Rollin’ up Rollins Pass – July 9, 2017

(Read in SNL Stefan voice)
Colorado’s hottest casual spin on a weekend is the Rollins Pass trail. It follows the path of retired train tracks up and over the collapsed Needle’s Eye Tunnel to the top of Rollins Pass. You will encounter lakes and snow fields while being surrounded by the sprawling forests and snow-capped mountain tops of the Indian Peaks Wilderness.
(End Stefan voice)


In all seriousness, this was a fun ride with fun being defined as rewarding and not too stressful. It’s 15 miles up and then down ~2900ft. of a low-grade dirt road. Notably, your lungs and legs won’t get as tired as your butt. There are long stretches of trail that’s pure embedded rocks. Towards the top, shortly before reaching the tunnel, I felt as if someone gave me a freezing, ice-cold whopper of a wedgie. This sensation might have been prevented by a more hefty chamois but all-in-all, it’s a minor inconvenience for the views you’re surrounded by the entire time.


1 of 2 notable snow patches when we went

We left around 7am from Moffat Tunnel and only encountered a handful of cars up to Yankee Doodle Lake (~10 miles). A thick snow patch blocked cars from advancing beyond, allowing us to get all zen (aka relaxed) and use the entire width of the trail to better avoid the rocky sections (futile effort).


Needle’s Eye Tunnel. A little dusty now.


Jenny Lake

My advice on the Rollins Pass trail is to think like a train. If I were a turn-of-the-century train, can I get up this steep pitch? Can I fit through this narrow gulley? Can I make this tight turn? If not, then I’ve probably gone off trail. We did not think as such and as a result, we ended up doing a second hike-a-bike section immediately after the expected one over Needle’s Eye Tunnel. It wasn’t too bad, but not heeding this advice also caused us to miss the trestles on the way up.

Almost there

IMG_0032But thankfully not on the way down! There are two century-plus old trestles built entirely out of timber on the trail. They seem pretty structurally sound, having been built to ferry multiple tons of heaving metal and commodities through thin air, but there was nothing preventing us from rolling off their edge and tumbling a long ways down to the forest floor. Our imaginations entertained this morbid scenario just long enough to give us a peppy adrenaline rush as we rode across them.

Trestle #1
Trestle #2

More cars met us on the descent, being later in the day, but we still had fun ripping down the (relatively) straightaways. The trail’s mild grade and rocks prevent mindless coasting, but these obstacles provide means for creative fun.

Anyway, Rollins Pass trail is definitely one worth riding at least once. The next time I do it, I’d go down to Winter Park. So if you’re planning on going to Winter Park and looking to avoid i-70 and Berthoud Pass traffic…. holla at me.

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