Napoleon Pass  
Maps: Location Map           
USGS 7.5' Map: Garfield
Statistics:
Difficulty: Number: Miles: Altitude: Obstacles: Time:
Moderate 5 FT 540, FR 953.1 6.0 10,200 to 12,050 ft. Mud 1 3-4 hours
County: Gunnison
Adopted by:      
Managed by: Gunnison National Forest,
Gunnison Ranger District
216 N. Colorado
Gunnison, CO 81230
(970)641-0471
Summary:
Attractions:  History, Mining, Scenery
Seasonal
Closure:
Natural Nature - closed by heavy snows.
Best Time: June- Early, upper part may still be snowed in
July - Best
August - Best
September - Fall colors mid to late September
October - Closed by early snows
Trail Heads
Accessed:

Camping: Some camping on the north end near Tincup. The center and southern half are steeper and offer less opportunities for camping.
Base Camp: Napoleon Pass would be a day trip from the Taylor Park area to the north or from the Pitkin area to the south.
Fall Colors: Poor - Napoleon Pass is in pine forests
Navigation: From Tincup, CO head south on County Rd 765 toward County Rd 765P. After 0.3 miles there is a slight left toward County Rd 765N. Continue straight onto County Rd 765N and go past the Tincup Cemetary road, a left turn. Continue on FR 953, Napoleon Pass road.

From Pitkin, CO head northeast on Main Street toward 6th St 0.4 miles. Turn left onto State Street for 0.3 miles. Continue on County Rd 76 for 0.4 miles. Continue on Forest Service Rd 765 for 6.1 miles. Turn right onto Forest Service road 540, Napoleon Pass road.
History: At the north end of the 4WD road near Tin Cup is the cemetary for the town. It is called "The Cemetary of Four Knolls" with each knoll representing a different group, Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant. The fourth and most used in the early days was for those with no religion.
Discovered in the early 1880's the Gold Cup mine was a large operation south of Tin Cup which produced $7,000,000 in gold and silver. It kept producing through the mild recession in the mid 1880's and didn't close down until 1917.

The road over Napoleon Pass was used to haul ore down to Pitkin where the railroad ran up and through the Alpine Tunnel and down to St. Elmo then on out to Buena Vista.
Description:
From the north end of Napoleon Pass road out of Tincup you will pass the Tincup Cemetary and continue along a wide meadow before entering the forest again. The road will continue to wind through small openings in the forest as you follow Middle Willow Creek. After about 3 miles you will come to a small meadow with the remains of the Gold Cup Mine. The tailing pile, steam engine, and ore chute are on one side of the meadow with the miners quarters on the other.
Gold Cup Mine with Napoleon Pass in the background

photo by:
Adam Mehlberg

Gold Cup Mine ore chute

photo by:
Adam Mehlberg

Gold Cup Mine tailing pile

photo by:
Adam Mehlberg

Gold Cup Mine steam engine

photo by:
Adam Mehlberg

photo by:
Karla H.

photo by:
Karla H.

photo by:
Karla H.

Gold Cup Mine steam engine

photo by:
Adam Mehlberg

Just past the Gold Cup Mine is an intersection. The right is the continuation of FR 953.1 which dead ends in 0.5 miles. To the left is FT 540 that continues to Napoleon Pass and presents the obstacle for this route. You must cross a wide and muddy section of Middle Willow Creek that appears to be very deep. Approach this crossing with care because it is deep as it appears.
Obstacle, crossing Middle Willow Creek

photo by:
Adam Mehlberg

Obstacle, crossing Middle Willow Creek

photo by:
Karla H.

Once across the creek you will pass through a section of private property with a gate before climbing into a heavily forested area known as Bone Basin.

After reaching timberline you will have Napoleon Pass in view flanked by Napoleon Mountain on one side and Fitzpatrick Peak on the other. From the top of Napoleon Pass you will have views to the north of the Taylor Park valley surrounded by the Collegiate Peaks.
Napoleon Pass

photo by:
Adam Mehlberg

Looking back toward Taylor Park

photo by:
Adam Mehlberg

Napoleon Pass

photo by:
Adam Mehlberg

After dropping over the south side of Napoleon Pass you will travel just less than a mile before coming to an intersection at the bottom of a short switchback. To the right is FT 540.1A that goes one mile up to the tailings of an old mine. The the left will continue on FT 540 and come to another intersection after 0.75 miles. To the left is FR 763.3A which only goes a short distance to private property. To the right, or continuing down hill, is FT 540. You will begin a descent crossing Graphite Creek twice before connecting with FR 765. From here a right will take you back over Cumberland Pass to Tincup, or a left will take you to Pitkin.
Data updated 05/03/12       4WD Road driven 09/05/10       Copyright 4X4Explore.com - 2000-2012