Difficult Pass  
USGS 7.5' Map: New York Peak
Difficulty: Number: Miles: Altitude: Obstacles: Time:
Easy 2 FR761.1A
1.60 11,920 to 12,170 ft. NA 1 hour
County: Gunnison, Pitkin
Adopted by:      
Managed by: Gunnison NF, Gunnison Ranger District
White River NF, Aspen Ranger District
216 N. Colorado, Gunnison, CO 81230
806 W. Hallam, Aspen, CO 81611
Summary: Difficult Pass is a short spur road above timberline that crosses the pass and drops you down to a 10th Mountain Division ski hut.
Attractions: Scenic views.
Natural - Closed by snow fall
Best Time: July - May still be snowed in
August - Best
September - Best
October - Early snows may close the pass
Trail Heads Bowman Creek Trail, FT570 - Hiking trail.
New York Creek Trail, FT2182 - Hikng Trail.
Ptarmigan Lake Trail, FT594 - Hiking Trail.
Camping: There are no dispersed sites along the Difficult Pass road.
Base Camp: This would not be a good area to base camp.
Fall Colors: NA - Entire route is above timberline.
Navigation: From Aspen head east on E Main Street and CO-82 W toward N Garmisch Street for 0.4 miles. Continue straight onto W Main Street for 354 ft. Turn right onto N 7th Street and go 479 ft. Turn left onto CO-82 W/W Hallam Street and go 0.5 miles. At the traffic circle, take the 3rd exit onto Castle Creek Road and go 2.8 miles. Turn left onto Midnight Mine Road and go 3.7 miles. Continue straight onto County Road 15G for 0.2 miles. Slight left onto Upper Hurricane Road and go 1.3 miles. Upper Hurricane Road turns left and becomes Richmond Hill Road. Go 0.2 miles and turn right to stay on Richmond Hill Road. Go 7.4 miles and then turn left onto the Difficult Pass road.

History: Difficult Creek got its name from two prospectors out of Buena Vista. Once in Taylor Park they headed north and climbed the Taylor Range near Taylor Pass. Instead of going north along Richmond Hill, like others before, they decided to continue north by going down into the gulch to the east of Richmond Hill. They found the travel through this gulch difficult, so they gave it that name.

In 1880 someone put up a sign at the head of Express Creek (northeast of Taylor Pass) on the Bowman-to-Aspen trail which read, "This way to the Roaring Fork." The saddle became known as Roaring Fork Pass even though it was 18 miles from the Roaring Fork River in Aspen. Northeast of this saddle prospectors found pockets of gold ore and named the hump Gold Hill, even though it is 12,361 feet tall. A small settlement was started north of Gold Hill at the head of Difficult Creek Gulch. Several log cabins were built and a few shafts and tunnels were dug. When the Taylor Pass road was built a branch road over Difficlut Pass was made over to these cabins.

Jack Williams was one who found ore on Gold Hill. He built a mill to treat the ore, but the ore played out and his mill was abandoned. Later, Frank Barr moved in and lived there for several years so, it became known as Barr's Mill. The mill was still there in 1934. About a mile east of the mill George Brum had a mine that he worked through the summer months. He was grubstaked by Dr. F. S. McKee of Aspen. McKee would bring supplies to the prospector each spring through Ashcroft and up Express Creek. They had agreed that Brum would come out on November 1 each year. In 1923 he did not make it out by the date. Following is the account from Len Shoemake about this incident.

"Doc Mckee waited two weeks, then asked me to check up on George. I told him George could take care of himself and did nothing about it. He had not come out by the 20th, so I told Doc I would go after him. Accordingly, on the 22nd I rode, via Ashcroft, to Barr's Mill. The snow was deep on Difficult Pass, but I got through, stabled my horse, Whistler, in the tunnel, fed him oats and went on to Brum's mine on snowshoes.

I found George safe and sound at his cabin and spent the night with him. Next morning I went back to my horse, fed him more oats and started back to Ashcroft. When I attempted to climb back over Difficult Pass the snow was crusted hard enough to hold me, but not my horse. We fought it for nearly two hours, then got stuck in a five foot snowdrift. My only recourse was to go down Difficult Gulch, which was difficult enough to travel in the summertime. After resting a while, I tackled it, and all day without food, I bucked snow drifts, swamps, windfalls, brush, rocks and timber. Ten long miles I tramped on showshoes, with Whistler plodding along behind me. At times it was more difficult for him than for me, especially to get over or around some of the windfall.

We reached the Roaring Fork River at about 4:00pm. Fortunately there was a bridge across the river at that time.I then roade on to the highway and reached Aspen about 6:00pm. Ever after I knew why those early prospectors had called it Difficlut Creek. By the way, George Brum came into Aspen shortly after noon the next day."

The Goodwin-Greene hut was built in the 1970s in memory of mountaineers Peter Goodwin and Carl Greene. The hut was fully renovated in 2001.

Shoemaker, Len Roaring Fork Valley, An Illustrated Chronicle Silverton, Colorado: Sundance Publications, ISBN 0-913582-06-9, 1958. Print.
The Difficult Pass spur road leaves the Richmond Hill Road north of Taylor Pass in a saddle below Gold Hill.
Start of Difficult Pass road

photo by:
Adam M

The road follows the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness boundary to a saddle on the east side of Gold Hill where Difficult Pass separates Difficult Creek from a spur of Bowman Creek. From the top of the pass the road heads down a steep narrow section to a 10th Mountain Division ski hut, the Goodwin-Greene hut.
Steep section below pass

photo by:
Adam M

This short section of road from the pass is a cherry stem into the wilderness. Please stay on the road. Just below the hut the road will end at a turn around area.
Goodwin-Greene ski hut

photo by:
Adam M

Data updated - June 19, 2019       4WD Road driven - September 3, 2018       Copyright 4X4Explore.com - 2000-2019