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Boreas Pass railroad:

an outdoor adventure into the past

Article and photos by Claire Bauer, intern writer; courtesy photo

Photo of Boreas Pass

Boreas Pass provides great hiking and biking opportunities throughout the warmer months with historic landmarks to explore. In the cold winter, visitors can stay overnight in the section house (Ken’s Cabin) for a hut-to-hut adventure, traversing the same paths with snowshoes and cross-country skis.

Colorado is home to many historically rich sites that were once hubs of commerce, but now offer beautiful outdoor adventures. Take Boreas Pass, for example. It’s a picturesque road named after the Greek god of the north wind, located on the Continental Divide near Breckenridge. It is known for its beautiful views and many tall aspens. Not many people know that Boreas Pass was once a key staple to Colorado, with what used to be the highest railroad in the continental U.S. that transported supplies from Denver to the region during the Colorado Gold Rush.

Built at an elevation of almost 12,000 feet, the Denver, South Park, and Pacific Railroad was once the highest and most dangerous railroad in the nation and led to the once highest post office in America. According to the Summit Daily website, the railroad was created in 1882 and used until 1938, when it was replaced with areas for public recreational use, such as roads for cars and paths for hikers and cross-country skiers who were interested in the beautiful scenery.

The railroad was known as the “High Line,” and transported passengers, mail, mining products, and even fresh items such as ice cream, oysters and wine from Denver.

While this railroad was famous and marveled at, those who lived near it and worked on it knew it was more work than the average railroad. Heavy snow and avalanches often blocked the train tracks, and methods used to clear the tracks were difficult and fairly ineffective until the railroad purchased snowplows years later. Maintenance was dangerous, and expenses for the train and tracks were higher than average because of the twisty route and harsh weather conditions.

A narrow gauge railroad cut on Boreas Pass created passage for the Denver, South Park and Pacific Railroad to connect the bustling gold rush towns of Breckenridge and Como. The pass was completed in 1882. (Photo courtesy of Colorado Historical Society).

If you want to visit the remnants of the Denver, South Park and Pacific Railroad, you’ll find a restored part of the tracks at Rocky Point, and boxcars at what used to be the train station at the top of Boreas Pass – as well as “Ken’s Cabin,” one of the oldest known buildings around Breckenridge. Aside from the train tracks, there are many other interesting sights to see in the area. The ghost town of Dyersville, the Sawmill Outdoor Museum, and the Washington Mine are just a few of the places you can visit. The region is also loved by mountain bikers, hikers and campers in the warmer months, and by cross-country skiers and snowshoers in the colder months – once the snow piles up.

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