Corkscrew Pass is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 3.732m (12,244ft) above the sea level, located in San Juan County, in southwestern Colorado, USA. The road is suitable only for 4 wheel drive vehicles. Narrow and steep on some switchbacks. It’s one of the highest mountain roads of Colorado.
Located in the San Juan Mountains, the road to the summit is unpaved. It’s called Corkscrew Gulch Trail. It is steep and rough in spots with several sharp switchbacks. The route has humbled many egos. It’s an easy drive when dry. If wet, the trail becomes more difficult due to slippery clay soil. The road is wide and graded most of the way; however, one section of narrow switchbacks at the top may be intimidating to novice drivers. This is definitely not a Sunday drive. Drivers, keep your eyes on the road as any wrong move could be your last. You may send yourself careening down a 500-foot cliff. 4x4 vehicle with high clearance required.
Tucked away within the Uncompahgre National Forest, the road is 8km (5 miles) long, running west-southeast from Million Dollar Highway to County Road 10. This scenic trail cuts through the heart of old mining country. Driving at night, or in poor visibility, is not recommended for drivers unfamiliar with the road unless you have a good roof rack of lights. The road is usually impassable from October to June (weather permitting). One of the great things about Corkscrew though, is that you almost always have a clear view of the road above, and can easily see and anticipate traffic coming down. Watch for logging trucks on lower part of trail.
Once at the top of the pass, the views are fantastic. The drive offers an incredible bird’s eye view of Como Lake. The original route through Corkscrew Gulch was a rough trail built in 1882-1883 to provide access between Silverton with the towns and mines on Red Mountain. This track is unforgiving in many areas. With jaw-dropping views around every corner, be sure to bring a camera and plenty of juice to keep it alive. The drive is especially beautiful in the fall when you can overlook the spectacular stands of aspen in the Ironton valley. It’s a very popular trail so expect lots of company.
Pic: Manoj Sreekumar