Rollins Pass  
USGS 7.5' Map: Nederland and East Portal
Difficulty: Number: Miles: Altitude: Obstacles: Time:
Easy - 1 FR# 149
13.5 11,200 ft. NA 3-4 hours
County: Gilpin and Boulder
Adopted by:      
Managed by: Roosevelt National Forest,
Boulder Ranger District
2140 Yarmouth Ave.
Boulder, CO 80301
Summary: Rollins Pass 4WD road follows the old Denver Northwestern & Pacific rail road line over Rollins Pass. The road is scenic with views of the surrounding mountains, and historic with many sites marked in relation to an self paced guide. The road grade is mild with a wide right of way that once held the railroad tracks.
Attractions: Scenery and railroad history.
Natural - closed by heavy snows.
Best Time: June - Upper section will still be snow bound.
July - Mid month.
August - Best time.
September - Best time.
October - Early snows may close the road.
Trail Heads
Base Camp:  
Fall Colors: Good. The lower section contains aspen, the upper section will give good views of the surrounding mountain sides.
Navigation: From Boulder, Colorado. Head west on Canyon Boulevard for 2 miles. Continue west on Highway 119/ Boulder Canyon Drive for 15.1 miles to Nederland. At the traffic circle, continue straight onto North Bridge Steet. Go 0.3 miles and continue on Highway 119/Pine Street. Go 4.6 miles and take a right turn onto Main Street/East Portal Road in Rollinsville. Follow East Portal Road for 7.3 miles to the Rollins Pass Road, a right turn before you reach the East Portal.
History: The pass was used by Native Americans long before the white men came. It is also believed that the Mormons used the pass on their journey to Utah and ultimately to the site of Salt Lake City. In 1866 the US Army under the guide of General John Q. Rollins improved the pass road, thus giving the pass its name, Rollins Pass. The road was operated as a toll road, the only way to get supplies into Middle Park. The Rollins Pass toll road was more difficult to negotiate than Berthoud Pass, so when the Berthoud Pass toll road opened it ended the monopoly Rollins Pass toll road had.

From the Rollins Pass Restoration Association web page.
"David Moffat had a dream: a railroad line over or through the Continental Divide linking Denver with the coal from the western slope and beyond. In 1881 he failed with the Denver, Utah, and Pacific, a narrow gauge railroad. In 1902 he started building the Denver Northwestern and Pacific Railway, a standard gauge railroad. The "Hill Route" with 33 short tunnels was opened in 1904 as a temporary line until a tunnel could be bored through James Peak. He didn't forsee that the 24 mile route over Rollins Pass would be used as part of the mainline for nearly 24 years.

The 6.2 mile Moffat Tunnel was completed in 1928. The "Hill Route" was closed, and abandoned in 1935. The rails were pulled up. The original route became a tourist attraction in 1955 as an auto road. Snow was cleared by July 4th and it was "passable" until snowed over in the fall. It was in 1979 that a rockfall near the north portal of the Needle's Eye Tunnel occurred. The section of road over the pass was closed to the public and the trestles were declared unsafe."

In the early years of the pass snow was the main problem with snow piled high much of year. The upper sections of the pass near the Corona Station on the continental divide (at 11,600 feet) long snow sheds were built to protect the tracks. All have been destroyed by snow while some burned in the 1930s. Nothing remains at Corona Station. The Denver and Salt Lake Railroad had to use 41% of its operating budget to remove snow on Rollins Pass.

Data updated 03/23/11       4WD Road driven ??       Copyright - 2000-2011