USGS 7.5' Map: St. Elmo
Difficulty: Number: Miles: Altitude: Obstacles: Time:
Easy - 2 FR 295 7.5 9,975 - 11,040 ft. NA 1-2 hours
County: Chaffee
Adopted by:      
Managed by: Pike/San Isabel National Forest
Salida Ranger District
325 West Rainbow Blvd.
Salida, CO 81201
Summary: Hancock is a 4WD road that follows the old Denver, South Park and Pacific railroad grade from St. Elmo to the ghost town of Hancock. It passes through the ghost town of Romley with its side road to the Mary Murphy Mine and Pomeroy Lake.
Attractions: History, Scenery, Railroad History, Ghost Towns, Mines.
Natural - Closed by snow.
Best Time: June - Early, possibly still closed by snow
July - Best
August - Best
September - Best for fall colors
October - Possible snow closure
Trail Heads
Chalk Creek Pass Trail - FT1422
Trail to Alpine Tunnel
Continental Divide Trail
Camping: There are few dispersed campsites along the road. There are a few at the start near Saint Elmo and some beyond the town site of Hancock.
Base Camp: This area would be a good place to base camp. There are quite a few scenic and challenging 4WD roads in the area. Tin Cup Pass, Grizzly Lake, Pomeroy Lake, Hancock Lake, Hancock Pass, and Tomichi Pass.
Fall Colors: Good, there are aspen and pine along the lower section of the road near St. Elmo.
Navigation: From Buena Vista, CO go south on US Hwy 285 for 8.0 miles. Turn right onto Chalk Creek Drive, Cnty Road 162. Follow Cnty Road 162 for 15.4 miles. Turn left onto Forest Road 295 at the sign for Hancock Pass.
History: In the early 1880s The Denver, South Park and Pacific Railroad was in a race with the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad to reach Gunnison. While the Denver and Rio Grande went over Poncha Springs and Marshall Pass the Denver, South Park and Pacific headed west from its rail head at St. Elmo. The D.&R.G. reached Gunnison in 1881. The D.S.P.&P. reached Gunnison in September 1882 by boring the Alpine Tunnel through the Continental Divide at Altman Pass. The Alpine Tunnel was the first bored through the continental divide in April of 1881, at a cost of $300,000 in 1880 prices. It was 1845 feet long, 12 feet wide, and 17 feet high with its center point altitude at 11,608 feet and lined with California redwood.

Romley, on the way to Hancock, was founded in 1886 and served the Mary Murphy mine at the top of Pomeroy Gulch. At Romley the ore shoots and mine office were above the railroad grade,while the town with its post office, school house and miners homes was below the railroad grade in a wide meadow.

Hancock was started in 1880 by prospectors on the Hancock Placer Claim. They started the Hancock Town Company, platted the site and sold lots. The early boom of mining and the construction of the Alpine Tunnel kept Hancock alive for a handful of years. The Stonewall mine was the biggest producer discovered in 1879. The Allie Bell and Flora Belle were along the rail line and had ore shoots to load the rail cars. Hancock became the terminus for the D.S.P.&P. line prior to the tunnel opening where freighters would tranfer stock from the trains to wagons and make their way over Hancock Pass.

Colorado Historical Society

Forest Road 295 follows the old Denver, South Park and Pacific railroad grade from Saint Elmo to the ghost town of Hancock. It passes the ghost town of Romley along the way. There is a lot of mining history along the flanks fo Mount Mamma, Chrysolite Mountain, and Pomeroy Mountain.

Hancock 4WD road is easy and wide with rough sections aong the way. The grade is gradual as it follows the south bank of Chalk Creek. About a mile past Saint Elmo the remains of a large processing mill are below the road where the trees open up and you get a good view of the Chalk Creek Valley. Not much remains here. On the left side of the road keep an eye out for tram terminus buildings. About 3 miles along the road you will come to the ghost town of Romley. Here the bridge was washed out and the road drops down to a small meadow to cross Pomeroy Creek. The meadow is where most of Romley use to be. There are still large spools of wire for the arial tram scattered around the area.

When you connect back up to the railroad grade the Mary Murphy tram terminal will be to your left. This station was the end of a tram line that went up Pomeroy Creek and then turned to climb to near the top of Chysolite Mountain where the Mary Murphy mine adit is. About another mile and a half and you will come to the Allie Bell loading station, one of the most intriguing ore shoots in the area. It sits beside the railroad grade with the lower ore shoot section sliding down hill and the upper section cantilevered across it.

Photo taken in 1985

Photo taken in 2011

Within a mile from the old ore loading station you will come to the open meadow that the ghost town of Hancock sits in. The railroad grade continues on as FR298 to the trail head for the Alpine Tunnel. From here FR298.A crosses over Williams Pass. This road is only open the month of August. Also out of Hancock is the Hancock Pass Road, FR299, and the continuation of FR295 for 1.5 miles to the Hancock Lake trail head.
Data updated February 24, 2015       4WD Road driven September 3, 2011       Copyright 4X4Explore.com - 2000-2015