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Pearl Pass
Gunnison County, Colorado
Gunnison National Forest
Gunnison Ranger District
View this on the Colorado Trailheads Map

Forest Service Road: 738
Trail Type: Straight Through
Nearby Towns: Crested Butte, Aspen
Nearby Trails: Italian Creek, Taylor Pass, Annie Basin, Montezuma Basin, Paradise Divide, Cement Creek, Richmond Hill
Trail Length: 20.8 miles
Elevation: 8,917 to 12,701 feet

Completing this trail may not be possible during many years because of snow that is very often blocking the trail on the south side of the pass. There also may be snow blocking the north side of the pass. Be sure to check as far ahead of you as possible once you travel above timberline.

The trail is rockier and more difficult on the south side of the pass, and this half provides the biggest challenges and the highest rating if you take the most difficult lines through all of the many obstacles during your climb to the top. If you travel from north to south the trail will be easier, though the rocks are not avoidable.

The trail starts on the southern end of the Crested Butte mountain just past a residential area. You'll pass through a few more residential areas before the trail follows Brush Creek with Teocalli Ridge to the west. It is a scenic climb through trees and scenic meadows.

When you come to the first switchback it marks the start of the rocky climb to the pass. You quickly climb up Carbonate Mountain and the trail is often on a shelf. The obstacles are usually not on a shelf, however, and they can provide quite a challenge in spots.

When you reach the pass it is marked with a sign. There is very little parking, but a few vehicles can stop here to enjoy the scenery. The taller mountain next to the pass is Pearl Mountain. The basin below you to the south next to the trail you just came up features Crystal Peak directly across it. You can see a bit of Cooper Creek in the valley along the trail you have yet to travel. Cross from Gunnison County into Pitkin County and head down the other side.

This side is very rocky though it is fairly easy. It is often in the shade, and this is where you will probably find snow. If there is too much snow on the trail you may not be able to pass through this side.

Work your way down Greg Mace Peak along some switchbacks. There are some fun, rocky sections along the way. There is usually room to pass, especially at each switchback.

You'll pass the trailhead for Montezuma Basin, and then through a couple more switchbacks. At the bottom of a hill is a nice, wooden bridge with a large waterfall above it. There is room here to pull to the side to take pictures of the water coming down the mountain along Castle Creek.

Past the bridge, the descent is easy. There are campsites near the end and you will probably find traffic. The trail ends at a large parking area at the pavement. Turn left to find a nice rest area just up the road.

Information last updated on August 22nd, 2012.

Member Reports

Driving Directions

From Aspen, head south 13 miles on Castle Creek Road from Highway 82, then turn right following signs for Pearl Pass. From Crested Butte, travel south to turn left on Brush Creek Road just outside of town.

Meeting Places

If you start on the Crested Butte side meet at Camp 4 Coffee on 402 1/2 Elk Avenue in Crested Butte. Meet in Aspen if starting from the other side.

Low-End Rating: 4
High-End Rating: 6
Rock Crawling:
Dirt & Mud:
Water Crossings:
Cliffs & Ledges:
Climbs & Descents:
Other Activities:
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Trail Photographs

Colorful County Line Up To The Pass

Trail Movies
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Maps and Coordinates
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Trail in Red
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Pearl Pass (GPS Exchange File)
Pearl Pass (Google Earth Placemark)
Pearl Pass Trailhead (Google Earth Placemark)
Pearl Pass Track (Google Earth Track)
Waterfall Bridge (Google Earth Placemark)

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Trail information is only accurate on the date posted. Trails may have changed or closed since that date. Use this information for historical purposes only. Contact the Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management for up-to-date trail information.

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