Boreas Pass   Easy icon
USGS 7.5' Map: Boreas Pass, Breckenridge, Como
Difficulty: Number: Miles: Altitude: Obstacles: Time:
Easy Graded FR 33, Cnty 10 21.20 9,692 to 11,492 ft. NA 2-3 hours
County: Park, Summit
Adopted by:      
Managed by: Pike Nat. Forest,
South Park Ranger District
320 Hwy 285, P.O. Box 219
Fairplay, CO 80440
Summary: Boreas Pass in an old railroad line that connects South Park with Breckenridge.
Attractions: Scenery, History
Nature - Closed by winter snows
Best Time: June - Early, may still be snowed in above timberline. July - Best
August - Best
September - Best
Trail Heads
FT 9133 (Hike, Mtn Bike)
FT 1988, Black Powder Pass
FT 698, Old Boreas Wagon Road
FT 40, Baker's Tank (Hike, Mtn Bike, Horse)
FT ???, Hoosier Ridge
Camping: There are a half dozen camp sites along the Boreas Pass road as well as a Forest Service campground on the south past Robert's Cabin.
Base Camp: This would be a good area to base camp and explore the other four wheel drive roads off of Boreas Pass like Indiana Creek, Pennsylvania Creek, and Dyersville.
Fall Colors: Very Good - The south side of the pass has large aspen stands.
Navigation: From Breckenridge CO. head southeast on South Park Avenue toward 4 O'Clock Rd for 0.5 miles. Continue onto S Main Street for 0.3 miles. Turn left onto Boreas Pass Rd and go 1.2 miles. Turn right onto Illinois Gulch Rd and go 0.5 miles. Illinois Gulch Rd turns slightly left and becomes County Rd 518. Go 0.2 miles and turn left onto Illinois Gulch Rd. Go 341 feet and turn right onto Boreas Pass Rd. Go 0.3 miles and take a slight right to stay on Boreas Pass Rd. Go 0.6 miles to the start of the gravel road, this is the Boreas Pass road.

From Fairplay, CO. head east on US-285 North for 9.3 miles. Turn left onto Boreas Pass Rd and go 0.5 miles. Continue onto 8th Street for 269 feet. Turn right onto Broadway and go 0.2 miles. Continue onto Boreas Pass Rd for 3.1 miles. Turn right to start up the Boreas Pass Road.
History: In the 1860s Boreas Pass was a foot trail from South Park into the mines of the Breckenridge area known as Breckenridge Pass, when it served as an early route for thousands of prospectors during the Colorado Gold Rush. They crossed from South Park to look for gold in the valley of the Blue River around Breckenridge. In 1866, it was widened to a wagon road that accommodated stagecoaches. In 1882, under the direction of Sidney Dillon of the Union Pacific Railroad, the Denver, South Park and Pacific Railroad (by then controlled by the Union Pacific) begun laying narrow gauge tracks up the pass, which Dillon renamed in honor of Boreas, the Ancient Greek god of the North Wind. The line was a spur to Breckenridge (eventually extended to Leadville) off the company's main line from Denver through South Park. The rail line over the pass was a major engineering feat, primarily because of the winter snows at high altitude. When completed, it had dozens of snow sheds along its route, which approached a 4% grade in many places.

The town of Boreas, now a ghost town, was constructed at the summit, primarily to house workers to clear the line in winter. The post office at Boreas Pass lasted until 1905 and the station burned down in 1934, after which the rail service was discontinued. The largest stucture at Boreas was the 57 by 155 foot stone Engine House that included an engine turn table, water tank and coal bin within the structure. It burnt down in 1909 and today only the outline of the foundation exist in the bursh along side the pass road.
Stone Engine House

A 600 foot snowshed was later extended to 997 feet with doors on the Breckenridge end to keep out drifting snows. In 1898 a depot was built onto the snowshed for the comfort of boarding passengers. All these amenities failed to foil Boreas winters. Elevation at the top of the Pass is 11,481 feet. Winds are constant, strong and icy. Snow is unending. The winter of 1898-99 was particularly severe. Snows began early; by November, trains and tracks were under ten feet of snow. Clearing the tracks, always costly and time-consuming, became impossible and no train ran between February 6 and April 24, 1899. Boreas Station was all but deserted by 1905. The line was abandoned in 1937 by the Colorado & Southern, along with most of the company's narrow gauge right-of-way. After World War II, the Army Corps of Engineers reconstructed the route for automobile traffic.

On the south side of the pass Como started as a tent town, built by the railroad to house the thousands of workers laboring on the line. Temporarily the final stop, the rails brought hordes of adventures, drifters and opportunists eager to reach Leadville during the height of the silver boom. Some entrepreneurs stayed, built stores and provided services. Little remains of the booming railroad junction that was Como. In its time, the town boasted a large roundhouse (the stone portion still remains though the wooden section was destroyed by a 1935 fire), a depot, the 43-room Pacific Hotel (also destroyed by fire in 1896 and replaced by the current, smaller one), saloons, shops and tenements.

The early residents of Como were Italian immigrants who named the town and the nearby lake after Lake Como in Italy. Coal mining had brought them to Como operating the railroad and mining the coal necessary to run the trains became the primary employment in the area for many years.

The discovery of gold in Tarryall Creek in the 1860s brought scores of fortune seekers expecting to share in the riches. They found a cold welcome at the settlement of Tarryall City, the best sites were claimed and newcomers were not wanted (nick named Grab All by the newcomers). Hamilton was soon established on the other side of Tarryall Creek, named after Earl Hamilton. From the start, the two towns were rivals. They refused to build a bridge across the creek (anyone foolish enough to want to visit Tarryall City, the Hamilltonians said, deserved to get his feet wet). They competed for gold and for culture when traveling plays or dignitaries came through the area. Hamilton won out, attaining a larger population in its first year. It had a post office, scores of saloons and gambling houses, and for a time its own mint. John Parsons minted coins valued at $2.50 and $5.00 from 1861 until 1863, when he moved to Denver.

Tarryall City was known for little besides its unfriendliness and greed. It did become the seat of Park County government for a short while, but its population never matched its rival across the creek. Despite the district's production of $2,000,000 worth of gold between 1859 and 1872, Tarryall City was a ghost town by 1873. Hamilton fared little better as both town sites are under dredge tailings from dredging Terryall Creek in the 1930s.

Beyond Como just as you start to climb from the valley of Terryall Creek is Robert's Cabin near the town site of Hamilton.

On the south side of the pass just above Hamilton and Robert's Cabin is Rocky Point. In the 1950's when the Army Corps of Engineers constructed the road over Boreas Pass they followed the historic railroad right of way, except for Rocky Point. Here they chose a steeper bypass to avoid the large amount of blasting that would be required to widen the road around this point.

At 1.2 miles below the summit on the north side of the pass was the train station called Farnham, or Farnham Spur. Named for its postmaster, W.H. Farnham, the site boasted little except its dreams. A promotional letter in the Summit County Journal by J. B. Farnham (presumably a relative of the postmaster's) confidently touted the town's potential as a resort. The Breckenridge Daily Journal gave additional credence to the plan. Farnham did have a store operated by Wilbur Wood and Calvin Pike. Pike also served as the local agent for the 7:40 Mine, located on the south side of Bald Mountain, about one tenth of a mile northwest of Farnham. This mine was sometimes called the 7:30 Mine after a miner's joke that described heading to work at 7:30 AM and arriving at the mine at 7:30 PM just in time to turn around and head home. The spur loaded railroad cars with concentrate from the area mines including the Warrior's Mark below the railroad grade near Dyersville.

Going from Como to Breckenridge the steam locomotives would need to stop to replenish water in the boiler. The first stop six miles up was at Selkirk, the second was at the summit of Boreas Pass. The third stop was at Baker's Tank four miles below the summit. Normally steam engines could go 30 miles before needing more water. The steep grade of Boreas Pass required the more frequent tanks. At Baker's Tank their is a remaining water tank with its large spout that would be lowered over the tender to fill the engine. The original Baker's Tank was only 9,305 gallons, which was not enough to keep up with the steam engines. In 1910 the Denver, South Park & Pacific railroad replaced the original tank with the one you see along the right of way today. This new tank came from the Pitkin side of the Alpine Tunnel and fueled the steam locomotives that went through the tunnel under the continental divide. Ore from the nearby Mountain Pride Mine was also loaded onto the train at Baker's Tank. There was also a coal station and 350 feet of spur track that lead from the main line down to service the mining camps at Indiana Creek.

Below Baker's Tank was the town of Argentine in an open meadow along the rail line. It was a small town with about 20 buildings including cabins, businesses, and well built homes of the mine owners. It's post office was closed in 1883. Nothing remains at the site today.

Just outside of Breckenridge is Barney Ford Hill, named for a former slave who made a fortune in the mines, lost it in a bust, but persevered to reestablish his wealth. Barney Ford panned for gold in the 1860's and as that boom waned, established one of the finest hotels in Denver, the Inter-Ocean Hotel. The silver and lead carbonate boom in 1880 brought Ford back to Breckenridge. He opened Ford's Chop Stand which quickly became the best restaurant in the area. Though the Chop Stand was destroyed by fire in 1896, Ford's home, considered in its time one of Breckenridge's finest cottages, still stands.

Jessen, Kenneth Ghost Towns Colorado Style, Volumn 1, 1st ed. Loveland, Colorado: J.V. Publications, 1998. Print.
Jessen, Kenneth Ghost Towns Colorado Style, Volumn 2, 1st ed. Loveland, Colorado: J.V. Publications, 1999. Print.
Boreas Pass Auto Tour Fairplay, Colorado: Pike National Forest, South Park Ranger District, 2014. Online.
Starting from the Breckenridge side of Boreas Pass you will pass the Rotary Snowplow Interpretive Park. On display is a narrow gauge rotary snowplow built in September 1900 for White Pass and Yukon as their rotary #2. The rotary was in service until 1963. The tender is from CB&O steam locomotive #2901, a Pacific locomotive. After the locomotive was scrapped, the tender was used by the Colorado and Southern Railway as an auxiliary tender. Also at the site is a cabin that was built in 1899. It was originally part of the Gold Pan machine shop facilities. The road then winds its way out of town through housing developments as a paved road climbing to the top of Barney Ford Hill. Once you reach the gravel road their is a parking area along the side of the road for hikers and mountain bikers to leave their vehicles. There is a trail from here to Baker's Tank. Just after you start the gravel road you will come to a narrow cut where the railroad grade curved along the mountain. Be aware of people taking pictures and walking along this section. Past the cut the road is a ledge road as it gains altitude through the trees. You will have nice views of Breckenridge and the ski resort to the west.

There are a few more minor cuts and fill areas as you continue along the pass road. Shortly you will come to a wide sweeping curve and Baker's Tank.
Baker's Tank

photo by:
Adam M

Baker's Tank

photo by:
Adam M

The trail from the earlier parking area comes down from behind the water tank. Boreas Pass road gets wider after the tank and on coming traffic will be easier to see. The road contiues south high above Indiana Creek heading to a wide saddle, the top of Boreas Pass.
Boreas Pass Station

photo by:
Adam M

The reconstructed station and out buildings area at the top of the pass as well as a box car. The foundation of the old stone engine house is also near by. The road continues south toward Como staying wide and well maintained.
Boreas Pass road

photo by:
Adam M

Boreas Pass road

photo by:
Adam M

As you get lower in altitude and enter the forest you will come to a section of road that has a steep climb over a short ridge. This is the section of pass road that is not orignal. It bypasses Rocky Point due to the amount of rock work it would have taken to widen the railroad grade. At the lower side of the hill is a wide section where you can park and walk the old railroad line to Rocky Point. There is also a short section of narrow gauge railroad to here to give you an idea of what the whole line would have looked like.
Rocky Point

photo by:
Adam M

View from Rocky Point

photo by:
Adam M

After Rocky Point the road winds down through the trees around a series of large looping switchbacks. You will come down to an intersection with County Road to near Robert's Cabin. Head left and follow the county road to Como and the highway to Fairplay.
Data updated - March 24, 2016      4WD Road driven - August 30, 2014      Copyright 4X4Explore - 2000-2016