The mostly dirt, washboard road from Tin Cup to Pitkin, in Colorado, is 18 miles of stunning scenery. I’m not sure if it’s the fact that I grew up with roads that have guardrails, or that I’m just a chicken-shit driver, but there are scenic drives in Colorado that just flat out scare me. Cumberland Pass is one such drive.
I consider myself to be a pretty good driver. I’ve driven professionally for over 20 years with multiple delivery companies like FedEx, and courier services, etc, with zero accidents. I’m still trying to figure out who upset me more…the little old lady in the store at Tin Cup that never mentioned the sheer drop offs we were about to encounter, or the ladies in the store on the other side of the trip in Pitkin, that talked of the cars and motor-homes that went over the side!
Taking the road from Tin Cup towards Pitkin is eight miles to the top. The road is really perfect for 4X4 and off road vehicles, of which you will pass many. Luckily for me, they are very patient with chickens, who take up a very large amount of the road, in order to keep away from the edge. There is one point on this trip, close to the top, where I flat out refused to be on the outside edge. I drove around a blind curve, on the wrong side of the road, with my hand planted firmly on the horn. My friend, if able to look past the sheer panic on my face, and white knuckles on the steering wheel, enjoyed vistas and scenery that were abundant and outright beautiful.
Once reaching the top, it’s hard to figure out which direction afforded the longest view. The miles of scenery were beautiful. You can see how the mountain terrains change as the altitude increases, and by the snow filled gulleys, (yes, in June) which areas probably don’t get a whole lot of sun. At the top there is plenty of room to park, get out, stretch the legs and snap the pictures. The only thing missing was maybe a port-o-pot. There is a mile marker that points out the road into Pitkin is another 10 miles. I believe my heart pretty much stopped when I read this, soon after my knees stopped…shaking that is. I really didn’t know if I could handle ten more miles of this. It took us almost an hour to travel the eight miles and I was thinking it felt like two hours. Starting the way down the other side and after probably the first mile, the road starts winding through the trees more. Switchbacks below, with plenty of trees and brush to catch you, should you “go over”. This trip down was more to the inside track of the mountain, so my knuckles returned to normal color, and I was able to enjoy the scenery more. We actually have photos of this side of the trip!
The towns of Tin Cup and Pitkin, each have their own unique flavor and are worth visiting. I would visit both again, from their respective access points that do NOT require a trip over the Cumberland pass. In fact, both are on the list for future investigation, along with Taylor Park Reservoir, and Mirror Lake. If you don’t have an aversion for this type of trip, go for it. SUV or high clearance vehicle is recommended and the UN-written rule is, if you are traveling the down incline, you give right-of-way to the vehicle on the uphill climb. The other clue for right-of-way, is if you can noticeably see the white knuckles of driver coming at you. Seriously, just stop, giggle when they pass, and continue on with your fun.