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Gunsight Pass

A locally available map, the "Crested Butte Summer Map with Trails, Streets and Bus Routes", describes Gunsight Pass as a "most difficult" mountain bike route, with walking and bike pushing. This is not a technical trail. It is an old mining road reaching to over 12000 ft. You can see the switchbacks from many of the single track summits in the area - far away and still above. The Crested Butte map does not mention the southern approach.

Gunsight Pass requires a lot of walking because it's very rocky. But you do get to ride the bike once in a while. This may be the most overlooked pass road in Colorado over 12000 feet. One reason is its south side, which is often washed out and crosses land controlled by mining claims. Another reason is historic.  Even when it was used, this was a local road. The only purpose of this high crossing was to provide local mining access, rather than connect entire regions. The northern approach is easy to locate. The other side is full of gates, mining areas and dead ends. On the way down it all falls into place more easily.

click on profile for more detail
1.(8910ft,mile01) START-END EAST-NORTH:  Crested Butte
2.(8880ft,mile10) turn left on Slate River Road
3.(8980ft,mile05) turn left on trail across Slate River
4.(10720ft,mile09) profile continues straight (right fork)
5.(12090ft,mile12) TOP: Gunsight Pass
6.(11227ft,mile13) profile continues left at this fork
7.(10920ft,mile14) profile stays on dirt road on left
8.(9230ft,mile18) dirt road joins Kebler Pass Road
9.(8910ft,mile21) START-END EAST-SOUTH: Crested Butte


From North. The approach begins in the old village of Crested Butte and continues up Slate River Road. On this road the turnoff to the pass is marked. Past the pedestrian bridge over the river the track is a smoothly surfaced double track. But this only lasts a short while, till a small MTB loop diverts from the pass trail.

Gunsight Pass - Crested Butte area -
                        ColoradoThe innumerable switchbacks, that finally lead hikers and cyclists to the summit, could be summed up in three categories. First: progress is measured against the vista of Mount Crested Butte (12163ft), a triangle cliffs, remeniscent of fish scales, located just behind the ski resort. At the end of this section an uphill to the left leads to a closed mining area. Second: Getting ever rockier, the vista switches to the high northern valleys, dropping off the Ruby Range. You can make out the Paradise Divide , Yule Pass and 14ers in the Elk Range on a clear day. A shallow traverse leads above treeline and the last, most zig zaggy switchbacks of them all. Third: Two ramps lead to a deep notch at the top, that give meaning to the name "Gunsight Pass".

From South. (described downwards) There are many options. But there are even more spurs that end at dilapidated mining areas or locked gates. Going downhill, this all seems less problematic, than uphill. All valley routes eventually lead to the Kebler Pass road. Crossing a gate towards a road on the other side of it, seems much less problematic than starting to make ones way up it..

Gunsight Pass - Crested Butte area -
                          ColoradoBut back to the top. The walking is not yet over. The rough, rocky track is less defined on this side and repeatedly interrupted by deep ravines, that have eroded the path. Just where the trail goes out of view from the summit, conditions improve dramatically. From here a short uphill section leads to an equally short single track. Then a junction forces a choice, downhill on a smooth dirt road, or continue traversing on the trail. It is possible to keep traversing on the trail, while keeping a  look out for Lake Copley. But the smooth dirt road is more direct and shown in the profile. It leads past more mining debris to a locked gate (without public access), across a mining area. This road connects to the Kebler Pass Road on the Crested Butte side, about 750ft below the Kebler Pass Summit, across another gate.


Dayride with this point as highest summit:


Gunsight Pass , Kebler Pass x2 campsite near Marcellina Mountain on the western approach of Kebler Pass > CR12 east > Kebler Pass > Crested Butte > up Slate River Rd > Gunsight Pass >  down southern approach > CR12 west > back to starting point near Marcellina Mountain: 55 miles with 6700ft of climbing in 8.3 hours. (m3:06.09..03)
Notes: 36 miles of the total were used to approach the loop.

Gunsight Pass - Crested Butte area -


Cycling: An early mountain biking guide, first published in 1987 mentioned this Gunsight Pass as being suitable for mountain biking in its appendix, without describing it any further (William L. Stoehr's: Bicycling the Backcountry).