Devil's Slide Trestles
These decaying bridges 1,000 feet high are a reminder of the skill it took to cross the Colorado Rockies by rail.
Built in 1905 at a total elevation of 11,600 feet on the edge of South Boulder Canyon in the Colorado Rockies, the Devil’s Slide Trestles cling to the side of a mountain with only oblivion between them and the waters of Middle Boulder Creek nearly 1,000 feet below.
The twin train trestles were part of a harrowing and dangerous railroad that climbed up and over the Colorado Front Range to connect Denver to Winter Park and Salt Lake. This route was part of the historic Moffat Road, one of the highest standard-gauge, non-cog railroads built in the United States. For two decades, the trestles provided an unnerving passage to passengers of the Denver & Salt Lake Railway, until the route was abandoned in 1928 with the opening of the 6.3-mile Moffat Tunnel.
In 1955, the road was opened to automobile traffic following the removal of the train tracks in 1938. But this did nothing to alleviate the unsettling experience of crossing these high bridges. Following the collapse of a tunnel in 1990, the trestles, decaying from nearly 100 years of Colorado’s extreme weather, were closed to automobile and pedestrian traffic. Today, the trestles are not safe to cross, but can be seen by hiking or mountain biking the trail out to the site from either the east or west side of the pass. Looking at the twin trestles you can imagine what it was like to traverse these rickety bridges, with nothing but air between you and the cold waters of Middle Boulder Creek.
Know Before You Go
From the east: Driving south out of Nederland on Colorado 119, turn west at Rollinsville on Rollins Pass Road. The trailhead starts at the gate 16 miles from Rollinsville. The trestles can be accessed by a short hike over Needle's Eye to the old railbed. The distance to the trestles from the gate is about 3/4 of a mile. From the west: Drive 10 miles from Winter Park Ski Area on Rollins Pass Road (also called Corona Pass Road) to the top of Rollins Pass. The trestles are about a mile from the old Corona station site.
Both sides of Rollins Pass are barely accessible by sedan. Higher clearance vehicles are better although 4wd is not necessary. Both sides can also be accessed by mountain bike. The ride is not difficult but it is at high altitude, which can make the ride more challenging. Be sure to note the views from the trestles of the King Lake area of the Indian Peaks Wilderness. There are few views of Colorado that are prettier. Crossing snow at the top of the pass is always a possibility even in late summer. Care is warranted when crossing snowfields. Finally, the standard rules for outdoor Colorado activities apply. The trestles are above timberline and dangerous storms move in quickly. Go early and get down early to avoid lightning.
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