Cumberland Pass: High-Altitude Adventures Await


Cumberland Pass, located at an elevation of 12,034 feet, is widely considered the highest standard passenger vehicle road in the United States. This scenic byway traverses the Sawatch Range of the Rocky Mountains within Gunnison National Forest, connecting the old mining towns of Pitkin and Tincup, Colorado.


  • Cumberland Pass offers a unique high-altitude driving experience through stunning Rocky Mountain landscapes.
  • The pass provides access to a wealth of outdoor adventures, including hiking, fishing, rock climbing, and off-road vehicle trails.
  • Visitors can explore the area's rich mining history, including the Alpine Tunnel and historic mining towns.

Destination Overview

Cumberland Pass is a true gem settled in the heart of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. This high-altitude pass, reaching a staggering 12,034 feet above sea level, is renowned for its breathtaking scenery and diverse array of outdoor activities. Whether you’re an avid hiker, a fishing enthusiast, or an off-road adventurer, Cumberland Pass promises an unforgettable experience.

Outdoor Adventures

One of Cumberland Pass’s primary draws is the abundance of outdoor pursuits available. Hikers can embark on challenging treks through the rugged Sawatch Range, taking in panoramic vistas and encountering diverse wildlife along the way. Anglers will delight in casting their lines in the crystal-clear streams and alpine lakes that dot the landscape, reeling in prized trout species.

For those seeking an adrenaline rush, Cumberland Pass offers a playground for rock climbers, with numerous routes catering to various skill levels. Kayakers and whitewater rafters can navigate the region’s rushing rivers, while off-road enthusiasts can explore an extensive network of ATVs, dirt bikes, and 4WD trails that wind through the stunning wilderness.

Historical Significance

Beyond its natural wonders, Cumberland Pass has a rich mining history dating back to the late 19th century. The pass was originally constructed in 1882 to facilitate the transportation of ore from the mines in Tincup to the Denver & South Park Railroad’s Alpine Tunnel. Remnants of this era can be found throughout the area, including abandoned mines, historic structures, and the Alpine Tunnel itself, which served as a vital link in the region’s mining operations.

Seasonal Activities and Access

While Cumberland Pass offers year-round adventures, the changing seasons bring unique experiences and challenges. During the winter months, the pass is typically closed due to heavy snowfall, but this opens up opportunities for snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, and other winter sports. In the spring and summer, the melting snow unveils a vibrant display of wildflowers, attracting nature enthusiasts and photographers alike.

Off-Road Adventures

For those seeking an off-road thrill, Cumberland Pass is a mecca for ATVs, dirt bikes, and 4WD enthusiasts. The area boasts an extensive network of trails that wind through the rugged terrain, offering challenges for all skill levels. However, it’s essential to exercise caution, follow guidelines for safe and responsible off-roading, and ensure your vehicle meets the necessary clearance requirements.

Accommodations and Camping

Whether you prefer roughing it in the great outdoors or seeking more comfortable lodging, Cumberland Pass has options to suit your needs. Camping enthusiasts can choose from primitive campsites or well-equipped RV parks, while those seeking a more luxurious experience can explore the unique lodging options in the nearby towns of Pitkin and Tincup.

Planning Your Visit

When planning a visit to Cumberland Pass, preparing adequately is crucial. High-clearance vehicles are strongly recommended for navigating the rugged terrain, and visitors should be mindful of respecting the natural environment and wildlife. By following best practices for environmental conservation and adhering to wildlife-watching guidelines, you can ensure a responsible and enjoyable experience in this stunning Colorado destination.


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

The summer months, typically from June to September, offer the most favorable conditions for outdoor activities and access to the pass. However, each season offers its unique charms, from wildflower blooms in spring to snow-covered landscapes in winter.

Are there any special permits or fees required to visit Cumberland Pass?

While no special permits are required to access the pass itself, certain activities like fishing or camping may require licenses or fees. It’s advisable to check with local authorities for the most up-to-date information.

Can I bring my dog to Cumberland Pass?

Yes, dogs are generally allowed in the area, but they must be kept on a leash and under control at all times. It’s essential to clean up after your pet and respect any designated areas where dogs may not be permitted.

Are there any safety concerns or precautions to consider when visiting Cumberland Pass?

Due to the high elevation and rugged terrain, visitors should be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions and take necessary precautions, such as carrying appropriate gear and staying hydrated. Exercise caution when engaging in rock climbing or off-roading, and follow all safety guidelines.

Are there any guided tours or outfitters available for activities in Cumberland Pass?

Several local outfitters and guide services offer guided tours, equipment rentals, and instruction for various activities in the Cumberland Pass area. These can be a great option for those seeking expert guidance and a more structured experience.


About the author

Shannon Persad

As a seasoned journalist and Colorado native, I bring a deep-rooted connection and comprehensive understanding of Colorado to my work at My appreciation for the state’s rich history, vibrant culture, and pressing environmental issues drives my commitment to exploring its evolving landscape—from the bustling urban centers to the tranquil mountain towns.