Weston Pass  
USGS 7.5' Map: Jones Hill, South Peak, Mount Sherman, Leadville South
Difficulty: Number: Miles: Altitude: Obstacles: Time:
Graded Cnty 5, Cnty 7 14 9,300 to 11,920 ft. NA 1-2 hours
County: Park, Lake
Adopted by:      
Managed by: Park County
Lake County
501 Main St, Fairplay, CO 80440
505 Harrison Ave., Leadville, CO 80461
(719) 836-2771
Summary: Weston Pass is an easy 4WD road that crosses the Mosquito Range from Leadville to Fairplay
Attractions: Scenic views, Mines, Camping
Natural - Closed by snow.
Best Time: June - May still have snow
July - Best
August - Best
September - Best
October - Possible early snows
Hiking -
FT616 Rich Creek Trail
Ridgeview Trail
Rough and Tumbling Creek Trail
Salt Creek Trail
Equestrian -
FT616 Rich Creek Trail
Rough and Tumbling Creek Trail
Salt Creek Trail
Mountain Bike -
Salt Creek Trail (only on the part outside the Wilderness)

Motorcycle -

Camping: There is a Forest Service campground on the east side of the pass, Weston Pass campground. The east side of the pass has a few dispersed campsites. The west side of the pass has a lot of dispersed campsites.
Base Camp: This would be a good place to base camp to hike the Buffalo Peaks Wilderness area from the north east.
Fall Colors: Good - The west side of the pass has a lot of aspen groves.
Snowshoeing -

Cross Country Skiing-

Snowmobile -

Navigation: From Fairplay, CO. head southeast on Main Sreet toward 7th Sreet for 0.4 miles. Take the 3rd right onto CO-9 S/US-285 South and continue to follow US-285 South for 4.7 miles. Turn right onto County Rd 5 and go 7.0 miles. Turn right onto County Rd 22. You are now entering public lands and starting the Weston Pass road.

From Leadville, CO. ead south on Harrison Ave toward W 8th Sreet for 0.5 miles. Continue onto Silver Drove amd go 0.3 miles. Continue to follow US-24 E for 6.8 miles. Turn left onto County Rd 10/County Rd 7 and go 2.1 miles. Keep to the left to stay on County Rd 7 and go 0.9 miles. You are now entering public lands and starting the Weston Pass road.
History: An 1860 gold strike at California Gulch (just south of present-day Leadville) gave rise to the first wagon road. It climbed to the headwaters of the South Fork of the South Platte, and on over the 12,109 foot Weston Pass toward the upper Arkansas Valley.

In 1860, Algernon S. Weston traveled by ox team across the plains from Kansas, joining experienced prospectors from the declining California gold rush and First-time hopefuls from the East and Midwest. After a mining stint, Weston settled into a career as a lawyer; and he also acquired a ranch in Lake County along the Weston Pass Road. He rose to become a judge and a State Senator.

In 1859, Philo M. Weston came to Colorado, arriving in South Park in 1861. He purchased the 480-acre ranch claim that straddled California Gulch Toll Road (soon to be known as the Weston Pass); and later bought another 160-acre claim near the Twin Bridges area. By 1862, he and his wife Mary had a roadside hotel, probably on his larger property. After an 1860 location farther west, the toll gate may have been moved to or near that property as well. In 1867, he sold the 480-acre claim and moved to Lake County, and then to Chaffee County.

The 13,000 foot Buffalo Peaks, formed by volcanic action long after the Mosquito Range uplift, mark the western edge of the 39 Mile Volcano Belt. Before there were roads to South Park, early gold rushers using the Santa Fe Trail would head north along Fountain Creek. As Pikes Peak came into view, they continued northwest up the creek and over Ute Pass, and then used Buffalo Peaks as a landmark as they entered South Park. A crude toll road was built over Weston Pass as early as the summer of 1860. At least 3 different toll companies operated the road over the next 20 years. The early 1860's saw some busy times for the tollway, but nothing like the hordes that raced for Leadville after the 1877 silver strike.

For about a two-year period during 1878-79, this road may well have been the busiest in all of Colorado. As the Denver, South Park and Pacific Railroad built toward Leadville in 1879, end-of-track was at the wild tent town of Weston, several miles east of Twin Bridges. From there, the Wall & Witter Company alone sent 7 stagecoaches and 11 freight wagons each day to conquer Weston. On September 4, 1879, 225 teams were counted as they crossed the summit. On the steeper, narrow sections of the road, literal traffic jams were the order of the day; and bloody stage crashes were not uncommon. Isham & Co.'s summit house was at the top of Weston Pass to meet the needs of those who were thirsty and/or in a mood to celebrate achieving the Summit.

Weston Pass Auto Tour Fairplay, Colorado: Pike National Forest, South Park Ranger District, 2014. Online.
Weston Pass road is a graded county road (Park County and Lake County) that follows the South Fork of the South Platte River on the east side and Big Union Creek on the west side. Sarting from the east side the road begins after driving through a dispersed residential area of homes and ranches. Once on public lands the road will run along the South Fork of the South Platte River as it slowly climbs up the pass. You will pass the Forest Service run Weston Pass campground and the Weston Fault as you climb higher along the valley.

Along the Weston Pass Fault system, Paleozoic dolomite (500-300 million years old) abuts ancient metamorphic rock that may be up to 2 billion years old. This contact is described as an  unconformity because there is a significant difference in age between the two types of rock and the older metamorphic rock lies on top of the younger dolomite. The Weston Pass Fault system fractures in the earth s surface that shift due to plate tectonics is the cause of this unconformity. In this case, the older rock units were thrust up and over the younger rock. During Park County s mining boom, several of these fractures were mined for silver. Abrupt changes in rock type and age indicate the location of the faults.

There are a large number of dispersed campsites along the Weston Pass road. The higher you get the fewer their are. Just before you reach the top of the Pass you will pass the remains of a cabin at the Ruby mine on the west side of the road.

photo by:
Adam M

From the pass parking lot to the south are other mine sites, but very little remains of the workings.

Heading down the west side the road runs up above Big Union Creek on a bench. The upper section runs through a large wide valley that has a few tailings along the south side.

West side of the pass

photo by:
Adam M

As you get lower you will enter the forest and run along the creek. There will be a large number of dispersed sites along this section until you get down to private property. Once you leave public lands you will drive through another residential area with small ranches and private homes. Keep and eye out for pedestrians. Once through the residential area you will connect with Hwy 24.

Data updated - December 14, 2014       4WD Road driven - July 22, 2014       Copyright 4X4Explore.com - 2000-2014