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Hancock Pass, Alpine Tunnel

No Reviews
Location Buena Vista, CO
Rating Moderate,
Length 11.6mi
Time 4hrs

Vehicle Types


Follow railroad grade over high pass to Alpine Tunnel.

Pass through historic site of Hancock on way to 12,140-ft. Hancock Pass. See restored train depot at Alpine Tunnel. Enjoy more difficult side trip to Hancock Lake. Combine this trip with Tomichi Pass, Trail #40. No unlicensed vehicles allowed on C.R. 162 east of parking lot at Waypoint 01.


Trail Ratings Defined

Very rocky and slow going, but okay for aggressive stock SUVs. Skid plates are helpful. The drive should not be attempted if snow is on the trail. F.S. 839 to Alpine Tunnel is a high shelf road, but easy.




Add 3mi for side trip to Hancock Lake



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Current Conditions

719-539-3519Gunnison and San Isabel National Forest

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Trail Updates

Submitted by Brockett
Drove Hancock pass today from the St. Elmo side in my stock Grand Cherokee Trailhawk. Chose to drive the road after reading several older offloading books that rated the trail as moderate. As others have noted, this road has degraded significantly in recent years. This is now a challenging trail that I would not drive again in my current vehicle.

We made it through with no significant damage. However, that was honestly lucky and a testament to Jeep’s engineering on the Trailhawk GC. The final mile up the St. Elmo side is essentially a continuous rock garden with deep ruts, perpetual loose rock, large boulders, and several challenging ledges. I would not recommend this trail to anyone in a stock 4×4 of any kind unless you’re a skilled offroader and willing to risk significant under carriage damage.

That said, it’s a stunningly gorgeous drive and well worth it if you have the right vehicle (OTV or modified, short wheelbase 4×4).

Submitted by Michael
this trail is significantly more difficult than it was in the past. Coming from the Tomichi side isn’t too bad, still the upper end of moderate. The St. Elmo side has seen huge amounts of erosion. Much of the trail is run off. There are now many, many large rocks to navigate and some serious ledges. It is comparable to Wheeler Lake (at least when I last ran Wheeler) much of the trail resembles “bowling ball hill” and that is the moderate part. If you have time, I highly suggest re-running the trail. I would provide pics, but A) I was busy hanging on to the steering wheel and B) pics wouldn’t do it justice. For reference, I am running a 4.5″ lift with 33″ tires on an LJ Rubicon. I have wheeled Colorado trails for 25 years or more. About 12-15 years ago (memory is fuzzy) we drove a stock LR3 over Hancock pass. I would never consider that now. I wouldn’t run it in a stock 4 Door Rubicon.

Submitted by Denny
The trail is rough and very rocky. Looking at the terrain on both sides of the road one has to wonder where they all the rocks came from. Slow go even in an RZR. But fun and still beautiful. Those wishing to see the Alpine Tunnel will have to hoof it from the cutoff. Several years ago an avalanche took a piece of the road off at the Palisades. Local railroad fans are trying to put something together to get it fixed but the cost is up there and that part of the road didn’t have much room to give to start with.

Submitted by John
This entire trail is now very rough and rocky with many large exposed steps and boulders. It is not passable in a stock SUV without damage and likely not at all. On August 2019 I traveled this trail in a Jeep TJ on 35″ tires without need of lockers but I would not do it again. It is not a moderate trail with a few obstacles, it is a miles-long rock garden. I saw only ATV and UTV traffic. Only the larger, long-arm suspension UTVs appeared to be enjoying the trail.

Submitted by Paul
From the alpine tunnel trailhead, I got 1.5 miles up. Scouted ahead and found trail blocked by snow. Turned around while I still could. A lot of water running down the trail.

Submitted by Charles Wells
A section of the Palisades has collapsed pending repairs by the Forest Service. FSR 839 is closed just north of Waypoint 06. Until this is repaired, you can not get to the Alpine Tunnel or Williams Pass Trail. See road damage HERE.


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