Montezuma, Colorado (Summit) Technical Rating: 5
Last Updated: 07-22-2017
White River National Forest, Dillon Ranger District / Pike and San Isabel National Forests, South Platte Ranger District
Webster Pass Highlights
Webster Pass is perhaps the best known and certainly most traveled of the three main passes between Summit County and Park County. It connects to two very popular, very challenging 4WD trails, Red Cone and Radical Hill. The summit, above 12,000 feet, offers spectacular views of both counties and a great vantage point to watch rigs descending the white-knuckle ride down from Red Cone.
Technical rating: (5) Moderate
Rutted and/or rocky road. No shelves. Rocks up to 12" and water crossings up to 12" with possible currents. Passable mud. Moderate grades to 15 degrees. 6" holes. Side hill to 20 degrees. 4WD required. No width problems.
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Directions to Trailhead
The following describes Webster Pass 4WD trail from north to south. From US 6 at Keystone, take CR 5, Montezuma Road, east for 4.9 miles to the tiny village of Montezuma. Continue straight through town and a further 1.2 miles. At a well marked intersection, turn left onto Webster Pass/Bullion Mine Road.
To run this trail from south to north, about 3 miles south of Grant turn northeast off of US 285 onto Hall Valley Road, CR 60. After about 4.3 miles, there is a well marked parking area on the left. About 0.5 miles later, CR 60 forks into Hall Valley Road, FS 120C, to the left and Webster Pass, FS 121, to the right.
Webster Pass is a relatively easy 4WD road. From the north, there are not any serious obstacles other than one stream crossing that, during Spring runoff, will test the door seals of stock trucks.
Just south of the summit, there is an extremely narrow section with a startling 300 foot drop off. The Forest Service recommends that this section not be attempted by "full-size vehicles." The driver of any sized vehicle had better be on point. It would be a good idea to send a spotter ahead on foot to check for fresh rock fall or washouts and to stop any oncoming traffic. You do not want to have to reverse through the narrows. Beyond the narrows, the south side is quite tame.
The difficulty rating of 5 (Moderate) is based on the deep water crossing (waypoint 6) and the narrows (waypoint 10), neither of which have a bypass. The rest of the trail is easy.
Cell phone signals are spotty at best throughout the trail.
The nearest emergency room is at St. Anthony Summit Medical Center (970-668-3300), located just off CO-9 south of Frisco. Summit County Sheriff office (970-453-2232) is on CO-9 in Breckenridge.
1: Northern Trailhead (0.0mi)
At a well marked intersection, Webster Pass, FS 285, meets Montezuma Road, FS 5.
3: Seasonal Gate (0.6mi)
This Forest Service Gate is closed from November through May, however snow may linger on lower, treed portions of the trail as late as early July and the summit may be impassible with snow through late July.
4: Muddy Crossing (1.1mi)
Natural spring water pools in the trail at this point. The crossing is not deep and doesn't not have any rocks or deep holes. Please stay the trail and do not bypass this crossing!
5: Fork (1.3mi)
A fork to the left leads to a large campsite. The same site is accessible by continuing straight.
6: Water Crossing (1.4mi)
This is the deepest water crossing of the trail. Normally it is less than 12" deep, however during Spring runoff, it can be deeper than the floorboards on most stock trucks. The stream bed is rocky, so proceed slowly, but do not stop.
FS 327 departs here and dead ends at some mine ruins.
7: Radical Hill (2.6mi)
This is a triangle intersection with Radical Hill, FS 286. If traveling from north to south, turn right here for Radical, or stay to the left to continue on FS 285.
8: Radical Hill (2.6mi)
This is a triangle intersection with Radical Hill, FS 286. If traveling from south to north, turn left here for Radical, or stay to the right to continue on FS 285.
9: Summit (4.1mi)
The summit of Webster Pass is also the end of Red Cone. This combined with the great views makes this a popular spot. During peak season, especially on weekends, the summit can get very crowded. If you decide to stop for a photo op or to watch the trucks descending Red Cone, please be considerate. Do not block the trail. Do not park in front of any signs that someone may want a picture of. And do not park on the delicate tundra.
Remember that Red Cone is one way only! Never attempt to drive up Red Cone from this point.
10: Very Narrow (5.1mi)
This marks the northern end the infamous narrows. Full size trucks are not recommended. It's a good idea to send a spotter ahead on foot to check for fresh rock fall or washouts and to stop any oncoming traffic. You do not want to be forced to reverse through his section!
Enjoy the thrill, but do not take this lightly! Pay close attention to the ledge and to the rock outcrop. Putting a wheel on either could be disastrous.
11: Very Narrow (5.2mi)
This marks the southern extent of the infamous narrows. For traffic traveling south to north, there is a sign recommending against attempting the narrows in a full-size truck. See the warnings and suggestions above.
12: Bypass (5.6mi)
Here, the trail splits into to two identical tracks. Either is acceptable. If traveling from south to north, this is a good spot to shuffle your group before the narrows.
14: Mine Outflow (6.8mi)
This tunnel drains water from the Handcraft Gulch iron mine. The water is likely tainted with heavy metals. Mind your pets and don't let them drink this water.
15: Red Cone (8.8mi)
This is the trailhead for Red Cone. This area can get crowded during peak season.
NOTE: As of June 2016, the Forest Service has banned camping from the northern trailhead to the water crossing (waypoint 6) due to "emboldened bear behavior" in the area. This ban will be enforced until at least June 2017.
The north side of Webster Pass is officially closed from November through May, however snow may linger on lower, treed portions of the trail as late as early July. Due to the geography of the summit, it is not unusual for a large cornice of snow to block the trail just south of the summit beyond mid-July. (This snow cornice can be seen in the video above at 2:35.)
The south side has no seasonal gate and no seasonal restrictions. Under NO circumstances should the narrows (waypoints 10/11) be attempted in snow! Please consult the South Platte Ranger District (719-836-2031) about closures and restrictions.
The trail is open to snowmobiles from November through May.
Consult the Dillon Ranger District, for more information on camping, access, and road conditions and closures. A Motor Vehicle User Map (MVUM) is available at the Dillon Ranger District or online. Download MVUM.
Camping and Lodging
NOTE: As of June 2016, the Forest Service has banned camping from the northern trailhead to the water crossing (waypoint 6) due to "emboldened bear behavior" in the area. This ban will be enforced until at least June 2017. Contact the Dillon Ranger District for more details.
The north end of Webster Pass passes through some private property before the seasonal gate. After the gate, there is ample dispersed camping with some large sites suitable for multiple trucks or small trailers. South of the summit, there is dispersed camping all the way to the southern trailhead.
Questions & Answers
Offroaded on 07-22-2017
Status: Partially Open
I drove up the south side of Webster today, from 285. You can tell they've been getting a ton of rain up there. The trail is wet, muddy in a couple of places, and the stream is running high. Just below the switchbacks (between WPs 11 and 12), I met a group from Mile High Jeep Club finishing up a fence project. They said the cornice was still blocking the last 50 feet or so and that the cornice snow is very hard packed and icy. From where we stood, we could see people walking out onto the cornice.
It may yet clear, but in my experience, when snow hangs on this long, it becomes like a block of ice; impossible to dig, dangerously slippery, and VERY slow to melt.
My advice: Do Red Cone, head down to Montezuma and then come back over Georgia Pass. Or just enjoy the rest of Summit County's many trails!
P.S. We finished the day by going down to Jefferson for a Train Wreck Burger at the Hungry Moose Caboose! Highly recommended!! (See pics!)
Offroaded on 07-03-2017
Status: Partially Open
Low Temperature: 30° F
High Temperature: 70° F
Totally under snow drift at top still
Offroaded on 06-24-2017
Status: Partially Open
Mile High Jeep Club did a work day in partnership with the Forest Service clearing snow to open the trail.
As of this date, the trail is open from Montezuma to the summit from the north, but a very large snow cornice blocks the trail south of the summit.
Some large snow drifts remain, but the work done this weekend will help them melt quickly. The water crossing at WP 6 is very deep, but still passable if you take your time and push a good bow wave.
Offroaded on 05-21-2017
Status: Partially Open
Low Temperature: 35° F
High Temperature: 40° F
The northern end of Webster pass remains closed. Another foot of snow was added last week. Snow has been plowed into the trail at the last private drive (waypoint 2). There is 4-6 feet of rock hard plow snow blocking the trail.
I have not visited the southern trail head yet.
Offroaded on 04-15-2017
Status: Partially Open
Decided to take a night run with a few guys to check out some new lights on the LJ. We drove up the south side of Webster Pass and made it in a little over 2 miles from the split with Red Cone. This was just past waypoint 14 and the Handcraft Gulch mine shaft. All of the rigs in our group were on 37s, with dual lockers, running single digit tire pressures so we could float on the top of the snow. Because it was night, the snow was hard so it was fairly easy to stay on top of the snow. When getting out of the Jeeps, we easily sunk in the snow to our waists. The beginning of the trail was a mix of smaller drifts and then dirt for short periods, but that only lasted about 3/4 of a mile. It then turns to solid snow.
With a few weeks of warm weather, it could potentially be dry all the way to the point we made it.
Offroaded on 11-12-2016
Low Temperature: 40° F
High Temperature: 50° F
Due to the unusually late onset of winter, Webster is still easily passable. The the last couple of switch backs on the north side of the summit have a couple of inches of packed snow. The deep water crossing (WP 6) was crusted with ice, but nothing to worry about.
The forest service will be closing gates on November 23rd, so there's only one weekend left.
Offroaded on 09-11-2016
This is a great and iconic trail. Enjoy it but PLEASE stay sharp! The narrows are a thrill, but must be respected!
A Jeep tumbled off the narrows this weekend. Fortunately it hung up on a tree a few yards down. If it hadn't, it's a good 300 foot slope to the bottom. Reports are that the drive and passenger walked away without a scratch. Driver is a 20 year wheeling veteran, but was in a brand new truck.
I was alerted to this by some members of Colorado FJ Cruisers who say they came on the scene soon after.
Offroaded on 06-25-2016
Status: Partially Open
Low Temperature: 65° F
High Temperature: 80° F
I joined Mile High Jeep Club's trail clean-up run. The trail is open from Montezuma to the summit from the north. At the summit, the south side is blocked by a very large snow cornice, over 15 feet thick. It will be a couple more weeks before snow breaking is possible.