Gunsight Pass

Gunsight Pass, beautiful scenery as you switchback up the mountain

Gunsight Pass is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 3.692m (12,112ft) above the sea level, located in the Gunnison National Forest, in Colorado, USA. This high alpine road is brutal with loose rock and an even steeper hike a bike near the end. It's one of the highest mountain roads of Colorado.

Located in Gunnison County, the road to reach the pass is stunning. It’s called Gunsight Pass Road and is gravel and rocky. It’s an old mining road. Practically the whole trail is a series of switchbacks up Red Lady Mountain and into Redwell Basin. Gunsight Pass 4x4 road climbs for about 6.5 miles until it turns into a singletrack trail. That climb up Gunsight is pretty good until a little over 11,500 or so. There, the road became loose powder with loose rocks. The singletrack trail continues on to cross the 12,090' Gunsight Pass. There is no way to actually drive over the pass, or even to the top of the pass. The last two large switchbacks of this trail are closed to ATV’s and 4×4′s because it is no longer safe to drive on. So if you are looking to get up to or over the pass, you will need to use a mountain bike or plan on a bit of hiking.

It’s a real challenging road and a true test of your vehicle and your stamina because the road abounds in twists and turns with wheels sometimes hanging above the precipice. From Crested Butte, go out of town towards the cemetery and right after you pass the cemetery, Make a left turn onto an easy 2WD dirt road. This road is called Slate River Road. Go about a mile or so until you see a sign to the left that says Gunsight Pass. From there, go all the way down to the river, there is an old bridge that recently has been re-enforced so you can walk across it and/or take your bike. If you have a 2WD or low clearance vehicle, do not continue. The river in most of the summer is very deep and the remaining road is very narrow and hairy. Only 4WD vehicles are recommended to continue. Driving hiking or biking, the remaining route could strike some people as difficult. This old road is not well maintained. The past years, the shale slope that leads to the top is currently experiencing major erosion, which causing various land slides to block the road. The upper section of the road on the south side of the pass has also degraded along a scree slope to the point where it is not passable safely. 

The road is impassable from November to May, weather permitting. The drive offers great views of Crested Butte on the lower part of the trail and spectacular northern views as you climb. This is a difficult drive. Be prepared for the risks of thunderstorms, cold weather, and isolation. Snowfields can be dangerous; you can fall through them to rocks below. Be careful.
Pic: Eric Yackel