Webster Pass

Montezuma, Colorado (Summit County)
Last Updated: 10/27/2018
4.6/5 (7 reviews)
Information
Nearby Trails
Status: Seasonal Closure
Typically Open: 07/01 - 10/31
Difficulty: 5-5
(MODERATE)
Length: 9.1 miles
Highest Elevation: 12103 feet
Duration: About 2 hours
Shape of Trail: Straight Through
Best Direction to Travel: South
Nearest Town: Montezuma
Nearest Town w/ Services: Keystone
Official Road Name: 285, 121
Management Agency: White River National Forest/Pike and San Isabel National Forests
District: Dillon Ranger District/South Platte Ranger District
Distance:
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Highlights

Highlight: Webster Pass

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.

Video

Route Information

Technical Rating: (5-5)
(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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Description

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.

Seasonal Information

Spring:Expect lingering snow drifts to block the trail as late as mid June. A snow cornice just south of the summit is usually impassible into July.
Summer:Typically warm and dry, but very windy and cooler above treeline. Watch out for sudden thunderstorms.
Fall:Heavy snow can block the trail as early as October.
Winter:Closed on the north side. Snow wheeling may be possible on the south.

Waypoints

1. Northern Trailhead

At a well marked intersection, Webster Pass, FS 285, meets Montezuma Road, FS 5.

2. Private Drive (0.5 mi)

A private drive forks to the left. Stay right on FS 285.

3. Seasonal Gate (0.6 mi)

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 (1.1 mi)

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 (1.3 mi)

A fork to the left leads to a large campsite. The same site is accessible by continuing straight.

6. Water Crossing (1.4 mi)

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 the ruins of the Climax mine.

7. Radical Hill (2.6 mi)

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 (2.6 mi)

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 (4.1 mi)

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 (5.1 mi)

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 (5.2 mi)

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 (5.6 mi)

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.

13. Small Water Crossing (5.7 mi)

This crossing is never very deep. But you should keep an eye on your dogs. They shouldn't drink this tainted mine run off.

14. Mine Outflow (6.8 mi)

This tunnel drains water from the Handcart 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 (8.8 mi)

This is the trailhead for Red Cone. This area can get crowded during peak season.

16. Southern Trailhead (9.1 mi)

The southern trailhead is at a well marked fork. 120C heads up Hall Valley to the west. Follow Hall Valley Road south for about 4.8 miles to US 285. Grant is to the left (north) and Jefferson is to the right (south).

Directions to Trailhead

Trailhead Coordinates: 39.567860, -105.860290

Starting Point: Keystone, CO/Grant, CO

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.

Camping

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.
Camping: Webster Pass

Land Use Issues

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.

Writer Information

Trint Ladd

Mapping Crew - Colorado
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Trint grew up riding dirt bikes in the creek beds of the Texas Panhandle. While attending college in Colorado in the late 1990's, he saw a magazine article about a Ford Explorer four-wheeling club. He never saw his Explorer as an adventure vehicle before, but quickly joined up and caught the bug. With his engineering background, Trint has always respected the factory design of a good truck (and recognized when manufacturers put cheap parts into something marketed for off road use). "A good driver, with a well built, stock truck can do trails that would break a $50k, built-up rig with an inexperienced driver." He put that 1st gen Explorer though hell and it always held up, earning great respect from the "big dawgs" in the club. (And earning the nickname, "The Idiot Stocker.") The truck was christened "BamBam" because of the frequent sounds ringing out from the factory skid plates. Now that Trint is "grown-up" (quotation marks intentional), he's a bit less inclined to dent up his pretty Toyota Tacoma, but still feels the same way about superior engineering. Trint's love for the mountains was ingrained at a very early age. 8mm film exists of 18-month-old Trint in a backpack on his dad's back while riding dirt bikes through the mountains of Red River, NM. Although Trint does enjoy a good, tough, technical rock trail, he can often be found on easier, winding, Alpine roads just taking the glory of God's country.

Community

Questions & Answers (5)

Q: Would this be a good trail for fall aspen colors?
–Brian (09/15/2018)
A: Thanks Trint. Appreciate the answer. We decided with your info to do Twin Cone and it was absolutely spectacular.
–Brian (09/17/2018)
A: Other than the very bottom of the south side, it's all pine forest. There are better color runs nearby. Try Boreas for a leisure cruise or Argentine Pass for something more challenging.
–Trint Ladd (09/16/2018)
Q: Anyone been up to Webster pass to see if it is open?
–Dan Bender (08/01/2017)
A: Yeah I saw that right after I posted this question. Didn't scroll down far enough! We will be out there next week!
–Dan Bender (08/02/2017)
A: According to the 7-30 trip report below, yes. The cornice has melted enough for trucks to get by it.
–Trint Ladd (08/01/2017)
Q: So how is Webster doing? Is it open going down into Handcart Gulch yet?
–Shawna (07/19/2017)
A: The word is that the cornice is still blocking the trail south of the summit, but I don't have first hand knowledge. I plan to check on the trail again this weekend.
–Trint Ladd (07/20/2017)
Q: Any update of the trail being fully opened??
–Michael (05/21/2017)
A: I just posted a trip report from yesterday concerning the northern (Montezuma) trailhead. I haven't visited the southern side yet. If by "fully opened" you mean clear trail from Montezuma to Hall Valley, we've still got several weeks of melting yet. If you mean to do some heavy snow wheeling, maybe another week or two.
–Trint Ladd (05/22/2017)
Q: Does anyone have a current update on the snow pack leading up to Webster and Redcone passes as of 5/9/2017?
–brandon (05/09/2017)
A: The south side of Webster is clear well beyond the Red Cone trail head, but not to the summit. The north side is gated until at least 5/20. I don't know the status of Red Cone. Ryan Boudreau might. You can ask him on the Red Cone page: https://www.trailsoffroad.com/trails/432-red-cone
–Trint Ladd (05/09/2017)

Trail Reviews (22)

Author:
Status: Partially Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Trail was drivable up to about half a mile past Radical Hill, 2-3 feet of packed snow/ice was accumulated on the trail and was impassable.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Partially Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Gorgeous sunny day. Snow pack started almost right after turning off of Montezuma road. Muddy in spots. Icy in spots. Ice crust at the water crossing. Since I was riding solo, I decided to turn back about a 1/4 mile passed Radical when I started slipping and sliding. From what I could see the summit looked to have minimal snow. P.S. The new USFS signage on Montezuma Road is AWESOME!!

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Coming from the south by way of 285, we used CR 60, in Grant, to access the forest. This was a great trail! Rig is a stock 1999 TJ on modest 30" all-terrain tires (all 4 kicks are new). Made it to the top of the pass using Handcart Gulch (FS 121). Sign at the intersection of Hand Cart Gulch and Red Cone says the trails are for experienced drivers only. Chunky rocky road makes for slow going in a few places. Very interesting scenery, much different than Georgia Pass and Boreas Pass. The area has been adversely impacted by mine run off and activity over the years in several areas and has a distinct moon-scape feel to it in places. Water is obviously very tainted by mine run off, do not allow animals to drink this. We posted up at the base of Webster Pass and waited for a few groups to come down. This was a very solid suggestion from a patrol that had just come down from the top. Sign at the bottom of Webster Pass warns that full-sized vehicles should not attempt to ascend Webster Pass. Word of caution - visibility once on the road is limited and there is no place to really turn around if you lose your nerve, or to allow for passing vehicles until you hit the top. When the trail guides all say its a narrow shelf road to the top of Webster Pass, they mean it. Near the middle of the ascent there is a long section of solid living rock wall on one side and an absolutely no-fucking-around drop on the other. Very sobering, but not the scariest thing I've been on, in this area. Be on point, none the less, on the ascent up to the top. Spectacular view at the top with a nice view of Red Cone and Radical Hill, easy, but bumpy trip down the back side of the pass into Montezuma (FS 285) to finish out the trail. 1-70 back into Denver. I would not have done this trail as a novice driver. That being said, Webster Pass is a very worthy adventure. If you've got a few moderate trails under your belt and are confident in your skills and your rig, this trail is lots of fun, interesting and challenging, but very navigable terrain for a stock 4x4. Keep the rubber to the road, roll safe. ~Rob J.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
The snow drift is fully melted now so the trail is accessible all the way through. We came from the southern side and the trail head had a sign saying that it was closed seasonally. Ignore this if you come from the south, it's clearly been forgotten about. This is probably my favorite trail I've done yet. I run a stock 2008 4runner limited and it did just fine. There are some large rocks but with a bit of creativity you can easily get over them. There is a mud pit, likely from the recent rains, about a quarter way up the trail on the south side. It's big enough to get stuck but we didn't have issues with it. Views are incredible, the narrows are harrowing, and the there was a fair amount of wild life on the trail (moose, deer, rodents). 5/5

Author: Official Crew
Status: Partially Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
The snow cornice is not yet melted out. Dirt bikes have made a path through and probably within a week ATVs will get through. With a bit of shoveling, they could start getting through now. I expect another 2-3 weeks before full size vehicles can get through.

Author:
Status: Partially Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Point 9 still impassable as of 7/1/18. Fun trail, we took it from the south end and went up the narrows until we couldn't go further due to snow drift. Pretty easy trail from waypoint 16 - 9 (since we did it in reverse of how it's listed here, coming from 285). There are a few spots to turn around on the narrows - but it'd be tight if you ran into oncoming traffic. Some beautiful views. While on the trail, did see a few Jeeps bogging through the creek (off trail), and some shattered glass bottles at one of the camp sites. Keep that up and you get trails closed down for yourself and the rest of us. Tread lightly and leave places better than you found them.

Author:
Status: Partially Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
As of 6/24/18 there is still snow blocking the trail at point 9. This is a problem for ATVs UTVs or dirt bikes without plates wanting to start from the 285 side trail head as you can't complete the Red cone / Webster pass loop. The only option is to return the wrong way (illegally) on the one way Red Cone trail.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Partially Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
The gate on the north end has been opened and the trail is mostly snow free to the summit. Just beyond the creek crossing there are a couple remaining snow drifts that shouldn't be an issue for any modified rig. Those should be melted out soon. The south side is still impassable at the very top due to the snow cornice. Going to be several weeks, if not a month before it is melted out. Up to that point, the trail is clear. The washouts just after the first switchback is very narrow. Itncould present a challenge for wide rigs. There is substantial resource damage to the sides of the trail due to illegally driving off trail. Please stay on the trail and do not attempt to drive off reaching mud bogs.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Partially Open
Offroaded on:
The seasonal gate on the north side is locked. The south side has no gate. Snow wheeling is possible, but use caution and don't go alone.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Partially Open
Offroaded on:
Summit County has had a couple of snow storms now. Most trails that go above treeline are blocked with snow. The image is a drone shot taken a couple hundred feet above the water crossing at waypoint 6. I didn't go up, but there is a decent amount of snow on the switchbacks and the summit. The descent from Red Cone is also snow covered.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Trail was open and clear. Description current. We ran from the southern end north. Only unexpected "obstacle" was a dog in the road chasing vehicles (s/he was with some nearby campers but apparently decided road-guard duty was more fun). :0)

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
That last snow drift has melted significantly, while I took Red Cone to Radical Hill, a Jeep or Tacoma could fit through the drift.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Partially Open
Offroaded on:
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!)

Author:
Status: Partially Open
Offroaded on:
Totally under snow drift at top still

Author: Official Crew
Status: Partially Open
Offroaded on:
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.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Partially Open
Offroaded on:
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.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Partially Open
Offroaded on:
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.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
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.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
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.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Partially Open
Offroaded on:
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.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
This is a fun trail that can be done with a full-sized pickup truck. I would recommend driving it in the south-to-north direction, because the south approach has long extremely narrow switchbacks with poor visibility to spot other vehicles on their way down. Meeting another vehicle head-on in this area is no fun, but typically the uphill vehicle would have the right of way. The worst portions lack enough space to pass even a small ATV for hundreds of feet, and there were some spots where the outer treads on my tires were hanging over the edge of the roadway. Whereas the "scary" driving is on the south (Handcart gulch) side of the trail, probably the biggest challenge are the two uppermost switchbacks on the Montezuma side, which are cut very deeply, with too narrow a radius to tackle in one pass. They required 4x4 for me in both directions. Also, I have never run this trail and not seen moose in Handcart gulch!