Alpine Tunnel

Salida

Hike to the remnants of North America's highest railroad tunnel.

Hiking Difficult

Distance
10 km
Ascent
275 m
Descent
275 m
Duration
2-3 hrs
Low Point
3.4 km
High Point
3.6 km
Gradient
Alpine Tunnel Map

The Alpine Tunnel "is a 1,772 ft (540 m) narrow gauge railroad tunnel located east of Pitkin, Colorado on the former Denver, South Park and Pacific Railroad route from Denver to Gunnison," according to Wikipedia. "At an elevation of 11,523 feet (3,512 m), it was the first tunnel constructed through the Continental Divide in Colorado, and according to the U.S. Forest Service' remains the highest railroad tunnel and the longest narrow gauge tunnel in North America.'"

Description

Unfortunately, the tunnel is now sealed shut from rock slide damage. However, the remnants of the railroad grade now serve as a beautiful hike with an engaging historical element at the end! 

The route mapped here runs from the ghost town of Hancock to the collapsed eastern end of the tunnel. Then, the hike gets more difficult by ascending up the mountainside above the tunnel to gain the Continental Divide. On top of the divide, as you look off to the west, you can spy the western end of the Alpine Tunnel far below you.

While this route is worth tackling for the history alone, the views from the top of the Continental Divide are second to none. The Sawatch range spreads out both north and south from your location. To the west, you can spy views of the Elks and possibly even the San Juans on a clear day from the perfect vantage point.

If you haven't had enough yet, continue along the Continental Divide Trail to extend your hike. A few miles further on, you'll reach an alpine lake—another logical turn around point.

Difficulty

Difficult

Hiking trails where obstacles such as rocks or roots are prevalent. Some obstacles can require care to step over or around. At times, the trail can be worn and eroded. The grade of the trail is generally quite steep, and can often lead to strenuous hiking.

Medium Exposure

2 out of 4

The trail contains some obstacles such as outcroppings and rock which could cause injury.

Remoteness

2 out of 4

Away from help but easily accessed.

Best time to visit

July, August, September, October

Features

  • Alpine
  • Historical
  • Picturesque
  • Dog friendly
  • Family friendly

Guidebooks in this area