was really a great trail with TONS of camping options (though it does get busy on the weekends). The initial climb to the summit was very doable, however the trans did get up into around 230 degrees close to the top, so I did take a little break up there to avoid any unnecessary damage. The hardest part for me by far was the rocky downhill between waypoints 11-13. This was a huge challenge for me since my clearance was not up to scratch, especially aired down like I was (around 24 psi). Thankfully I have full armor underneath with skid plates but they definitely took a bit of a beating (so did one of my rims). Overall, a very scenic trail with a few challenging parts for an AWD vehicle without a lift. Definitely would recommend it for the camping, proper dispersed camping away from any city lights.
Giving this a 4 but I’m sure the trail is amazing on the alpine side. We started in silverton. It was sketchy where a power line came over the trail. Did not think I had the clearance. Raptor with tent on bed rack. Also narrow with steep rock face. Someone should measure that line and put in reviews just in case.
The pictures and video do not really show this trail correctly. We drove it from east to west. I believe the rating is correct however there are alot more shelf road areas then depicted. There are steep descents between waypoints 11 and 10 and from the summit to the trail to Silverton. There is also a tight shelf hairpin at middle hairpin between waypoints 2 and 1. It is not terribly difficult but some features to be aware of. Check the topo and you will see how fast it descends.
Took our Renegade Trailhawk up to Buffalo Boy Tramhouse and over Stony Pass. We did not go all the way to Creede because we needed to take care of a group member in town. Even as an experienced driver, this trail tested the limit of the Renegade. Very fun and scenic trail with lots of mining history
Ran the trail from Silverton to Creede. The pass is all clear. Beautiful day. Pretty good trail with some little rocky sections. No concerns with the creek’s depth.
The trail starts pretty mildly with only a few spots of rock. The trail after the pass from WP 8 to 24 has various rocky spots and mogul ruts. Plenty to keep you interested until you reach the reservoirs.
Ran this yesterday backwards until about waypoint 13. There are some pretty views and the two river crossings were nice, but all in all was a disappointment. Mostly a dirt road, sometimes a bumpy dirt road and very occasionally some one lane trails. Never put it in 4x, never even turned off traction control. I recommend this for photos, not for wheelin. That said, it may have gotten a lot more interesting towards the back end of the trail, too much time in at that point to really appreciate it - not a good return on time invested for trail.
We started from Silverton on June 12, 2023, but when we got to the turnoff to go south along Cunningham Creek to where your trail review starts, we were told that the road ahead was closed because of avalanche debris. We didn't proceed any further to check it out.
Fantastic way to start the Alpine Loop with great dispersed camping! The trail is a solid 3, maybe an easy 4 when you hit the forested area mid way through around waypoint 15. The camping way points identified were all pretty great, we stayed at 16 and it was amazing. The Lake Kite trail is a fun and worth while detour as well.
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Ran this east to west in a 4th gen 4Runner, with ~3" lift and ~32" tires, in order to access the Hunchback Pass TH up the Kite Lake Road. Great scenery, but also a good amount of traffic (including lots of SxS traffic). The hardest part is by far the Timber Hill segment (wypt 15). A few bigger rocks here made me glad I had a bit extra clearance, but no traction problems at all (we did air down for the whole ride). I was also glad we didn't run into any oncoming traffic in that stretch; not many passing opportunities around the hardest bits, and it's tree-y and windy enough that it's hard to see who/what's ahead. The rest of the trail is considerably easier, and with that came lots of big ol' trucks with out of state plates. I'd say the trail without the Timber Hill segment is a solid 2 or an easy 3 at most. And I think the Timber Hill segment is a bit easier than the 4 rating, I'd say a strong 3 (stock vehicles might want a spotter in one or two places, but not too hard).
Did it in two days spending the night at 30 mile campground and then completing the next day. Highly recommend airing down. I did with towing an off-road camper. Watch for free range cattle and ATV traffic. Totally worth the trip.
Road is open from the Silverton side to just before the stony pass summit. There is one small snow drift before the summit that makes the road very narrow. At the summit a large drift covers the road. Wheel tracks were in the drift, might be possible to cross depending on what you are driving, however there were signs of vehicles that had gotten stuck as well.
East to West. I drive a 2nd gen tacoma with a 2" lift. Fun trail! Pretty easy for most of it. As stated, way point 15 was the most technical. Much easier and less technical than Engineer pass in my opinion.
Did the trail from Creede to Silverton. The Aspens were at peak color adding a beautiful accent to already breathtaking scenery. From Creede the trail starts mild but eventually begins to get rockier. There were some challenging ascents and rocky passages but overall the trail is not difficult. Perhaps it was due to the time of the season, but the beauty was absolutely stunning. This is definitely a do again trail for me,
Really fun trail that almost makes you forget you're on the same trail the whole time. One minute, you're next to a river in a valley on some rolling terrain and a little later, you're high up among the peaks on nothing but rock. Very easy trail with no real obstacles but some portions were pretty bumpy and annoying. Some of the camping was amazing and I would definitely hit this area again if I'm close by and wanting to spend a night or two.
Open all the way. No snow. Plenty of mud from recent rain. East of the Pole creek crossing there is some down timber that makes it narrow in a few places. I made it through in my Wrangler, but a full size pickup would have trouble.
Great trail. Open all the way through with some deep water crossing at pole creek. There was a flatbed tow truck that skid off into the ditch on the way up the east side of the pass that made getting around it rather difficult since it was a narrow potion of the road. Plenty of wildlife to see and the mines on the west side of the pass were really interesting to see.
This trail is not seasonally closed until 3/15. Although it might be impassable, the seasonal closure is only a couple of months long, in the spring. This information can be found on the Rio Grande National Forest, Divide Ranger District MVUM. The San Juan National Forest side of the pass does not have a seasonal designation and is opened via dozer when conditions allow.
Ran Stony Pass from East to West, a lot of camping spots along the route and beautiful scenery. I camped the night before just outside of Creede to the Southwest along the river and it was beautiful and quiet. Came across a moose and a heard of sheep along the trail. Pulled my Smittybilt trailer the whole way with no issues at all. Great way to get Silverton, took about 4 hours with some stopping along the way.
*Big Caveat to the "Open" status. Silverton and the pass expecting 12"+ of snow 9/8/2020. I would not expect it to be open after that.*
TL;DR: Ran West to East from Silverton on 9/7. Pole Creek was easily passable, maybe 12-18" at the very deepest for a few feet. Ran in a mostly stock WK2 Trailhawk with 32" tires. Took ~4 hours, with photo stops, to get to the 30 mile mark.
OK, first off: beautiful drive through some of the most breathtaking scenery in the southwest. The Alpine tundra was amazing and the descent along the Rio Grande was magnificent. Aspens were just starting to turn, lots of wildlife (pack of ~5 wolves, some deer, critters, etc...). 10/10 would do again just for the scenery.
If not for...
... this is a VERY rough trail. (Full disclosure: I've been playing with Jeeps offroad for 20+ years, but never in a very demanding way. Please take my opinion FWIW.) TOF's difficulty system is accurate, no fault there. The obstacle criteria are what is described in the rating system mostly. I would question the "tire placement" or "narrow shelf road" points. (I may have made up the tire placement criteria, but I thought I saw it somewhere.) While you always have a full track to run on, it is at places JUST as wide as your vehicle with some sphincter-clenching drops (no trees) to one side and a solid rock face on the other. And that's just in the first couple miles, with many more to come. Once you get past Waypoint 3 (WP4 through 7 are optional side trips, I did not go that way.) the trail is not quite as rigorous the rest of the way to the pass. Totally worth it to get there, but NOT for the faint of heart or those with even mild vertigo. Even then, once past the pass, from roughly WP14 through about maybe 23 the trail is EXTREMELY rough. Much of the trail is cleared through aspen forest growing up through old avalanche scree and talus fields which means the trail is mostly just broken rocks and not much in the way of dirt. And still with many many shelf type trails in places. There are some smoother sections and some very pleasant stretches in between, but you will spend A LOT of time crawling up and down through a lot of trees with just a bunch of broken rocks as your road base. At full 12" of ground clearance in my WK2 I managed to avoid any major scrapes or hard hits to the skid plates, but if someone told me the road had materially worsened before my next attempt, I would seriously reconsider. Once you get past the Rio Grande Reservoir, the trail evens out to a standard National Forrest road: rough washboards, but wide and easy to cruise.
So, 4/10 difficulty? Sure. Not technically incorrect per TOR's rating system. I have little technical skill and successfully completed this trail. I loved it and hope to do it again. However, this is not an easy trail for anyone looking to just go up and back for quick bit of weekend fun.
This is one of my new all-time favorite overland routes! Technical driving, epic scenery, awesome (and plentiful camping), and some incredible history! It just doesn't get any better than this!! Can't wait to come back!
Wow, what a beautiful route through some amazing landscapes. The trail wasn't that hard but did have a couple rocky spots that will require 4x4. We really liked all the great camping once you get near the river. There are some spots where I could just sit for a couple days. The trail was totally clear and there weren't any really narrow spots. Not much traffic compared to all the other trails we visited in the area. We chose not to visit the optional mine sites.
Stony pass is now open all the way through. Pole creek crossing is listed at “cross at your own risk” by Forest Service, water is high and fast moving but passable in a capable truck with experienced driver. Overall this wasn’t a challenging route, just a nice long scenic drive with lots to stop and see along the way.
Stony Pass is open all the way through as of yesterday. San Juan County finished plowing their end. Expect muddy conditions and Pole Creek crossing at waypoint 13 is extremely high and fast. Be careful attempting to cross.
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.
We've done Black Bear Pass, Engineer, Imogene, Cinnamon and many others in the area. This one often gets overshadowed by those others, but should not be overlooked. This is one of our favorite trails and is much less crowded than the more well known trails in the area.
I love Stony Pass for the journey. At 40 some miles, this is just a great adventure. We left Silverton late and camped along the way. The camping next to the Rio Grande to me is one of those iconic moments you just have to experience.
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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, and currently own a customized '05 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited (LJ) with a 5.7 Hemi swap.
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 others. 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 and love a great adventure, especially if I get to share those adventures with others.
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