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Hurricane Pass 

We would never have the roads, if we would not have the mine tailings - and mountain bikers would be poorer for it. Hurricane Pass is an extraordinary road, one of at least three bikable passes that criss cross this area in a great alpine environment. And then there are also the mine tailings, which make rich pickings for amateur garbalogists. Actually, the idea that you can't have one without the other, the road without the mining waste, implies that the mine tailings could never be cleaned up. This is a sad thought, but probably realistic when seen in a local historical context. There is another way to look at the mines. These old dilapidating buildings with their accompanying decay have such a strong cultural connection with this part of the San Juans, that it is actually hard to imagine this part of the mountains free of debris. They add something to the area, in the same way that industrial architecture can add something to a city.

Anyway - without the San Juan mining boom of the 1870s Hurricane Pass would not exist. Nobody else would have seen a reason to build it. But the role of Hurricane Pass as a  double summit in conjunction with California Pass is a new development. All maps, including the ones shown on informational signs along the route, show the pass as road leading up Cement Creek, ending at the summit, without connection to California Pass. These maps only show the more southerly direct connection to Poughkeepsie Gulch. The answer to the mystery: While historically relatively insignificant, their role in bringing tourist dollars to the area has been recognized, and these days they are being cared for, graded and actually modified.

This may explain why the 94 edition of the book "Passes of Colorado" identifies the pass as "Poughkeepsie Pass", in spite of the fact that it does mention the connection to California Pass ( which the book identifies incorrectly as Hurricane Pass ). "Passes of Colorado" suggests a historic approach route up Poughkeepsie Gulch, which if it existed via the shelf route, was quite a dangerous treck. Today the stretch connecting the two summits is well graded and safe, but impassable because of snow except during the peak of summer. The current name of the pass is undisputed, since the forest service has erected a sign complete with altitude at the top.

click on profile for more detail
1.(9700ft,mile00) START-END SOUTH:  Ironton on Red Mountain Pass road
2.(12217ft,mile03) Corkscrew Pass
3.(11500ft,mile05) Cement Creek road joins from right
4.(12290ft,mile06) trail to Sunnyside Saddle leaves on right
5.(12407ft,mile07) TOP: Hurricane Pass
6.(12300ft,mile07) profile continues left down Poughkeepsie Gulch. Main road continues right up California Pass.
7.(10140ft,mile10) jeep trail from Engineer Pass joins from right
8.(8860ft,mile12) START-END WEST: Red Mountain Pass road


From South. (via Cement Creek road or Corkscrew Pass) The three possible approaches to this pass are difficult to divide into principal and alternate approaches. Also, at least two interesting ways exist to get to upper Cement Creek on the southern approach. The most direct way is C110, heading directly to Hurricane Pass from Silverton. Leaving Silverton, a "dead end" sign advises travelers. But a smaller sign a little later - too small to be readable from most moving vehicles - also points out of two passes in this direction, Corkscrew Pass and Hurricane Pass. No mention is made of California Pass yet, which is also accessible from here. That comes one road transition later, after the route has changed to a wide dirt road, passing by the most rustic ski area in Colorado that I know. Soon afterwards the road is face to face with major mining operations in Gladstone. A sign naming all three passes now points up a road to the left. The road is quite steep, but smooth enough to be a better climbing workout than 90 percent of Colorado paved road passes. Slightly before gaining half of the elevation required to reach the summit, a steep track from Corkscrew Pass descends from the left to join the Hurricane Pass road. That's actually the route shown in the profile above. But the description is on the Corkscrew Pass page. A little higher some rocky spots demand that everybody gets off the bike, but compared to other unpaved roads used by motorized traffic, this is really still a very smooth surface. If this part of the approach is not rideable it is because of sheer steepness, not because of loose rocks and lack of traction.

From North. (via California Pass). Approaching Hurricane Pass from the north requires first crossing the higher California Pass. As mentioned earlier, the short shelf road dip between the two passes is a relatively new phenomenon and not shown on most maps. (There s more on the California Pass page.)

From West. (via Poughkeepsie Gulch) This is the shortest route from pavement to the top of Hurricane Pass. It is also the roughest, and therefore far from the fastest. It is described in a downward direction because  traveling the route this way is less torturous. The meandering route heading down to Como Lake looks appealing from the top of Hurricane Pass. After a short decend to the low point between Hurricane Pass and the next pass to the north, a sign advises that travel along the downhill option is not advised. But this sparks interest because it tends to keep away motorized travelers. The problem with this route is that for every 10 feet it descends, it climbs 5, and all that over a majority of rocks.  Soon a route that appears like a narrow manmade talus slope leads down to timberline. But it doesn't get easier. Now the roadbed shares in the water of the adjacent stream. Conditions improve somewhat after the Poughkeepsie Gulch joins the Engineer Pass route. Finally, when you pass a shelf cut into sheer rock with Red Mountain Pass coming into view below, while traveling over a rickety wooden bridge, it will probably all seem to have been worthwhile.



A ride starting in Ouray, using a southern approach over Corkscrew Pass and Hurricane Pass, descending via what is described as the western approach through Poughkeepsie Gulch measured 29 miles and 5970 feet of climbing in 5.2 hours (m3:050829).

A ride combining Hurricane Pass and California Pass, containing the southern and northern approaches,  leaving from Silverton and returning via  California Gulch and Animas Forks, measured 32 miles with 5500 feet of climbing in 4.2 hours. This is the route shown on the profile.



San Juan Mining Boom: (<Stony Pass) The pass is a demonstration for the remarkable talent of San Juan miners to locate ore near the top of  mountain passes. Naturally at the time the pass was just a gap between mountains. The pass road itself is a result of the mines. Both Hurricane Pass and California Pass have mines located near the top, the Adelph and Alpha mine, the ruins of which can still be seen near the top today. According to "Passes of Colorado" the Cement Creek road approach of the pass was used between 1879 and the late 1880s to supply the two mines. This location puts them them right square in the middle between Ouray and Silverton. Both towns had railheads, which could be utilized to convert the ore into spendable money. After cycling, and also partially walking over the route, one may feel uniquely qualified to render an opinion on wich route is more practical.