Schofield Pass is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 3.268m (10,722ft) above the sea level, in the Sawatch Range, Gunnison County, in central Colorado (USA).
The road over the pass is an old wagon route built in 1883 between Crested Butte and the Crystal / Marble area. Schofield pass is known as the most deadly pass in Colorado and for good reason. Located near Crested Butte CO, it's one of the most popular ways to get to Snowmass Mountain. It is the high point on Gothic Road which connects the towns of Marble and Crested Butte.
This trail passes through remote areas, so you need to be prepared. There are deaths (17 at last count) or very serious accidents every year. Most accidents occur on the descent from Schofield Park to the Devil's Punchbowl. One danger is drivers not drying out their brakes after a deep creek crossing before the steep descent. This route should only be attempted by very skilled and experienced four-wheel drivers, and only in jeep-type, small, high clearance 4WD vehicles.
The trail is terrible for drivers who are prone to vertigo. In many places the road is bordered by a drop of hundreds of meters (many hundreds of feet) unprotected by guardrails.
The Devil's Punchbowl section is a rock ledge drive along a cliff of up to 300 feet. While the road has been tamed recently to be drivable, there are several demanding sections that are unforgiving. Weather and rock conditions may make this section impassable due to melting snow drifts or rockslides that narrow the road. At other times, the ride is relatively easy if you are not afraid of heights. Views and scenery well worth the rough, long trip. You may have to back up a long distance if you meet an oncoming vehicle. Rock slides are common and occasionally close the trail. Recommended only for very experienced drivers & small high clearance 4WD. Extremely rough road. Vehicle traffic discouraged. 4x4 with experienced drivers and narrow wheel base only.
A traveler on this road must be experienced and completely devoted to safe, slow and obstacle-conscious driving to deter danger. The road to the summit is suitable for a passenger car if traveling from the east; however, after this it is rated 4-wheel drive only as it switchbacks down the west side through the Devil's Punchbowl Canyon and becomes a narrow, rocky shelf road. A signal warns: This is the last chance to turn around or pass a vehicle for miles. NARROW road with steep drop-offs. If you are not on foot, bike or ATV, turn around NOW!
Road closures can be frequent, so check conditions before traveling to this area. Do not be lulled into complacency by "casual" and beautiful sections that ultimately lead you into the upper reaches of the Crystal River gorge. Avoid committing your vehicle to what is in front of you until you are sure of what you are getting into because things could get worse. Parking is available in the town of Crystal, and 4WD high-clearance trucks can continue two miles to the hiking trailhead at 9,700 feet. The road is accessible only by high-clearance 4-wheel-drive trucks from this side. Two miles from the trailhead lies Geneva Lake.
The road is called FSR #317 (also known as Upper South Fork Crystal River Road). Rock slide are common, so check conditions before departing. It can be impssable. The track is rutted and rocky with large holes. If you have anything but a 4 x 4, avoid the drive. It could lead to car damage especially the undercarriage of your vehicle. The road is impassable from October to July. Be aware of early season snows. It’s mostly a one-lane rock road featuring some narrow parts, impassable for 2 medium cars. Not recommended if you don't know how to reverse. If you feel uncomfortable at any point, do not be tempted to follow, turn around and go back.
Pic: gautam gurnurkar