Last Update: 3/31/2009 - Jens Moller
|Tin Cup pass was originally used to move supplies between the St. Elmo and the town of Tin Cup. It was established in the 1870's. When trains came to the mining towns, none came to Tin Cup. There was a train that came to St. Elmo. There was a need to get ore, people and supplies between both cities and Tin Cup pass was used every day of the year during the early part of the 1880's for that purpose. The section from St. Elmo to the top the the pass is pretty torn up, and requires a vehicle that can handle rocks and roads that have large pot holes in them. This is not a road for a regular car. I did make this drive in my Jeep Cherokee in 2nd gear, in 2 wheel drive mode, so, if you have a vehicle with high ground clearance, you may not need a 4WD, but I don't reccomend being here without 4WD capability.||
at the summit of Tin Cup Pass
the summit of the pass
towards Tin Cup.
If you start at Tin Cup, you want to head to Mirror Lake. The road is
graded up to this point and most any car can get there. Once past Mirror
Lake, you cross a stream and head up into some moderate 4WD roads. This
side of the pass is not as difficult as the St. Elmo side, mostly because
you are not on the poor roads as long. Even them, some work went on in the
early 1990's to improve the Mirror Lake to Tin Cup Pass Summit road, and
its not as difficult as it once was. You'll be at the summit of the pass
before you know it. I had heard nasty things about this pass and was quite
surprised to find it not as hard to do as I expected.
The Tin Cup side of the pass opens first in the early summer. Its not uncommon to find a 5 to 10 foot deep snow bank one the St. Elmo side of the pass until after the middle of June. Unless we had an exceptional amount of snow the past winter, it should be passable by August 1st. The true character of the road does not present itself in these photos. Its quite a bit more work to drive this road that it appears.
|Up at the of the pass, there is quite a bit of life. The grasses and mosses that grow here do so a very slow rates. The grass grows around 1/4 inch (7 mm) per 100 years - the winds are constantly blowing and tracks that look fresh may have been made 100 years ago. Some life does peak thru where it can find a tiny bit of shelter. The flowering plant in this photo was growing at the summit of the pass and its species seems to be growing in places where the rocks provide shelter from the winds. This pass sees from 200 to 400 inches of snow most winters (16 to 32 feet), so the plants here need to protect themselves in any way they can. Please don't pick these flowers or plants, or disturb anything growing here - its been a long hard effort for the plants that live here, give them a chance to bring forth new generations.||
the pass towards St. Elmo.
If you are coming up the pass from St. Elmo, Start at the General Store,
and head west taking a right hand turn and cross the bridge.
There is a public outhouse up this way by the white school house.
You may want to make a stop there before going up - the pass will shortly
turn into 4 miles of real kidney shaking road up to the summit.
Turn onto 267 (Tin Cup Pass) - you will be looking for a tiny sign with just the numbers on it. Stay to the right going up the pass (or to the left if coming down it). There are lots of pot holes and roots on this road.
Take your time on this part of the trip. It is not steep and there are no aggressive turns, but it can be a tiring ride, even if you have power steering. When you come to tree line, you are almost at the summit. This open area is where snow collects, taking quite a while to melt off in the early summer.
There are quite a few turn offs to camping areas on this section of the pass. If you get into one of these areas, you can easily get back on to the right road. This pass is rated 6 (on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is very easy and any auto should be able to make it, and 10 is very hard with possible body damage unless you are highly a experienced 4WD enthusiast) by a book I have on the mountain passes in this area. I think that it was easier than Hancock Pass (which is rated a 3 in the same book). The passes are in different shape from year to year, so my experience may not match yours exactly.
Update from: Christie Corrigan, a Tin Cup Resident
April 2009 - The Tincup side is far worse than the St. Elmo side. The monsoon rains
that we have had up there for the last three years have washed away 80% of all the dirt -
from the far side of Mirror Lake until the summit. I also wouldn't advise the trip
to anyone who has loose fillings.
April 2009 - The Tincup side is far worse than the St. Elmo side. The monsoon rains that we have had up there for the last three years have washed away 80% of all the dirt - from the far side of Mirror Lake until the summit. I also wouldn't advise the trip to anyone who has loose fillings.
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