Cinnamon Pass: Overlanding and Scenic Beauty


Cinnamon Pass, standing at an elevation of 12,640 feet (3,847 meters), is a high mountain pass located in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. It is part of the renowned Alpine Loop, a scenic off-road trail that winds through southwestern Colorado’s rugged and breathtaking landscapes.


  • Cinnamon Pass offers thrilling overlanding and off-road adventures through rocky terrain, water crossings, and narrow shelf roads.
  • The area boasts stunning natural beauty, with opportunities for hiking, camping, fishing, and exploring historic mining sites.
  • Nearby towns like Silverton and Lake City provide essential services, dining options, and cultural experiences for visitors.

Destination Overview

Cinnamon Pass is one of the true gems of North America for adventure seekers and nature enthusiasts alike. This remote and challenging pass was once a vital route for miners during Colorado’s gold rush era, connecting the towns of Lake City and Silverton. Today, it attracts visitors from around the world who come to experience its rugged beauty and test their off-road skills.

The journey through Cinnamon Pass is not for the faint of heart. The ascent from the west side is particularly demanding, with steep and rocky terrain that can become treacherous in wet conditions. However, those who brave the trail are rewarded with awe-inspiring vistas of the San Juan Mountains, opportunities to spot wildlife, and a chance to immerse themselves in Colorado’s rich mining history.

Local Experiences and Culture

While Cinnamon Pass itself is a remote and isolated area, the nearby towns of Silverton and Lake City offer a glimpse into the region’s vibrant local culture. These charming mountain towns are steeped in mining heritage, with historic buildings, museums, and cultural events that celebrate their past.

Visitors can indulge in local cuisine, sample craft brews, and explore the unique shops and galleries that showcase the work of talented artisans. Engaging with the friendly locals and participating in community events is integral to the Cinnamon Pass experience, providing a deeper appreciation for the area’s rich cultural tapestry.

Scenic Trails and Overlanding

The Alpine Loop, a scenic byway that includes both Cinnamon Pass and the equally challenging Engineer Pass, is a mecca for overlanding enthusiasts. This epic trail winds through some of the most breathtaking landscapes in Colorado, offering panoramic vistas of towering peaks, pristine alpine meadows, and remnants of abandoned mining operations.

Navigating the Rocky Mountain terrain, water crossings, and narrow shelf roads requires a high-clearance, four-wheel-drive vehicle and a skilled driver. However, the rewards are well worth the effort, as the journey through Cinnamon Pass and the Alpine Loop Scenic Byway is an unforgettable adventure that will leave you in awe of nature’s grandeur.

Camping and Accommodation

For those seeking a true wilderness experience, camping near Cinnamon Pass is an excellent option. While no designated campsites are on the pass’s west side, dispersed camping is permitted in the Uncompahgre National Forest, about five miles east of the summit. These campsites offer stunning views and a chance to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

For those preferring more traditional accommodations, the towns of Silverton and Lake City offer a variety of lodging options, ranging from cozy cabins and historic inns to modern hotels. These towns also provide essential services, such as restaurants, shops, and gear outfitters, ensuring that visitors have everything they need for a comfortable and enjoyable stay.

Hiking and Outdoor Activities

Beyond the thrill of overlanding, Cinnamon Pass and its surrounding areas offer visitors a wealth of outdoor activities to enjoy. Hiking trails wind through the stunning landscapes, offering opportunities to explore alpine meadows, cascading waterfalls, and abandoned mining sites. Be sure to assess trail difficulty before embarking, as Cinnamon Pass Road is meant largely for off-road vehicles, but surrounding trails are accessible for hiking.

For anglers, the nearby streams and lakes provide excellent fishing opportunities, with the chance to catch trout and other freshwater species. The area transforms into a winter wonderland in the winter months, attracting skiers and snowshoers who come to experience the pristine powder and breathtaking vistas.

Local Attractions and History

Cinnamon Pass and the Alpine Loop are steeped in Colorado’s rich mining history. Visitors can explore the ghost town of Animas Forks, once a thriving mining community that has been abandoned for over a century. The remnants of mines, mills, and other structures offer a fascinating glimpse into the hardships and triumphs of the miners who once called this rugged terrain home.

The impact of Colorado’s mining heritage is evident in the local culture and attractions, with museums, interpretive centers, and guided tours providing a deeper understanding of this pivotal era in the state’s history.

Nearby Towns and Services

While Cinnamon Pass itself is a remote and isolated destination, the nearby towns of Silverton and Lake City offer a range of services and amenities for visitors. These charming mountain towns are more than just pit stops; they are integral parts of the Cinnamon Pass experience, providing a taste of local culture, dining options, and shopping opportunities.

Silverton, with its historic downtown and Victorian-era buildings, is a hub for outdoor enthusiasts and history buffs alike. Visitors can explore galleries, museums, and local shops or indulge in the town’s vibrant culinary scene, which features everything from casual eateries to upscale dining experiences.

Lake City, on the other hand, offers a more laid-back vibe. Its focus is on outdoor recreation and a thriving arts community. Visitors can browse local artisan shops, attend cultural events, or simply soak in the stunning natural beauty that surrounds the town.

Social Media and Community Insights

In the age of social media, Cinnamon Pass and the Alpine Loop have gained a significant online following. Adventurers from around the world share their experiences and stunning photographs on platforms like Instagram and Facebook, inspiring others to embark on this epic journey.

Online forums and community groups dedicated to overlanding and off-road adventures are abuzz with discussions about Cinnamon Pass. These conversations offer valuable insights and tips for potential visitors, covering everything from trail conditions and vehicle requirements to the best times to visit and must-see attractions.

By tapping into these social media and community resources, visitors can better understand what to expect and how to make the most of their Cinnamon Pass adventure.


What is the best time of year to visit Cinnamon Pass?

The optimal time to visit Cinnamon Pass is during the summer months, typically from late May to early October. The pass is usually closed during the winter due to heavy snowfall and treacherous conditions.

Is a high-clearance, four-wheel-drive vehicle required to navigate Cinnamon Pass?

A high-clearance, four-wheel-drive vehicle is absolutely necessary for traversing Cinnamon Pass and the Alpine Loop. The terrain is extremely rugged, with rocky sections, water crossings, and narrow shelf roads that require specialized off-road capabilities.

Are there any camping facilities or services available near Cinnamon Pass?

While there are no designated campgrounds or services directly at Cinnamon Pass, dispersed camping is permitted in the Uncompahgre National Forest, about five miles east of the summit. The nearby towns of Silverton and Lake City offer a range of lodging options, restaurants, and other services for visitors.

Can I hike or mountain bike on the trails around Cinnamon Pass?

Yes, the area surrounding Cinnamon Pass offers numerous hiking and mountain biking trails, ranging from easy nature walks to challenging backcountry routes. However, it’s important to note that the pass itself is primarily intended for off-road vehicles and may not be suitable for hiking or biking.

Are there any guided tours or outfitters offering Cinnamon Pass and the Alpine Loop services?

Yes, several local outfitters and tour companies offer guided tours and rental services for off-road vehicles, as well as guided hikes and other outdoor activities in the Cinnamon Pass area. These services can be a great option for those who are unfamiliar with the terrain or prefer the expertise of a knowledgeable trail guide.


About the author

James Ranson

I’m an editor, traveler, and fan of the great outdoors. I’ve been to all 48 continental US states, and my drives through Colorado’s rugged peaks and snowy forests (not to mention whiskey tastings in Denver!) still stand out in my memories. I’m excited to use my ten years of editing experience to develop engaging and informative guides and articles that enhance the outdoor experiences of both Colorado residents and visitors. Whether a piece is about exploring the best ski resorts, uncovering scenic trails for hiking, or finding the most inspiring drives through the Colorado Rockies, my aim is to provide comprehensive and accessible content that encourages adventure and exploration.