Miner's Loop crosses 3 Mountain Passes: Hancock, Cumberland and Tincup
Hancock and Tincup Passes are steep inclines with several rock shelves that will challenge a stock 4WD vehicle. These passes should only be attempted by a sturdy 4WD vehicle with lots of clearance and skidplates. There is a rock obstacle on the Old Tincup Pass trail that should only be attempted by a modified vehicle. The Forest Service has fortunately provided a new trail that completely bypasses this obstacle. Tincup Pass is usually not opened until August due to the heavy snow pack at the top of the pass. The access roads to the Alpine Tunnel and Hancock Pass are old railroad beds and are very well maintained Forest Service Roads. Cumberland Pass is a very smooth road that presents very few problems for even a stock 4WD vehicle.
From Colorado Springs take Hwy 24 west for approximately 76 miles to Hwy 24/285. Turn left (south) on Hwy 24/285 for about 14 miles until the highway passes over the Arkansas River then turn left (south) onto Hwy 285. Go 5 miles to just past Nathrop and take a right (west) on Chafee County Rd. 162. Travel about 15 miles to just before St. Elmo and take a left on FR295. Travel on FR295 for 5 miles just past the sign for the Alpine Tunnel hiking travel and take a hard right onto FR299, which is the 4WD trail over Hancock Pass.
The club combines the crossing of 3 mountain passes: Hancock, Cumberland and Tincup into a trip we call The Miner's Loop. The elevation of each of these passes is over 12,000 feet and while the trails are not difficult they do require a capable and sturdy 4WD vehicle for 2 of the passes. The circular route starts just before and ends in the old mining town of St. Elmo. The trip is very scenic and passes by many old mining towns that were bustling in the early mining days of Colorado.
The area around St. Elmo, Tincup and the ghost town of Hancock are a microcosm of the mining history of Colorado during the 1880's. St. Elmo is an old mining town where the buildings still maintain the look and feel of what our forefathers would have seen in the 1880s, while the only remnant of Hancock is the foundation of a saloon. Hancock was a thriving town of 200 in the 1880s but was abandoned in 1910 when the train stopped running to the townsite. Tincup is a small tourist destination town with very few amenities.
FR295 is the old railroad bed that the train traveled on to Hancock. The road is fairly smooth and can be traveled in any vehicle with adequate clearance, 4WD is not required. The Allie Belle storage building stands precariously above the old railroad bed, don't worry its been like that for years. FR295 eventually does dead end at Hancock Lake but shortly after passing the sign for the Alpine Tunnel hiking trail take a hard right for the trail to Hancock Pass. This is the road that will take you to the top of Hancock Pass and is FR299. For about the first mile this trail winds through a thick forest and has a couple of rock shelves before the tough part of the trail begins at timberline.
When the trail gets to timberline it becomes very steep with many rock shelves that will challenge a stock 4WD vehicle. You will only want to attempt this portion of the trail in a vehicle that has significant clearance, skid plates and is a very sturdy. Hancock Pass tops out at 12,125 ft and has some stunning views as you can look over several mountain ranges and valleys. Across the valley the trail you see going up the mountain side to the southwest is Tomichi Pass. After crossing over Hancock Pass the trail number switches to FR266 as you are entering Gunnison National Forest. The descent down the west side of Hancock Pass is very steep but not as rocky or as difficult as the east side of the pass.
After traveling on FR266 for about a mile you will meet up with FR888, continue driving straight ahead. The road to the left will take you to Tomichi Pass. After about a half mile on FR888 you will come to a T intersection with FR839, turn to the left. The road to the right is the old railroad bed to the Alpine Tunnel. FR839 is a well maintained road that will take you to FR765, which is the road over Cumberland Pass. Turn right to go over Cumberland Pass to Tincup or left to the town of Pitkin.
From the town of Tincup take FR267 at the stop sign, this is the road to the Tincup Pass. You will pass by Mirror Lake and watch carefully for the FR267 signs to stay on the New Tincup Pass Road. The Old Tincup Pass Road has an obstacle that should only be attempted by vehicles with significant modifications. The road from Tincup to St. Elmo is about 13 miles in length. Its about 7 miles from the town of Tincup to the top of the pass and then about 6 miles down the east side of the pass to the town of St Elmo.