Boreas Pass Road is a dirt, unpaved road that connects the towns of Breckenridge and Como in Colorado. The top of the pass sits at 11,481 in elevation and is part of the Great Continental Divide, which runs from Central America all the way to Alaska. This line separates the watersheds of the Pacific Ocean and Atlantic Oceans, meaning that water flowing on each side of this line flows into different oceans, even though mere yards may separate them at the source. The road offers sweeping views of some of the best hikes in Breckenridge, the Ten Mile Range (home to Quandary Peak, the Decalibron Loop, Blue Lakes, and McCullough Gulch), and more.
Wild Sunflower super bloom in 2021.
Boreas Pass Road is not maintained in the winter, meaning the scenic drive and its hikes are only accessible between winter seasons and once all snow has melted. The access gate typically closes the first Monday of November and re-opens late spring depending on snowpack. The only time and the best time to drive this route is mid-summer and fall, approximately July through early October. In the summer, Boreas Pass has abundant wildflowers, including a huge patch of mountain sunflowers, which super-bloomed in 2021 and looks amazing every year. The first couple miles on each side of the pass (closest to Breckenridge or closest to Como) also boasts plenty of aspen groves, which are perfect for fall colors late September and early October.
Historic Boreas Pass
Boreas Pass, which was known as Breckenridge Pass in the 1860s, served as an early route for thousands of prospectors in search of gold during the Colorado Gold Rush. It 1866, it was widened to accommodate stagecoaches and in 1882, Union Pacific began construction on a railroad line on the same route. This area was the site of the highest narrow gauge railroad in the United States during that time. The High Line Railroad Park and Museum near the Stephen C. West Ice Arena in Breckenridge is home to many preserved railroad cars, including a steam powder rotary snow blower used to clear the tracks during heavy snow storms. This is worth a visit as part of your Boreas Pass Scenic Drive route, as it is located near the end of Boreas Pass road in Breckenridge.
The town of Boreas was constructed near the summit, and between 1870 and 1920, a town of 150 people lived there to help maintain trains that passed through. Part of this town included a section house, which is still in existence. A section house is a structure that is home to the railroad’s section boss and his family, as well as some railroad workers. The Boreas section house still stands and serves as a overnight ski hut for cross country skiers and snowshoers (see pictures of the inside and make reservations here).
The line was abandoned in 1937 and reconstructed for automobile traffic after World War II. Now it serves as a perfect scenic drive for visitors and features many great hikes and mountain bike trails.
To download a history guide to the numbered points along the driving route, follow this link to the Forest Service Website.
Fall on Boreas Pass Road
This route can either be driven Breckenridge -> Como or Como -> Breckenridge. The drive from Como back to Breckenridge is over 30 miles and takes about 45 minutes, so it really depends on if you want to do that portion first or last. We personally like doing it first to get it out of the way, so we typically drive Como -> Breckenridge. If you’re looking for something shorter and more accessible, you can drive from Breckenridge to the summit and back, which is about 9 miles one way. If you have the time, it’s worth it to drive the entirety of the pass at least once during your Breckenridge adventures.
The road is not paved, but most vehicles are able to complete the route, as long as it’s dry. All wheel drive/four wheel drive or a decent clearance is always helpful, but not necessary. There may be some areas where cars must go slower or pick a good route across a bumpy area, but we see cars on this road all the time.
View on Boreas Pass
From Breckenridge, head south on highway 9 to Fairplay. Take a left at the light onto 285 and then take a left into Como on Boreas Pass Road. This is marked with a sign just before your turn. Drive through the small town of Como following signs for Boreas Pass. Once outside of town, you’ll continue on the same road all the way to Breckenridge, about 20 miles. If you’re taking it slow to soak in the views, make sure you’re mindful of cars behind you and you are pulling over to let them pass. Once you get back to pavement, you know you’re only a couple miles from Breckenridge. Continue on this pavement as it winds through a large residential area and it will intersect with Main Street. Just before this intersection is the Highline Railroad Museum mentioned above, and this is worth a quick stop as part of your Boreas history lesson.
If you don’t have a vehicle and would still like to experience Boreas Pass, you can do so on foot or on bike by taking the Boreas Pass bus route. Pick up the line at either the Breckenridge Transfer Station or the Ice Rink lot and take the bus to the Silver Queen stop. From here, continue up Boreas Pass Road to the Boreas Pass trailhead and continue on the road from there. More detailed bus information can be found here.
Best Boreas Pass Hikes
While Boreas Pass is beautiful as seen through a car window, it’s even more incredible to get out and do some hike-in exploration of the area. There’s several hikes along the way, most of which are moderately difficult hikes.
Black Powder Pass trail is our favorite hike off the Boreas Pass scenic drive. It’s only 3.4 miles roundtrip, and the trailhead leaves from the top of Boreas Pass at 11,493 feet in elevation. It climbs to the saddle between Boreas Mountain and Bald Mountain while passing through endless wildflowers. It showcases amazing views of the surrounding mountains and the view from Black Powder pass is incredible. Because it gains about 1,000 feet in elevation, this hike is rated as a moderate difficulty but is on the easier side of moderate since it’s a shorter hike.
Views on Black Powder Pass hike.
Aspen Alley trail is the best fall hike on Boreas Pass road and one of the best in Breckenridge, and it is beautiful and worth doing during the summer as well. This trail is near the end of the road near the Breckenridge side, and is easily accessible from a parking area. It’s a series of switchbacks through Aspen trees that’s only 2.6 miles roundtrip, making it easy enough for most people to enjoy.
Baker’s Tank Trail
Baker’s Tank is a 5.1 mile roundtrip trail that is best completed south to north for a downhill hiking experience. You can also mountain bike this trail by parking at the Boreas Pass trailhead and biking Boreas Road to the Baker’s Tank then taking the Baker’s Tank trail back to the parking area. See the All Trails listing for Baker’s Tank trail here. This trail is a forest setting with lots of pines but no mountains views.
Boreas Pass Trailhead
Fall in Aspen Alley
The Boreas Pass Trailhead is a parking area on the Breckenridge side of the scenic drive. It’s located just where the pavement ends and is the only parking area during winter time (November-May/June/July depending on snowfall). In the summer and fall, park here for access to Aspen Alley and Baker’s Tank trail. In the winter, park here for access to all of Boreas Pass Road. It’s a great option for snowshoeing and cross country skiing. On weekends and holidays, this parking lots fills very quickly so it’s best to arrive either early in the morning or later in the afternoon.
If you would like to hike Boreas Pass from here, a popular route is this Boreas Pass Loop. It’s only 2.5 miles but offers some of the best views along the entire road and also goes through the main aspen trees on the Breckenridge side of the pass.
Best Stops along Boreas Pass Road
Boreas Pass (elv. 11,493)
Obviously while driving the Boreas Pass Scenic drive you have to stop at the actual Boreas Pass. It’s well marked and has its own parking area, making it an easy stop along the way. It’s park of the Continental Divide, and has a huge sign that you can take your picture with. This is where you would park for Black Powder Pass trail and is also home to the historic section house.
Located at the top of Boreas Pass, the section house is still standing and has been fully restored. There’s a couple historic buildings here that are worth stretching your legs and walking around to read about the history of the area.
The Breckenridge Sawmill Museum is an open-air, self-guided museum the exhibits historic tools from sawmill operations in Breckenridge. Sawmills allowed small mining camps like Breckenridge to grow into established towns with schools, churches, hotels, and more. Located near the end of Boreas Pass Road, this exhibit is easily accessible from Breckenridge and is also next to one of the trailheads for Aspen Alley.
High Line Railroad Park
As mentioned earlier in this article, the High Line Railroad Park is located in Breckenridge at the end of Boreas Pass Road. It’s just a couple minutes away from the Sawmill Museum, and houses historic railroad equipment. There’s also a play park here, which could be a great stop for kids to get some energy out after a scenic drive across Boreas Pass.
Located not too far from the top of Boreas Pass, Baker’s Tank is a restored water tower that originally served steam engines passing on the railroad. Don’t expect to spend a lot of time here, but it’s worth a stop.
Boreas Pass Camping
Though Boreas Pass is a popular scenic drive, most people don’t realize you can dispersed camp along this road for free. Some campsites are directly along the road and are alright for small campers and vans, while others are off dirt road and are more suited for tent campers with four wheel drive. Look for sights with an already assembled camp fire ring, and follow the 7 Principles of Leave No Trace at all times. While some of the sights right off the road may offer scenic views, remember that this road is heavily trafficked and you will be getting mouthfuls of dust from cars passing all day. If you can find a site that’s more off the beaten path, we imagine it would be a much more enjoyable experience.
About the Author
Ashley is an adventurous soul who loves all things nature, especially warm sunshine, hiking, wildflowers, and mushrooms. If she isn’t writing content for Know Nothing Nomads, she’s probably in a forest looking at big mountain views and tiny pieces of moss on the side of the trail.