|USGS 7.5' Map:||Marble, Snowmass Moutain, Oh-be-Joyful, Crested Butte|
|Managed by:||Gunnison National Forest, Gunnison Ranger District
White River National Forest, Sopris Ranger District
|216 N Colorado, Gunnison, CO 81230
620 Main Street, Carbondale, CO 81623
|Summary:||Schofield Pass is a narrow and scenic road between Marble and Crested Butte.The 4WD road follows the Crystal River past the Sheep Mountain Power House (aka Crystal Mill) and takes you through the semi-ghost town of Crystal and past the water fall known as the Devils Punchbowl.|
|Attractions:||Scenic views through the narrow Crystal River gorge. Mining history, ghost towns, and early Colorado passes.|
|Agency - FR314 (north side) November 23 to May 20
FR317 (south side) February 29 to June 30
June - Only FR314 might be open
July - Snow may still block sections
August - Best
September - Best
October - Be aware of early season snows
|Camping:||Dispersed camp sites are along FR314 on the north side of the pass west of Crystal and on the south side of the pass along FR317. Be aware of the private property at the top of Schofield Pass along FR314.|
|Base Camp:||This area would be a great place to base camp. There are a lot of ghost towns and mining history along the network of 4WD roads. Fuel on the north side is further away in Carbondale and Paonia. On the north side Crested Butte is closer to this area.|
|Fall Colors:||The north side along the Crystal River has large stands of aspen trees giving good fall colors. The section south of Crystal is more open and has fewer trees. The south side of Schofield Pass is average with aspen stands closer to Crested Butte.
|Navigation:||From Carbondale, CO. head southeast on Colorado 133 South toward Garfield Ave. Go 21.5 miles and turn left onto County Rd 3. Go 2.8 miles and continue straight to stay on County Rd 3. Go 2.8 mile and continue onto Park Street. Go 0.4 miles and turn left onto West 3rd Street. Go 0.1 miles and take the first right onto West Main Street. Go 0.3 miles and take the third left onto East 2nd Street. Go 312 feet and take the first right onto East Silver Street. Go 0.1 miles and continue onto County Rd 3. Go 1.5 miles and take the slight right to stay on County Rd 3, this is the start of Schofield Pass FR 314. A left (FR 315) leads to Leadking Basin.
From Crested Butte, CO head north on Colorado 135 North toward Sopris Ave. After 0.1 miles turn right onto 6th Street. Go 0.3 miles and continue onto County and Forest Service Rd 317 / Gothic Road. Continue to follow FR 317 for 7.7 miles to the turn off to Gothic. Continue on FR 317. This is the start of the Schofield Pass.
|History:||During the early 1870's the Utes controlled the Crystal River area as part of the Ute Reservation. In 1873-1874 Dr. V. F. Hayden received immunity from Chief Ouray to continue his geologic surveys through the Crystal River Valley. In the spring of 1873 Dr. John Parsons from Denver was conducting another geologic survey of the Elk Mountains to ascertain the agricultural and mineral resources. With the aid of forty prospectors from the Crested Butte area Parsons built a road over Schofield Pass to the Crystal River, then called Rock Creek. Early miners called the trail "S.O.B. Trail" due to the sheer rock walls making transportation difficult, and the famed Devil's Punchbowl.
After the massacre of agent Nathan Meeker and seven employees at the White River agency in northwestern Colorado on September 9, 1879, and the near total loss of Major T. T. Thornburgh's relief force of 150 men, the Ute Indians were removed from their Colorado reservation to the desert Uintah reservation in northwestern Utah. One year after the removal of the Utes the federal government opened the Colorado reservation to settlement.
The Crystal Mill, or the Old Mill is a 1893 wooden powerhouse located on an outcrop above the Crystal River near Crystal, Colorado, on the way to Schofield Pass. Although called a mill, it is more correctly denoted as a compressor station, which used a water turbine to drive an air compressor. The compressed air was then used to power other machinery or tools. Today it stands as a Colorado icon, and is reputed to be the most photographed site in the state. In the 21st century, the mill is usually called the Crystal Mill or the Old Crystal Mill. Many decades ago, when the mill was still in use, it was called the Sheep Mountain Power House at the Lost Horse Millsite, or simply the Lost Horse Mill. Sometimes it is erroneously called the Dead Horse Mill. The mill was constructed in 1893 by George C. Eaton and B.S. Phillips, promoters of the Sheep Mountain Tunnel and Mining Company. It was built as a power plant for the Sheep Mountain Tunnel. Originally it had a horizontal waterwheel which generated compressed air for miners in the nearby silver mines. It fell into disuse in 1917 when the Sheep Mountain Mine closed. The mill was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on July 5, 1985.
In 1930 Carvel McWilliams was elected Mayor of Marble. He was a graduate of Gunnison High School and the towns people had hopes of fostering a better relationship between Gunnison and Marble. In April McWilliams went to Gunnison and presented a proposal to replace the old wagon road over Schofield Pass with a road three miles to the north crossing the headwaters of Silver Creek above the Lead King mine to the Commissioners. They favored the idea and passed a resolution recommending the extension to the State Highway Commission.
In 1936 the Governor of Colorado, Ed Johnson, borrowed $25,000,000 to improve roads throught Colorado assigning $50,000 to Gunnison County to build the road from Gothic to Marble. This was part of the "Park to Park Road", a network of roads connecting the nations National Parks. In July of 1938, under county commissioner Bill Whalen, twelve men, two bulldozers and a compressor were working on the road. On September 1, 1938 the Gunnison Courier announced that the long awaited road was within one and a half miles of being completed. It ran from Gothic through Gothic Park, around Emerald Lake and on up Schofield Pass and over to the town of Crystal, five miles from Marble. It was expected that the road would be open 5 months out of the year. As the Gunnison Courier reported "It will be a narrow road but there will be adequate turnouts. It follows the old wagon road as far as possible, when bull trains and mule teams were the means of locomotion." With this new road Marble would be 54 miles from Gunnison instead of 240 miles.
In September work was halted due to early snowstorms. In June of 1939 work resumed, but slowed as the drilling near the Devil's Punchbowl hit solid rock. This, with the heavy rains in the summer and early fall, slowed progress. The gravel surfacing was to take place in 1940, but the delays kept the workers from completing the road. As they worked people would drive down to the top of the Devil's Punchbowl and watch the progress. In the end it took until 1958 for the road to be completed so that vehicles could connect between Marble and Gunnison.
On August 5, 1958 four jeeps with fourteen passengers made a round trip from Marble to Crested Butte. The road had been impassable to vehicles due to boulders, rock slides and washed out bridges. In September, 1928, Jake Baumli Jr. took Charles Orlosky, his wife, and mother to the top of Schofield Pass from Marble. Slides closed the road there after until 1958. Gunnison County had cleared the road and built the bridges to open the road, but the 27 percent grade at the Devil's Punchbowl kept the road in the domain of four wheel drives.
July of 1970 brought the first of more modern accidents to Schofield Pass. A recently purchased vehicle from Illinois with twelve passengers heading to Crested Butte from Marble plunged into the Crystal River from the side of the Devil's Punchbowl. The vehicle slipped out of gear in a driving rainstorm and fell the 200 feet down to the river. A year later in August of 1971, on Friday the 13th, a family from New Orleans rented a jeep and were coming down the pass into Crystal. The jeep went off the road on a thirty percent grade with three members of the family in it.
Vandenbusche, Duane and Myers, Rex. Marble Colorado - City of Stone Denver, Colorado: Golden Bell Press, 1970. Print.
|East of Marble you will loop around the north side of Beaver Lake and climb Daniels Hill to the intersection of FR315, Leadking Basin, and FR314, Schofield Pass.
From here continue down hill to Lizard Lake. The road will skirt the very edge of the lake.
Just past the lake you will follow a ledge road that drops down toward the Crystal River. The road will now follow the river for about 4 miles with a few rough sections to navigate. You will drive through forested sections and open areas with nice views of the Crystal River. There will be spots where snow slides have bent the the young aspen trees and rocky sections that cross talus slopes.
Just before reaching the bridge that crosses the Crytal River and enters the old town of Crystal, you will pass by the Crystal Mill (correctly known as the Sheep Mountain Power Plant). This is one of the most photographed sites in Colorado.
The power house had a vertical shaft that ran in the square structure running up to the building. It connected to a horizontal water wheel that ran an air compressor in the power plant. Down river from the power house are the remains of a small stamp mill that was run by a belt from the power house.
Continuing over the bridge you will drive down the main street of Crystal. It still has summer residents, so it is not a true ghost town. After leaving town you will come to an intersection at a hairpin turn. Continue left, up hill, to stay on the Schofield Pass Road. You will climb the side of Mineral Point and do one switchback before connecting with the intersection of FR 315. This is the other end of Leadking Basin. Continue to the right to stay on FR 314, Schofield Pass.
The road will be high above the Crystal river as you continue up the canyon. This section is narrower with fewer places to turn out for on coming traffic. Pay attention to the road ahead for oncoming traffic. As the canyon narrows the road will be closer to the Crystal River. The road will remain narrow as you cross more talus slopes and navigate a few obstacles.
Around a rocky outcrop you will come to the single lane bridge that crosses the Crystal River. The bridge is covered with rock instead of planking. Just above the bridge you will pass the Devils Punchbowl. It is the section of river between the two waterfalls, a round deep pool.
The road will continue to climb up the Crystal Canyon to a flatter open section where you will cross back to the other side of the Crystal River.
Further along the road you will pass another waterfall near a bridge. Past the waterfall you will come out into an open area with a parking area. This is the site of the town of Schofield. Nothing remains of the town. Following the road to the southeast, you will pass through Schofield Park which is private property.
After Schofield Park you will come to an intersection with a road going down to the right, FR 317. Just beyond this intersection is Schofield Pass. The road will change to FR 317 as you are on the Gunnison Ranger District. Continue over the pass following FR 317 past Emerald Lake. The road will be wider and better maintained all the way to old town of Gothic, north of Crested Butte. Continue of FR 317/ County 317 to reach Crested Butte.
|Data updated: April 15, 2014 4WD Road driven: Semptember 02, 2012 Copyright 4X4Explore.com - 2000-2014|