Tincup Pass

4.8/5 (77 reviews)
St. Elmo, Colorado (Chaffee County)
Last Updated: 06/13/2022
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Trail Information

Highlights

Cutting through two National Forests and crossing the Continental Divide at 12,154 feet, this off-road trail offers beautiful high alpine views while following the same route used by miners and prospectors searching for their fortunes in the late 1800's. This relatively easy route takes you from one historic mountain town, right into another. St. Elmo is a true ghost town that was built during the mining boom of the 1880's, while Tincup, originally called Virginia City, has been resurrected as a popular summer destination with many historic buildings still in use today.

Trail Difficulty and Assessment

Trail Navigation

Tincup Pass can be ran from either side and neither direction makes the trip harder than the other direction. Starting in the ghost town of St. Elmo, follow signs through town to reach the start of the trail. The route begins fairly smooth but quickly becomes rocky and rough and stays that way the entire length of the trail. Driving through the trees, you pass many awesome primitive camp spots that tend to fill up rather quickly during the weekends. Once above treeline, the trail narrows a bit with a few switchbacks that lead you across a shelf portion that can have snow covering it into early or even mid July. The north side of the pass is slightly more rocky than the south but is still relatively easy if you stay on the primary route. The route can be made more difficult if taking the old tincup route which has one large boulder section and is very narrow with overgrown brush. NOTE: The GPX track available here follows the hardest path through Old Tincup. If you are unsure of your rig's capabilities through this section, please stay on the primary route described in waypoint 8. Follow the trail down to a water crossing at Mirror Lake where it becomes a graded dirt road just past the parking area.
Boulders along the Old Tincup Route are much larger than the main Tincup route.

Trail Reviews

4.8/5 (77 reviews)
Status: Open
Rated 5/5
Visited: 10/01/2022
Difficulty Accuracy: Spot On

Beautiful Autumn views on the St Elmo side of the pass. Made it to Mirror Lake before it started to rain/snow & I turned around. A good bit of snow on top of the pass at > 11,000 ft.
Ray
6450
Status: Open
Rated 5/5
Visited: 09/02/2022
Difficulty Accuracy: Spot On

Bumpy and scenic drive all the way to Tincup. Saw some moose in the willows before the summit push. Mirror lake crossing was low with no water on the trail.
Status: Open
Rated 4/5
Visited: 08/20/2022
Difficulty Accuracy: Easier

Ran this from St Elmo to Tincup in a Badlands Bronco with 35s. No problems with the trail. However, lots of traffic, mostly SXS. Probably only 10 non SXSs. Scenic, enjoyable ride, but too much traffic for my tastes.
Status: Open
Rated 5/5
Visited: 08/20/2022
Difficulty Accuracy: Spot On

Ran this right after Hancock Pass, from St. Elmo. Trail was wet and got some precip on the way down to Tincup, but wasn't an issue. Many SXS's, lost count, but less than 10 other rigs. Trail seems a little easier than the rating, but you still need to keep your brain engaged. Tires stayed dry at Mirror Lake. Did not do Old Tincup. Lifted 4Runner on 32's.
Status: Open
Rated 5/5
Visited: 08/01/2022
Difficulty Accuracy: Spot On

This is a trial that I have always wanted to do. As a kid, I would see jeeps driving through Mirror Lake while I was fishing. This late in the season there was no water to drive through. The plan was to extend the day on other trails once we arrived in St. Elmo. We got a late start and a storm blew in so we headed back over the pass. The rain got heavy and turned to heavy hail. At times the road was more of a river, which on other trails would have been more difficult, but you still have decently wide trails. St. Elmo is a nice stop, but note the restroom is grose. It is also up the hill by a building so if someone really needs the restroom it is best to drop them off a the restroom up the hill before parking on the main street.
Trail Review: Tincup Pass - Ken Broermann
Trail Review: Tincup Pass - Ken Broermann
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