Along the Great Continental Divide, Marshall Pass sits at 10,842’ between Sargents and Mears Junction, Colorado. If you are seeking a backcountry route between Salida and Gunnison, Marshall Pass Road offers amazing views and is accessible to most vehicles.
In 1873, Marshall Pass was discovered (and named for) Lt. William L Marshall. The surveyor deemed it a good spot for a road to traverse the continental divide. In 1880, a toll road was completed. Despite being incredibly steep, the toll provided stagecoach access between Gunnison, Colorao and the Arkansas River.
The very next year, a rail line was built across Marshall Pass, becoming the first railroad route to traverse the Continental Divide in Colorado. The railway was used heavily until it ultimately shut down in 1955. At its peak, the small settlement of Marshall, Pass Colorado had six buildings, 11 people, and what Time Magazine dubbed “the U.S.’s smallest post office.”
Today, US 50 is the main route between Salida and Gunnison. Although Marshall Pass was considered to be along the route, the highway instead crosses the divide at Monarch Pass, a few miles north.
Marshall Pass Accessibility
Passenger vehicles can access the 30-mile Marshall Pass Road in Sargents (off of US 50) or south of Poncha Springs (along highway 285). The gravel road follows the original railroad route, so it is not excessively steep. Although there are some rough patches along the way, most cars can easily traverse the pass in good conditions.
Seasonality – Marshall Pass is closed to vehicles in the winter. However, snowmobile and snowshoe traffic is allowed. Marshall Pass Road closes in the spring to prevent damage to the road.
Vehicle Restrictions – When the pass is free of snow (June through October), there are no vehicle restrictions on Marshall Pass Road. 2WD vehicles are generally okay when driving carefully.
Activities near Marshall Pass
On both sides of the pass, there are many dispersed, primitive campsites in the Gunnison National Forest. The pass falls along the Colorado Trail and the nearby Marshall Pass Trail is also open to hikers and bikers. Marshall Pass Road travels directly through many aspen groves, making it a popular scenic byway for viewing fall colors.
Read about the Camping near Poncha Springs, around Marshall Pass.
Season: June through October
Elevation: 10,842 ft (3,305 m)
County: Saguache County
Mountain Range: Sawatch
Coordinates: 38°23’29.2″N 106°14’50.1″W
Access: Marshall Pass Road