The Hancock Pass/Alpine Tunnel Trail is located about 18 miles Southwest of Buena Vista, CO (which is on US Hwy 285, about 70 miles West of Colorado Springs). To get to the trailhead from Buena Vista, take US 285 South 8 miles. Turn right (West) on CO 162 and go 12 miles, towards St. Elmo. Bear left onto CO 295 and go 5.5 miles to Hancock. Immediately after crossing over Chalk Creek, there’s a hiking trailhead to the right, which takes you 2.5 miles to the East side of the Alpine Tunnel. Ranging in elevation from 11,000 feet to over 12,000 feet, the trail takes you through a more remote part of the San Isabel National Forest and ends at the historic Alpine Tunnel. Waypoint HA10 branches off to the left to the Tomichi Pass Trail, portions of which are visible as soon as you crest Hancock Pass. Waypoint HA12 marks the beginning of the Alpine Tunnel portion of the trail. Williams Pass Rd, branches off just prior to waypoint HA15. This trail is just under 3 miles and is only open during the month of August each year. The sign on the gate states, "opened and maintained by the Blue Mesa 4-Wheelers through cooperation with the US Forest Service". Williams Pass Rd is rated Moderate. On the West side of the Pass, the trail is rocky and wet, with lots of vegetation. It’s a very narrow trail with no place to turn around or pass without causing environmental damage. Over the Pass, the trail becomes more of a dirt road. It parallels the hiking trail for some distance before joining with it just prior to the parking area. Shortly after William Pass Road (on the Alpine Tunnel Trail) is a man-made terrace, know as the Palisades, which was built to enable the train to travel along a spectacular cliff face. The ledge is supported by hand-cut stones that were laid without mortar into a wall 33 feet high and 425 feet long. Waypoint HA19 is as far as you can drive. You then have to walk the last ½ mile to the West "opening" of the tunnel, which unfortunately, is no longer "open". The East side collapsed in 1992. Therefore, the West side was intentionally sealed for safety reasons. However, there’s still a lot to see at the site, including the restored telegraph office and the remains of the original Alpine Station. The "S" shape on the map after waypoint HA20 is the actual path of the tunnel through the mountain. Built in 1880-1881, the Alpine Tunnel was only 1,770 feet long and took 18 months to build with the labor of some 10,000 men throughout its construction. A steady crew of 350 men was needed. But because of the brutal work and bitter cold, men often quit as soon as they were hired. Laborers were paid $3.50 per day, and hard rock and explosives men received $5.00 per day. Heavy storms lashed the area. Men had to go from work to their cabins in gangs to keep from getting lost in the snow. Using the "center core" system of construction, single bit hand drills of steel were used for powder holes. Starters of 6" – 8" in length were followed with longer drills of up to 4 feet. In close quarters, one powerful miner would use the drill and a 4-pound hammer called a "single jack". Where room permitted, a team of 2 was used. One held and turned the drill, while the other struck it with a "double jack" sledge (weighing 7 – 8 pounds). Powder was rammed into the drill hole and ignited to blast loose the rock. Timbers were then used to frame the tunnel to keep it from collapsing, which lasted for over 100 years! The Hancock Pass/Alpine Tunnel Trail is about 6.25 miles one way and takes between 2 hours to 2.5 hours to reach the West side of the tunnel.

Difficulty Rating:  One (1) Easy
(based on my personal rating scale on the Trails Page)

Click HERE for a FULL-SIZE printable map

Here are a couple shots from the Hancock Pass/Alpine Tunnel Trail. 
On the left is the Palasides mentioned in the discussion above.  
On the right is the remains of the Alpine Tunnel Station and the restored telegraph office.

Click on picture for larger view, then "back" on your browser to return here.




Cumm. Dist.






N38° 38.46’

W106° 21.70’



0.19 mi

0.19 mi

180° (S)

N38° 38.29’

W106° 21.70’



0.25 mi

0.44 mi

295° (WNW)

N38° 38.39’

W106° 21.95’



0.17 mi

0.61 mi

225° (SW)

N38° 38.28’

W106° 22.09’



0.44 mi

1.06 mi

192° (SSW)

N38° 37.91’

W106° 22.19’



0.52 mi

1.58 mi

164° (SSE)

N38° 37.47’

W106° 22.03’



0.27 mi

1.85 mi

266° (W)

N38° 37.45’

W106° 22.34’



0.26 mi

2.11 mi

211° (SSW)

N38° 37.26’

W106° 22.48’



0.58 mi

2.69 mi

203° (SSW)

N38° 36.80’

W106° 22.73’



0.12 mi

2.81 mi

145° (SE)

N38° 36.71’

W106° 22.65’



0.13 mi

2.94 mi

249° (WSW)

N38° 36.67’

W106° 22.79’



0.60 mi

3.55 mi

287° (WNW)

N38° 36.82’

W106° 23.43’



0.28 mi

3.82 mi

5° (N)

N38° 37.06’

W106° 23.40’



0.56 mi

4.38 mi

334° (NNW)

N38° 37.50’

W106° 23.67’



0.28 mi

4.66 mi

350° (N)

N38° 37.74’

W106° 23.73’



0.15 mi

4.81 mi

249° (WSW)

N38° 37.69’

W106° 23.88’



0.28 mi

5.09 mi

305° (NW)

N38° 37.83

W106° 24.14’



0.42 mi

5.51 mi

337° (NNW)

N38° 38.17

W106° 24.32’



0.21 mi

5.72 mi

312° (NW)

N38° 38.29

W106° 24.50’



0.50 mi

6.22 mi

359° (N)

N38° 38.72

W106° 24.50’

Notice: Off-highway travel is by its very nature potentially dangerous and could result in property damage, injury, or even death.  If you drive any of the trails on this web site, you acknowledge these risks and assume full responsibility.  You are the final judge as to whether a trail is safe to drive, whether your vehicle is capable of the journey, and whether your skills are up to the challenge.  The publisher of this web site disclaims any and all liability for property damage, bodily injury, or death that could occur to you or any of your passengers.  To the best of my knowledge, the information contained on this page was accurate as of the time I road this trail during the Summer 2000.   However, things change over time.  And portions of this trail may no longer be legally accessible to motorized vehicles.  Therefore, please be good stewards of our sport--always stay on designated trails . . . and always, always remember to Tread Lightly!

Back to the Colorado Trails Page