Frequently Asked Questions
Your most frequently asked questions (FAQs) about Rollins Pass and the Moffat Tunnel, answered here! Please email [email protected] with any additional questions. Looking for something specific? Use your browser’s search feature to locate a keyword of interest.
Index of Topics
- Rollins Pass (Corona Pass)
- Moffat Tunnel
- Purchasing our Autographed Books
- General Topics
- Have further questions?
Rollins Pass is considered a sacred area by both Ute as well as Arapaho tribes.
Rollins Pass has been known by several names. Boulder Pass was the original name, which later became Rollins Pass, named after John Quincy Adams Rollins. The railroad station at the summit was named Corona, consequently Corona Pass is a variant name used by the railroad for tourism purposes. Today, Grand County refers to the pass by this appellation almost exclusively. However, Rollins Pass is the official name used by the US Geological Survey and is also the name officially recognized by the US Board on Geographic Names. In fact, the name “Corona Pass” does not exist in the official federal government geographic nomenclature—only Rollins Pass. The use of the correct name is also a safety issue: avalanche bulletins and news articles make reference to ‘Rollins Pass’ only.
Rollins Pass is a mountain pass located in the Southern Rocky Mountains of north-central Colorado, located on the Continental Divide roughly east of Winter Park and west of Rollinsville.
Rollins Pass spans three different counties: Gilpin County, Boulder County, and Grand County.
The elevation of 11,660 feet often shown in historical photographs reflects what might have been an original survey value obtained during either the late wagon road era or early railroad construction. A 1912 map shows 11,680 feet, but that is not based on a surveyed benchmarked location and was an estimated value based on nearby contours. The actual benchmarked survey elevation value of the summit of Rollins Pass is 11,671 feet (NGVD29), obtained during a 1952 second-order level line run from State Bridge to Denver by the US Coast and Geodetic Survey (predecessor to the National Geodetic Survey). When adjusted to NAVD88, the elevation is, without doubt, 11,676.79 feet.
Despite what Google Maps or Apple Maps may show, since 1990, a complete motorized thoroughfare over the Continental Divide no longer exists; you must go back down the same side you came up. Always consult the published Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUMs) linked to on this page. Permanent Closures: Year-round closures to travel by wheel-to-ground vehicles per 36 CFR 261.54a (Forest Closure Order 10-00-03) include:
• NFSR 149: Permanent closure 1 mile south of Needle’s Eye Tunnel to the Continental Divide
• NFSR 501: Boulder Wagon from its intersection with the Rollins Pass Road at Yankee Doodle Lake west to a point 1/2 mile west of the Needle’s Eye Tunnel)
No motorized route connects across the Continental Divide. 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 is seasonally open for wheeled motorized vehicle use from June 15-November 15; however, late snowfalls can and have resulted in later openings towards early July and/or early snowfalls can and have closed the pass in September. (Note the thoroughfare closures, documented directly above.) Up-to-date information about the Rollins Pass Road Status is published year-round, here.
The US Forest Service information line for the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests is 970-295-6600. Their road status pages are updated very infrequently; click here for the Sulphur Ranger District (Rollins Pass West) and here for the Boulder Ranger District (Rollins Pass East).
Yankee Doodle Lake both inspires and stores apocryphal stories about submerged wrecks contained within, including a 19th-century wagon, a 20th-century locomotive, and even an airplane. All variations of the anecdotes follow an identical trajectory, “if the light is just right.” However, all that can be seen in the lake is the reflection of a visitor yearning for a deeper connection to the area’s vast history.
There were early attempts at running narrow-gauge rails over the pass, but those efforts met with failure. The Moffat Road rail route over Rollins Pass was the highest adhesion (non-cog) standard gauge railroad grade in North America.
No, these areas are private property and are not open to the public.
Developed campsites typically have metal fire rings, picnic tables, garbage service, toilets, and bear-proof trash receptacles—there are no developed campsites on Rollins Pass. All camping is classified as ‘primitive’ and is only available in certain areas. Refer to the Motor Vehicle Use Maps for Rollins Pass West and Rollins Pass East for areas where camping is allowed. Any primitive sites are subject to not only first-come, first-serve and must also follow any applicable fire bans. Stage 1 (and above) fire bans prohibit fires at non-developed campsites. Visitors are required to properly store and pack out all food and trash to prevent negative interactions with bears and other wildlife.
A high-clearance vehicle is recommended to avoid bottoming out on the rough road. An all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive vehicle isn’t absolutely required. As the road condition on both sides continues to deteriorate, an ATV or SxS has become the preferred method of travel for many visitors to Rollins Pass. Luxury vehicles, sports and performance cars, sedans, station wagons, and coupes are not recommended.
Registered off-highway vehicles are welcome on Rollins Pass and all motorized vehicles (which now includes e-bikes) must adhere to Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUMs) linked to on this page; however, vehicles traveling on Rollins Pass are ‘off pavement’ rather than ‘off road.’ Stay the trail: the sensitive alpine tundra can take 100-500 years to fully recover. 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.
No, the historic grade used long ago by the railroad (as well as the portions of the wagon road able to be traveled by motorized vehicle) are not paved and see little to no maintenance or improvements; for the average driver, the route will take over an hour uphill and about an hour downhill. The road is quite rough and a high-clearance vehicle is strongly recommended. Luxury vehicles, sports and performance cars, sedans, station wagons, and coupes are not recommended.
Rollins Pass has no amenities. There are no emergency call boxes, shops, food, vending, restrooms, water fountains, fuel, shelter (with the exception of the Årestua Hut on Guinn Mountain), benches, picnic tables, trash receptacles, established campgrounds, pet waste bags/stations, nor AEDs. While the west side of the pass has decent cellular coverage; the summit and the east side of the pass have no or very limited cellular coverage.
Rollins Pass is sandwiched between the Indian Peaks Wilderness, created in 1978, and the James Peak Wilderness, established in 2002.
Recommendations include, but are not limited to: a first aid kit, cold weather clothing (hats, gloves, jacket)—the temperature can drop precipitously even in July/August, strobes that can be seen for 3+ nautical miles, 360° lightning detector, GPS or offline maps, SARSAT rescue beacon, emergency blankets, spare batteries, LifeStraw purifier, as much water and/or Gatorade as you can carry, and food/snacks. Expert advice on what to wear for hiking is provided here by REI. To add some historical context, a tourist visiting Corona in the summertime wrote for the August 3, 1911, Greeley Tribune, “As all those who have taken this trip know, it is one of the most scenic mountain trips in Colorado, where mountain scenery is a chief product. . . . Snow banks and wild flowers, as the literature tells you, is right.” Concluding, “The next time [the author] goes to Corona he will borrow an overcoat to take along, for there ain’t no summer up there.”
Recommendations include, but are not limited to: an avalanche transceiver, probe, and shovel, as well as an avalanche backpack. Plus the basics: a first aid kit, cold weather clothing (hats, gloves, jacket)—the temperature can drop precipitously even on sunny, warm spring days; strobes that can be seen for 3+ nautical miles, GPS or offline maps, SARSAT rescue beacon, emergency blankets, spare batteries, as much water and/or Gatorade as you can carry, and food/snacks.
Avalanches have occurred on both sides of Rollins Pass. In fact, avalanches were the cause of at least four railroad wrecks: near Jenny Lake in March 1913 and December 1919, near Yankee Doodle Lake in December 1917, and near the Loop in February 1922. There have also been several avalanches within the post-railroad era: November 2001 at Yankee Doodle Lake and in February 2021 at Mount Epworth and Pumphouse Lake.
The overall road that can be driven: 27.7 miles; however, no motorized route connects across the Continental Divide. On the west side, it is 13.9 miles to the summit, plus an additional 1.7 miles from the summit to the blockade at the overlook above Yankee Doodle Lake. On the east side, it is 12.1 miles to the blockade before Needle’s Eye Tunnel.
There are three seasonal gates across the historic road on the western portion of Rollins Pass. The first gate is found at the entrance to the pass, located almost immediately off of US Highway 40. From this gate, it is 13.9 miles to the summit. The gate at the entrance typically opens in early-mid June. Next is the “midway” gate, located 5.5 miles up the road, just before the Forest and Morgan Spurs, and is 8.4 miles away from the summit. This gate typically opens June 15th. Finally, there’s a gate just below the Riflesight Notch Trestle, 10.2 miles from the entrance; from here, the summit is 3.7 miles away. This gate typically opens between the 15th and the 21st of June each year. The first gate is located at approximately 9,008 feet in elevation; the midway gate at approximately 10,013 feet; and the trestle gate at 11,001. Therefore, the “midway” gate is essentially midway in elevation between the upper and lower gates, not in road distance from the entrance to the summit.
Yes—typically the first of three gates is open (the one at the western entrance of Rollins Pass off of US Highway 40), and every few years one or more gates on Rollins Pass are not open by June 15. When this happens, there’s an additional sign posted on the gate that reads, “Extended closure due to snow, runoff, and road damage—36 CFR 261.54(a).”
Rollins Pass is not open on Memorial Day weekend. On the west side, the gates blocking the road are typically opened on or around June 15th; on the east side, there are no gates, however, due to substantial snow in the rock cuts, the road is not typically open to Yankee Doodle Lake until around June 21-28 each year.
Rollins Pass is mostly open on Independence Day (July 4th). Over the last rolling decade, Rollins Pass West has been open to at least Sunnyside, located above the Riflesight Notch trestle, and usually to the summit. On the east side, Rollins Pass is typically open to Yankee Doodle Lake but is closed (by snow) at the rockcut past Yankee Doodle Lake and therefore is not passable above that point to Jenny Lake and the Forest Lakes, until about July 8-12th. Above the Forest Lakes area, snow in some years has prevented access to the highest point on the east side until the first or second week in August.
Rollins Pass is open on Labor Day as last winter’s snows have at last melted in all rock cuts. Early season snow storms can sometimes put higher elevations out of reach, but both sides of the pass are typically open to above 11,200 feet after any snow events in early September and any snow received typically melts within a few days.
Campfires are always prohibited in the James Peak Wilderness per this US Forest Service page. Campfires are also prohibited in the Indian Peaks Wilderness on/near Rollins Pass by King Lake, Betty Lake, Bob Lake, Buttermilk Falls, Skyscraper Reservoir, Woodland Lake, and along the South Fork of the Middle Boulder Creek—these areas are in the Woodland BZ and Middle Boulder BZ where campfires are prohibited per this US Forest Service map; the only exception is on the ridge west of the Continental Divide (above Corona Lake), known as the Columbine Backcountry Zone (BZ).
Yes, camping permits are required from June 1 to September 15 in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. Permits can be obtained at recreation.gov.
The Rails that Climb: A Narrative History of the Moffat Road by Edward Bollinger is a Rollins Pass fan favorite. Reverend Bollinger mentions the 1924 derailment of Mallet No. 210 and, on page 206, writes that “you can pick yourself a souvenir today, for some of her junk is still there.” The unfortunate reality is Bollinger’s recommendation now contradicts established laws that protect artifacts and sites such as the final resting place for Mallet No. 210. Rollins Pass is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and all artifacts—from the prehistoric to the historic—are objects of antiquity and are protected by many cultural laws. The pass contains countless treasures, which are being studied and documented by universities and government agencies. Sadly, the material record of Rollins Pass is illegally carried away each year in the backpacks of well-intentioned visitors who want a souvenir. Each artifact has important scientific and cultural value and theft harms the historical record of accomplishments made on this beloved pass. Please preserve the area for future generations: be sure to take only photographs, leave only footprints and don’t pocket the past, and share discoveries with those researchers dedicated to telling the story of this important place.
The Continental Divide of the Americas—a great mountainous barrier—stretches from Alaska to Panama. In Colorado, this hydrological divide varies in elevation from 10,000–14,000 feet above sea level.
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 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.”
The 6.2-mile-long Moffat Tunnel spans two counties: Gilpin County (East Portal) and Grand County (West Portal).
The Arapaho refer to the area as hooxee hookute’ (wolf’s canine).
The Moffat Tunnel was bored through a shoulder of James Peak located on the Continental Divide.
A train moving east to west through the Moffat Tunnel begins at an elevation of 9,196 feet at the East Portal, ascends a very gentle 0.3 percent grade, and 14,054 feet later, reaches the tunnel’s apex at 9,238 feet above sea level. Descending the remaining 18,746 feet toward the West Portal, two different grades are encountered (0.9 percent and 0.8 percent) toward the portal’s elevation of 9,098 feet.
The Moffat Tunnel opened for rail traffic in 1928 and has seen continuous use since that date. The Moffat Tunnel was also crucial to helping win World War II as more than 30 defense trains hurried through the tunnel daily.
No. However, of interesting note is the 1922 law authorizing the Moffat Tunnel “specifi[ed] that the bore should be used by cars as well as trains.” Several Steamboat Pilot articles mention the plan was to ferry cars through the tunnel “on electric-powered railroad flatcars” and then collect a “toll charge.” If such a plan were enacted, it would slash approximately 28 miles and nearly 4,000 feet of total elevation from the present route up, over, and down Berthoud Pass.
The creation of the 6.2-mile-long Moffat Tunnel through the Continental Divide was a monumental undertaking; 400 tons of drill steel were used for the 700 miles of drill holes made through the heart of James Peak. Dynamite—1,250 tons of it—loosened 750,000 cubic yards of rock for excavation, the equivalent of 1,600 freight trains, each 40 cars long.
Purchasing our Autographed Books: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Yes! …and no. If a book is to be inscribed, please triple-check the spelling of the name(s) we will be making the book out to—we use permanent ink! Travis and Kate want to engage with our readers in a way that appreciates and celebrates the history of Rollins Pass. Personalization requests that run contrary to the dedications or acknowledgments printed in our books, messages about opening/closing the pass, text that contains abbreviations or profanity of any kind, or messages of a hateful or political nature will be canceled and refunded.
Our processing and handling times are typically within two business days, with most orders averaging same business day or next day for handoff to the postal service. Orders are not shipped on days our local post office is closed (Saturday afternoons, Sundays, and federal holidays).
We send all orders with speedy shipping to your front door or mailbox in a USPS Flat Rate Envelope. Shipping is the same cost for either one or two books.
Signed paperback books are also available for local pickup without shipping charges. Reach out to us if you are in the Grand County and Gilpin County areas—if our route takes us that way, we can meet!
While extraordinarily rare, if your tracking number happens to show “Tracking number created” (or something similar, like “Label Created, not yet in system”) for a few days, please wait until one weekend passes as it is usually over the weekend that USPS catches up with their missed scans. We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience.
We fulfill orders almost immediately as we receive them. If your shipping address was incomplete or is incorrect, we are unfortunately not able to change it before it ships. Once you receive the tracking number, you (the receiver) can contact USPS and complete or correct the address. If you are having trouble with this process, please contact us at [email protected] once you’ve received a response from USPS.
If you received a damaged item, please notify us within 72 hours of delivery and we will happily replace the damaged item(s) with the same shipping as per the original order. Please include well-lit images detailing the damage to qualify for replacements.
Due to the nature of our custom fulfillment process, we are unable to accept returns or exchanges at this time. We do guarantee shipment and if there is any damage to your order, please email us with photos of the damage and we will replace your order right away.
Please note that our processing time is up to two business days to fulfill your order and it ships after that. If you are ordering something for a specific date, please account for this processing and shipping time.
If you are one of the two dozen people who made our first book possible or one of the more than six dozen people who helped make our second book possible, your copy is on us! Preserve Rollins Pass routinely makes donations from our book sales. The proceeds of our first royalties went to Colorado State University’s Archaeology Field School—they conduct field research and archaeology on Rollins Pass in the summers. We have also donated over a hundred books to local libraries, master and PhD students, preservation groups, county governments, and land managers.
Our books are written directly on Rollins Pass in nearly every season with finishing and assembly work completed in both Tolland and Fraser, Colorado. Our books are made in the USA and are printed in South Carolina on American-made paper and manufactured entirely in the United States.
Of course! Each of our books and presentations about Rollins Pass and the Moffat Tunnel involve tens of thousands of hours of work in consultation with experts across the country. We always enjoy reading compelling reviews, yours if we are so honored, and would like to be able to share your words and thoughts on our recommendations page with others.
While our two books cover the same core topics of Rollins Pass and the Moffat Tunnel, the 2022 book is not a republication of our 2018 work—in fact, there’s very little that’s duplicated between the two books. Our 2022 book discusses completely new details and information about Rollins Pass that transpired in the four years between publications. The 2022 work has never-before-published and extraordinarily rare imagery meticulously restored from the originals: all historic photographs are printed in black and white with modern counterparts are in full color. While our first book involved two dozen people, our second book involved the efforts of more than six dozen experts to help tell this area’s vast story.
Our growing list of experts is found here on our ‘With Gratitude‘ page.
If you would like to collaborate on a project, invite us to give a presentation, or feature Travis and Kate in a documentary or article, we welcome all inquiries. Please contact us at [email protected] and we will respond in a timely manner.
Writing books is more a labor of love than it is a source of revenue—we donated our first book’s royalties to Colorado State University’s field school students who perform archaeology fieldwork atop Rollins Pass in the summers. If your content is selected and will be used, we would be happy to give you a signed copy of the book when it publishes. We would also give you/your family credit in the book for each photo as well as special call-out in the Acknowledgments of the upcoming book and special mention at our book launch event.
Good news: we can scan the media for you (for free) and send you all of the photos digitally, too, to help preserve these memories for future generations.
We’re accepting any image, but would love to see anything that would make a reader turn the page, see your photo, and say, “WOW!”
No worries—we’ll still accept it and we can determine approximate dates.
Do you have a question that could be featured on our frequently asked questions page? Reach out to us!