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Jeep & Camping Trip Pictures to Colorado - July, 2012

11910 Views 44 Replies 29 Participants Last post by  grogie
UPDATE on 10/31/12: Added videos also posted near the top of page 3.

Just a few weeks ago, for the third time I drove my TJ back to Colorado where my wife and I grew up. I had been thinking about this trip for more then a year. For one I wanted to see the Alpine Tunnel and decided that would be my first destination. The Alpine Tunnel was the first railroad tunnel constructed through the Colorado Continental Divide. According to the U.S. Forest Service it "remains the highest railroad tunnel and the longest narrow gauge tunnel in North America." I also wanted to camp in the area and drive some other area trails.

The first Jeep trip to Colorado was when my TJ was stock. It did okay, but I banged a few rocks along the way and it had a bit of a rough ride. The second trip was two years ago and was right after I had installed a lift, which did give it a better ride and no banging on rocks! The new Jeep additions to this trip were a Derale transmission cooler and an AtoZ rear bumper with a built-in tow hitch receiver (for a hitch rack for this trip, and later for a trailer). The transmission cooler was awesome as it was 107 degrees through Nebraska, and even on high mountain trails I often heard the fan running. :cool:

Now for the pictures...

After leaving Denver on a sunny Monday morning, we stopped for lunch above Buena Vista before filling up with gas in town and heading west into the mountains.

After passing the townsite of Hancock and siting out an afternoon rain storm, the sun returned and we continued for Hancock Pass. The trail was somewhat rocky and the front tires spun a couple of times. Fun drive!

We arrived at Hancock Pass for some pictures and to enjoy the view.

Time to head down the other side which was mostly a curvy dirt trail with ups and downs, then it got rocky near the end to where it met the Alpine Tunnel trail.

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We passed a reconstructed water tower for the old train route that once ran here.

I had planned on camping in this area for the first night and we even had a deer stop by a few times. Due to the fire ban, we had homemade pizzas on my Coleman grill and some fine Colorado brews. It was an awesome night. It was super dark as the moon was not out.

In the first photo you'll see, towards the center of the mountain is the Alpine Tunnel trail.

Sad to say, this is what a Jeep trail looks like once it has been closed for a few years. However we enjoyed taking an after dinner walk along it.

The next morning it was time to drive the Alpine Tunnel trail. I wanted to go early, as from what I had been told, there are few places to pass along the trail so I wanted to beat the traffic. We were the second 4x4 to arrive there that morning. The first was actually a pickup truck which was driven by an older couple that work for the park service. They were very friendly and told us that they drive up there once a week to keep the site clean. They told me that the week before they picked up five bags of trash. There is a trash can on site, however a lot of people seem to find it a problem with making sure that their trash is put in the can. :rolleyes:

This was the view outside my driver's side window, followed by the view ahead.

We arrived at the parking lot and then walked up to the reconstructed station house. Next to the station house use to be a hotel, and across from it was the foundation for an engine shop. The station house is open for visitors and included a number of pictures on the walls. When visiting, don't forget to sign the registration book, leave a fresh pen, and leave a $ donation. :)

The rock with the crack in it is still along the trail! I didn't notice this at the time, and I regret not getting a picture with my Jeep there.

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Continuing to walk past the station house you'll find what use to be the tunnel (or still is). The openings have long ago caved in. In this area also use to be a water tower and round house. Then it was time to head back to our campsite, pack up, and head for Taylor Lake Reservoir.

On the way to Taylor, we crossed Cumberland Pass, which was an easy drive. We then arrived at our campsite that I had reserved for two nights, on the south side of the reservoir. And what a great view it was!

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The next day it was time to drive another trail, which was Tincup Pass. The northside of Tincup had some larger rocks then Hancock Pass, which started after Mirror Lake. It was another great view!

The southside of Tincup had a lot of ruts! It must have been a muddy spring.

We then stopped at the Mt. Princeton Hot Springs pool, and then went into Buena Vista for a late lunch. Afterwards we headed back over Cottonwood Pass, which is paved on the east side (the first picture below is looking down from the top of the pass). The west side was graded dirt road.

And what a beautiful view to the west towards Taylor Lake Reservoir!

After a comfortable night back at the campground and sleeping like a baby, the next morning we took a long walk along the reservoir.

The next day we drove back over Cottonwood Pass and spent the night at the 125-year old Delaware Hotel in Leadville. The lady at the front desk was a riot. It's a neat old hotel. It is old, and not everything works, and there is no elevator so unloading the Jeep and carrying camp gear and the cooler up the stairs was a workout, but it's a must stay when you are in the area!

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But before checking in, I wanted to drive one more trail which was Mount Zion that is north of Leadville. And wow! Was it fun! It's rather step in places, winds through trees, and is mostly a dirt trail. says that it can be difficult when muddy, which I would agree due to it's climbs. The trail has a lot of cuts in it to allow the water to flow off the trail when it's raining. The views along the trail were fantastic and I will drive this trail again.

After a date with a shower and a bed, the next day we drove over Weston Pass, headed for Breckenridge and then Frisco where we would meet up with family to camp at Peak One. Some more pictures along the way, including a side trail, and then of our next campsite with family.

After two nights at Peak One, and doing the tourist thing in Breckenridge and Frisco, we headed north to Grand Lake and Estes Park via Rocky Mountain National Park. This first photo below is from Grand Lake. Most of those trees in the background are all dead from the beetle kill. The devastation caused by these beetles is unbelievable! The next picture also shows the forests on the western side of the park. Dead trees were everywhere... :(

We then continued on and stopped for some pictures from the top of Rocky Mountain National Park. In distance is the Colorado front range.

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Or next accommodations was the Stanley Hotel, where my wife and I got engaged about 15 years ago. Never heard of the Stanley? It's where Dumb and Dumber in part was filmed, as well as the subject hotel for the Shining... :ghost:

At the Stanley I found this really old map hanging on the wall. If you look closely you'll see the Alpine Tunnel as a railroad route! Cool!

The next day we drove out of the Rockies, after a week, and then spent a night in Fort Collins were we first met. The next day when we're packed up and driving out of town to head home, we were stopped by a train...

My Jeep did great. I only had two issues. First the lock on the original gas cap broke while attempting to fill it up. How ironic that one can't put gas in a Jeep when it LOVES gas! I was going to break it off when my wife googled "Jeep dealer" which one was 20 miles away. So I drove it there, they broke it off and I bought a new gas cap. The second issue was that after driving out of the Rockies and running 91 octane, I put $20 worth of Colorado's "cheap" 85 octane, and it threw a code. After researching the code here on JF, the first recommendation related to the code was bad gas. So I cleared the code and topped off the tank with 91 octane. And no more codes... :thumbsup:

And what as the mpg you ask? The best highway mpg was one tank at 16.4. The worst was driving into Colorado at 75 mph, which resulted in a solid 11 mpg. I put gas in 17 times along the trip. Nice!
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Awesome write up, I can't get enough reading about Colorado trips. Soon I hope to be out that way and explore. I also love your Jeep as I am partial to red Jeeps myself. :cheers2:
Great trip pics, must put some of these places on my bucket list.
Awesome pics. I love the Frisco area, but I have only been during the winter. Maybe next summer I will be able to see it.
Western Colorado is so beautiful. Thank you for the nice pics and write up.

Love the pics, I'll have to go check this out at some point
I have to ask why anyone would move from Colorado to Indiana.

I'd comment on the pics, but can't see them for some reason.
I have to ask why anyone would move from Colorado to Indiana.
My wife's job is the reason. She's been with the company for 14 years now since college, and hopefully she'll retire with them. It's a very good job.

Believe me, otherwise we'd move back! My family is mostly all there. My brother goes camping all the time and sends me pictures. He's mean to me... :laugh:
Great report.:thumbsup:
Great pics as always my friend. I'm glad you were able to get out there this year. There's just something about the high mountain passes that is so peaceful and relaxing.

While I love wheeling in Moab, the San Juans of Colorado will always be a special place for me.
Awesome report and looked like some great relaxing trials thanks for sharing

95 YJ 2.5 4 banger with 4"rancho lift on top of 33x12.5/15
I so want to do a trip like this. Nice report.....makes me hate Illinois just a bit more.
Great report. Any spots you had issues with, as far as what your wrangler could do?

Any spots you think a wk2 would have trouble with?


As far as going to the Alpine Tunnel, you can get there by Hancock Pass or from Pitkin (from Gunnison). I'd like to go back to that area, and next time, I want to have a small trailer for camping gear. I'll probably reach it by Pitkin. Hancock Pass has a lot of lose rock and is rough, but no large rocks. As long as you have four-wheel low you can get over Hancock Pass. At the top of the pass when I was there, a couple guys with a stock full size pickup where up there.

As far as Tincup, the north side has larger rocks and is also rough. The south side seems to be how most people get to the top. It has less rocks and as I mentioned has a lot of ruts from spring run-off.

Mount Zion was simply a matter of having four-wheel low and a dry trail to get to the top. (I loved this trail!) :bowdown:

All of the trails I ran were not rated higher then 4 out of 10 by I wouldn't be comfortable going too much higher since I'm always on my own. There are usually other four-wheel drives on these trails (mostly ATVs actually), but I don't want to push getting stuck or breaking something. I do have a winch, but up above tree line there isn't much to winch too.

This morning I climbed under the Jeep and gave it a close look. My new transmission cooler, the sensor wires were damp with transmission fluid, but other then that, I didn't break anything.

I would think your WK2 would do fine. :)
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