Yes, you should drive a dirt road to sneak a peek at fall foliage. If you do near Breckenridge, Colorado, you’ll be treated to an explosion of autumnal hues of yellow, orange, and red painting the landscape.
My friend Melissa, her Bernese Mountain Dog named Beau, and I started driving Boreas Pass Road from Breckenridge.
Boreas Pass Road starts on the southern town limits of Breckenridge. It’s paved for the first 3.5 miles. If you want to hike or bike, you’ll find the Bakers Tank trailhead on the left. Right after the trailhead, the dirt road turn winding and very narrow in spots, with a steep drop-off.
Right after two very tight spots where the road was blasted in the rocks, you have spectacular views of the majestic Tenmile Range and picturesque Blue River Valley. This time of year, you’re also treated to a tunnel of fall foliage.
Boreas Pass Road follows the old South Park and Pacific Railroad bed. From 1872 to 1938, the road was used as a narrow-gauge railroad. Running from Como to Breckenridge, it was the nation’s highest narrow-gauge railroad hitting elevations over 11,000 feet.
The road continues past Bakers Tank, a historic tank used in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Steam locomotives, designed for the tight mountain curves and steep grades, would take on water at the tank. It was abandoned on April 10, 1937 and Summit County restored the tank in 1958.
Keep driving to the summit of Boreas Pass on the Continental Divide. From the start of Boreas Pass Road to summit is 9.6 miles. According to the USDA, elevation at the summit is 11,499 feet. Like Bakers Tank, there’s a history lesson in this stop. Little weather note here – you’re above treeline on the summit. Take layers. It’s usually windy so you’ll want a coat and maybe even a hat and gloves.
Wander around The Section House, a hut with the 10th Mountain Division Hut Association. It was built in 1882 to house railroad men and their families. The men worked for the Denver South Park & Pacific narrow gauge railway. There were about 150 people living in this community in its heyday. There’s also Ken’s Cabin, a historic wagon cabin built in the 1860s when Boreas Pass Road was just a wagon trail over the Continental Divide. The buildings were restored in 1992-1997. You can rent out both the Section House and Ken’s Cabin in the winter.
You can take a nice stroll or enjoy a great hike on Black Powder Pass. We just hiked a little ways to enjoy the view.
There are these old railroad tracks that made for the perfect photo op.
You can’t miss the Colorado & Southern boxcar also at the summit. It was built in Denver in 1910 by the Colorado & Southern shop then later acquired by the U.S. Army and converted into a flatcar during World War II. After the war, it road the rails in Alaska and was returned to Colorado in 1987. The Forest Service moved it to Boreas Pass in 2002.
The road then continues on southeast for another 10.4 miles to the town of Como in Park County. For us, the leaves were even more spectacular on the southern side of the summit. The road was a little wider, although there was one stretch that was tight and twisty. Along with incredible splashes of autumnal hues, you get to take in expansive views of ranches of the Colorado high plains.
When you get to Como, head over to Mountain Man Gallery. Eighty percent of the items are locally made. I snagged a great handmade hat by Highland Hats, a mother-daughter knitting team.