Deep within the San Juan Mountains, Wolf Creek Pass is a steep and beautiful mountain pass in Southwest Colorado. The pass falls right along the Great Continental Divide. and can be traversed via US 160 between the towns of South Fork and Pagosa Springs. Wolf Creek Pass gets its name from the nearby Wolf Creek, a San Juan River tributary, which begins near the summit.
In 1916, the first ever road along Wolf Creek Pass finished construction. The original route was only 12 feet wide, which was doubled in 1930. Twenty years later, the road was paved and began to resemble what we know as Highway 160 today.
Wolf Creek Pass became nationally known in 1975, when famous country musician CW McCall released a song of the same name. In McCall’s song “Wolf Creek Pass” , the singer tells the tale of summiting the Great Divide through “37 miles of Hell, ” in his large truck. The song was released onMcCall’s album, also entitled “Wolf Creek Pass,” which features other Colorado songs like “Rocky Mountain September” and “Glenwood Canyon.”
In 2006, construction of a tunnel several miles north of the pass was completed alongside measures for road-widening and improved drainage.
Wolf Creek Pass Accessibility
Although the road reaches grades of nearly 7%, most vehicles can safely reach the Wolf Creek Pass along the paved interstate. Right next to the summit, there is a parking area with picnic tables and restrooms provided by the US Forest Service.
Seasonality – US 160 is well maintained and accessible year round. With that said, it can be dangerous in the winter.
Vehicle Restrictions – There are no vehicle restrictions on US 160 to access Wolf Creek Pass. In the winter, 4WD is recommended and Colorado traction and chain laws may be applicable.
Activities near Wolf Creek Pass
In the winter, the pass draws considerable traffic headed to the Wolf Creek Ski Area just north of the pass. This regional favorite is considered “one of the best places to ski in Colorado” by many locals who love the enormous amount of snow the area receives.
When the snow melts, hiking, camping, and backpacking opportunities are ample in the Rio Grande and San Juan national forest. Atop the pass, pedestrians can access the Continental Divide Trail in addition to the Wolf Creek trailhead. South of the pass, visitors can stop by the observation site for the popular Treasure Falls.
Season: Year round
Elevation: 10,857 ft (3,309 m)
Mountain Range: San Juan Mountains
Coordinates: 37 ° 29′00 ″ N 106 ° 48′11 ″ W
Access: US 160