Driving Etiquette

Whether you are a beginner or seasoned expert, review these essential driving etiquette tips for navigating Rollins Pass safely.

The Rollins Pass Road is closed to automobiles, ATVs, and motorbikes typically from November 15 through June 15, but high snow levels usually do not allow for access to the sub-alpine and alpine regions until late June or early July; autumn snowstorms can close the summit areas as early as the third week of September. Both on and near Rollins Pass, be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions, no amenities, and no/limited cellular coverage. Know what to bring by reviewing this article. For the most up to date road status information that is updated every single week of the year and often daily, click here. For driving etiquette tips while recreating on Rollins Pass, read on.

Looking for details on what the road looks like for the season? Check out our Rollins Pass Road Status page.

Rollins Pass Route & Driving Tips

  • A high-clearance, 4-wheel drive or all-wheel-drive vehicle is highly recommended. Some sections of the pass are only wide enough for one vehicle (see photograph)
  • Drive safely: many bicyclists, hikers, dog walkers, and horseback riders recreate on Rollins Pass. There are many blind curves—expect a car, person, or animal around each one!
  • Many sections on both sides of the pass are classified as a “shelf road”—the roadbed is cut/built into cliffs or other steep faces
  • The vehicle heading downhill must yield to the vehicle traveling uphill
  • In mud, “if you leave a track, turn back” (deeper than 1 inch or more)
  • Stay on the road while driving through snow
  • As indicated on Motor Vehicle Use Maps, the route across the venerable (and vulnerable) trestles has been closed to motor vehicles for over forty years, please help preserve these historic wooden structures—no motorbikes or ATVs. Per Stay the Trail Colorado, MVUMs are the legal trails you can recreate on—anything off that is out-of-bounds. Please abide by these limitations for the benefit of our continued access.
Rollins Pass Road Status - Narrow Corridors & Blind Curves

WHAT ARE MOTOR VEHICLE USE MAPS (MVUMs)?

Per the US Forest Service, “the Motor Vehicle Use Map is a requirement of the Travel Management Rule and reflects travel management plan decisions. The MVUM displays National Forest System (NFS) roads, trails, and areas that are designated open to motor vehicle travel. The MVUM also displays allowed uses by vehicle class (highway-legal vehicles, vehicles less than or equal to 50 inches wide, and motorcycles), seasonal allowances and provides information on other travel rules and regulations. Routes (includes both roads and trails) not shown on a MVUM are not open to public motor vehicle travel. Routes designated for motor vehicle use may not always be signed on the ground but will be identified on the MVUM. It is the public’s responsibility to reference the MVUM to determine which routes are designated for motor vehicle use. The MVUM may be updated annually [in January] to reflect new travel decisions and to correct mapping discrepancies. The MVUM is a black and white map with no topographic features. It is not a stand alone map and is best used in conjunction with a National Forest Visitor Map or other topographic map.”

Per Stay the Trail Colorado, Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUMs) are the legal trails you can recreate on—anything off that is out-of-bounds. Please abide by these limitations for the benefit of our continued access.

Looking for satellite, wilderness, and motor vehicle maps of Rollins Pass? Check out our Rollins Pass Maps page.

DRIVING ETIQUETTE: ADDITIONAL CONSIDERATIONS ON AND NEAR ROLLINS PASS

  • Leave No Trace
  • Hills:
    • Travel every hill or inclined road on the straightest and most direct path up and down as possible. By driving at an angle, the vehicle’s center of gravity can unexpectedly shift and result in a rollover.
    • Don’t follow a vehicle up a hill or steep section until it has reached the top.
  • Water Crossings:
    • Before driving through a puddle, make sure you know how deep it is. Some puddles on Rollins Pass, particularly on the first leg of Giant’s Ladder on the eastern side of Rollins Pass, can get quite deep and have hidden rocks. Be sure to keep your radiator clean of mud and make sure that your tires are visible.
    • When crossing a stream, choose the shortest path directly across rather than following along its banks or using it as a pathway. Such a destructive practice can cause considerable harm to the environment and disrupt habitats, and it’s typically prohibited by law in most areas.
  • Leave a 3-5 vehicle gap between cars. Be gracious when others are seeking to pass or overtake you.
  • The ribbon of dusty road has been a hallmark of the Rollins Pass area for generations, however, do your best to ensure that dust you do kick up is kept to a minimum. Avoid creating or substantially minimize dust clouds and engine noise when passing bicyclists, horses, hikers, and occupied campsites.
  • Leave a gap when passing people, animals, and/or vehicles and make eye contact with others. A friendly wave is also appreciated, fostering a sense of camaraderie and respect among fellow travelers. It’s our responsibility to honor both the trails we traverse and those who journey upon them.
  • Avoid trespassing on private lands, particularly on the east side of Rollins Pass.
  • When leading or riding with a group, signal the number of riders with your fingers to oncoming vehicles: one finger for one rider, two for two riders, and so on, with five fingers representing five or more riders. If riding solo or at the back of the group, hold up a closed fist to indicate “0” riders behind you.
  • Have the right licenses and tags. Make sure your license plate tag is up to date or that your OHV has up to date registration and permits. NFSR 808 (Jenny Creek Trail and spurs): special note, permit required: a $25.25 off-highway vehicle permit must be displayed on any full size vehicle traveling #808.1 for recreational use, even if that vehicle has a currently registered license plate from Colorado or any other state/province.
  • When encountering someone stopped on or near the trail, check if they require assistance. Remember, one day you might need to rely on the kindness of others yourself.
  • Additional trail stewardship and driving etiquette tips can be found here and here

DRIVING ETIQUETTE: PARKING CONSIDERATIONS ON AND NEAR ROLLINS PASS

  • Pursuant to Gilpin County ordinance (22-05), no parking is allowed on Gilpin County roads nor on Tolland Road within the boundaries of Tolland Ranch—the Gilpin County Sheriff will ticket your vehicle. Please also respect private property signs on the lower and middle portions of Rollins Pass East.
  • The tundra is fragile and the history irreplaceable—stay on the road or pull-off in established dirt areas. Driving on and/or parking on dry grasses can start a wildfire: motor vehicle catalytic converters can reach temperatures of 1,200 degrees or more. Grass fires can travel at 14 miles per hour—and for every 10 degrees of slope, a wildfire can double in speed.

Trail Technical Ratings from OnX Offroad

From OnX Offroad, “The technical ratings listed below provide an idea of what you might encounter on a trail or road... trail conditions can change quickly and unexpectedly due to weather, closures, new obstacles, and other unforeseen events. Use your best judgment, know what your vehicle can handle and be safe. onX Offroad and its affiliates are not responsible for trail ratings, trail conditions, your driving ability or your skill level.

  • Rollins Pass West: (2/10) Easy: Dirt or rocky road, typically unmaintained after rain or snow. You may encounter shallow water crossings and obstacles under 12” on the trail, including small ledges. Roads are typically one to two vehicles wide.
  • Rollins Pass East: (3/10) Easy: Uneven, rutted dirt trail with potential for loose rocks and sandy washes. Water crossings less than a foot deep. Potential for mud holes and trail obstacles up to 12”, including ledges and short, steep grades. Roads are typically one vehicle wide with places to pass.
  • Jenny Creek Trail: (7/10) Advanced: Off-camber trail with deep holes and large rocks that may exceed axle height. Expect erosion, loose rocks, sand, washes, shelves, and deep mud holes. Obstacles and ledges up to 5 feet, and near-vertical grades 8-10 feet tall. Potential for water crossings with strong currents. Caution: Vehicle damage and roll-overs are possible.

Have more questions? Need more answers? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

The primary purpose of our work is to inform the public.

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