Tincup Pass  
USGS 7.5' Map: Saint Elmo and Garfield
Difficulty: Number: Miles: Altitude: Obstacles: Time:
Moderate 6 FR 267, FT 267.3D 9.6 10,012 to 12,154 ft. Rock 1
Ledge 1
3-4 hours
County: Chaffee and Gunnison
Adopted by:      
Managed by: Gunnison National Forest,
Gunnison Ranger District

San Isabel National Forest,
Salida Ranger District
216 N. Colorado
Gunnison, CO 81230

325 West Rainbow Blvd.
Salida, CO 81201

Summary: Tincup Pass is a historic pass with great scenery on both sides of the Continental Divide. The pass road is very popular and used by all kinds of recreationists.
Attractions:  History, Mining, Scenery, Pass
Natural - 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 - Fall snows may close road
Trail Heads
FT 1436 - Poplar Gulch (Hike, Mountain Bike, Horseback, Motorcycle) trail is 5.3 miles long and travels north over a large ridge and drops into Green Timber Gulch and the South Cottonwood drainage.

FT 1439 - Tunnel Lake (Hike) trail is 5 miles long marked by rock cairns. To get to the lake, hikers must hike south from the ridge.

FT 414 - Timberline (Hiking, Mountain Biking, Horseback, Motorcycle, ATV) is 27.4 miles long. It begins at Forest Road #7742.H1 (6 Shooter Brown Road) at the north end and ends at Forest Road #7267.2B (Garden Road) at the south end. The northern half is not open to ATVs.
Camping: The eastern end of Tincup Pass has many larger dispersed campsites. Higher up near timberline thera are few sites. The western side of Tincup Pass has no dispersed sites. There is a campground at Mirror lake and large dispersed sites between Mirror Lake and Tincup.
Base Camp: Tincup Pass is an area that would make a good base camp with access to the Taylor Park area to the northwest and the mining roads around St. Elmo on the east side.
Fall Colors: Both sides of Tincup Pass would be good for viewing fall colors on the surrounding mountain sides.
Navigation: From Tincup, CO head east on County Rd 267, Washington Street, for 0.2 miles. Turn right onto County Rd 267 and head east for 3 miles to Mirror Lake. Tincup Pass road continues along the edge of Mirror Lake.

From Nathrop, CO head south on US-285 toward County Rd 286. At 0.5 miles take the 3rd right onto Chalk Creek Dr, County Rd 162. Continue to follow County Rd 162 for 15.8 miles. Once in St. Elmo, CO turn right to stay on County Rd 162 and cross the bridge over Chalk Creek. Take the 1st left onto County Rd 162, Gunnison Ave. After 0.1 miles take the right at the Y to get onto County Rd 267. This is the start of the Tincup Pass road.
History: Tincup Pass gets its name from Jim Taylor, a prospector who in 1860 brought his gold strike back to camp in his tin cup. The pass was first used by Native Americans as arrowheads and flint tools have been found in the area.

In 1879 two railroad companies were incorporated, the Elk Mountain Railroad Company and the Colorado Southern Railroad Company, to build a route over the pass. Neither were successful. In 1880 a St. Elmo hydroelectric plant suspended power lines over the pass to provide electricity to the mines around the town of Tincup. In 1881 a wagon road was finally built by the Chalk Creek and Elk Mountain Toll Road Company over the pass. By 1882 three stage lines were operating daily runs over the pass.

In 1887 Tincup Pass fell into disuse after the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad made it to Gunnison and then north to Almont and Crested Butte. In 1902 railroad surveys were done and a tunnel started below the pass, but it was soon abandoned. In 1910 the route over Tincup Pass was considered a state highway and in 1954 prison labor was used to improve the road over the pass. County maintenance has improved it from its rougher condition in the early 1980's, though "Old Tincup Pass", FT 267.3D, on the west side is a much rougher route paralleling the main pass road.

On the west side of Tincup Pass is the town of Tincup. Originally called Virginia City in August of 1880 when the town was incorporated it changed to Tincup on July 24, 1882 due to other "Virginia City" towns the post office had to deliver to. At this time Tincup had 20 saloons, 5 grocery stores, 4 hotels, 2 butchers, a school, lumber yard, hardware store, and livery stable. Four wells supplied the town with water as well as the fire hydrants located in town. By 1884 Tincup began to decline due to the cost of transportation for the mines with no railroad entering the valley. In 1917 the Gold Cup Mine closed and then in 1918 the post office. Today the town is full of summer homes and is in the middle of a summer recreation destination area.
Tincup Pass divides East Willow Creek to the north and the North Fork of Chalk Creek to the south. Starting from the east side of the pass at St. Elmo the 4WD road is an easy county road as it leaves town. Once past the few private driveways there will be pull offs into the trees that go to dispersed campsites. The road will be in fairly good shape as you climb toward the Continental Divide following the North Fork of Chalk Creek.
East side of Tincup Pass

photo by:
Adam M

After about 3.8 miles the road will become rougher and begin to climb to the northwest toward Tincup Pass. At about 5 miles you will be above treeline with a good view of the switchbacks on Tincup Pass. There is a nice flat camping spot here, though you are at 11,770 feet.
Tincup Pass is in the low spot

photo by:
Adam M

The switchbacks are narrow and mainly loose rock. The hairpin turns have rough rock steps to navigate in order to keep climbing to the pass.
Tincup Pass switchback

photo by:
Adam M

Once past the ledge road after the second switchback you will be at Tincup Pass, about 6.1 miles from St. Elmo.
Tincup Pass

photo by:
Adam M

Tincup Pass sign

photo by:
Adam M

Tincup Pass view to the southeast

photo by:
Adam M

Tincup Pass view to the northwest

photo by:
Adam M

Heading down the north side of the pass the road is wider. At about 6.7 miles you will come to an intersection. A left will keep you on the main Tincup Pass road, while a right will drop you onto FT267.3D, often referred to as "Old Tincup Pass".

Since 2010, the Old Tincup Pass route now has a couple of bypasses around the rougher sections. Stay with the main route which is more traveled.

The start of FT267.3D is a sharp drop and 'S' turn off of FR267. It will wind down through some trees before taking you to the start of a chute filled with large rocks. This is the toughest challenge on Tincup Pass. Going downhill the boulders are a bit easier to navigate.
Richard H. in the rock chute, 2010

photo by:
Adam M

Ray C. in the rock chute, 2010

photo by:
Adam M

Adam M. in the rock chute, 2021

photo by:
Adam M

Just past the boulder chute you will connect back into FR267 at the 7.6 mile point.

From here Tincup Pass road is easy down to the East Willow Creek crossing at the head of Mirror Lake at 8.9 miles.
Mirror Lake looking west

photo by:
Craig K

After crossing the creek you will drive on a section of road cut from the talus slope along the edge of the lake.

Be aware of other recreationists as Tincup Pass is heavily used by Side by Sides, ATV, Motorcycle and Mountain Bikes.
Data updated: August 10, 2021       4WD Road driven: July 20, 2021        Copyright 4X4Explore.com - 2000-2021