McClure Pass: West Elk Loop Byway


I didn’t have a good reason for driving up the western side of McClure Pass on Colorado Highway 133.  In the grand scheme of getting-where-I-needed-to-go, it was a waste of time, but at least it was a scenic detour.

I was looking for the most beautiful route from Route 133 to Crested Butte.  I knew CR 12 over Kebler Pass was the easiest route, but on my map, CR 3 looked more tempting, so I decided I would bypass CR 12, and drive up and over McClure Pass, then take CR 3 over Schofield Pass.  Of course, I now know that this was a bad idea for two reasons.  For one, Schofield Pass was still closed by snow (in early June).  Also, Schofield Pass is notoriously treacherous, and should only be attempted in an off-road-friendly 4-wheel-drive, such as a Jeep.  To make a long story short, I had to backtrack on Route 133 to CR 12, creating an hour-long detour.

As you climb the western side of McClure Pass, beautiful mountain peaks begin  to appear.  It’s an easy drive…

… up to the high point of 8,755 feet (2,668 meters), but the most beautiful scenery is on the other side of McClure Pass.


As you head down the eastern side on Highway 133, this great view opens up in front of you.  That tiny road at the bottom of the valley is CR 3, which leads to the town of Marble.  Beyond the town. tucked somewhere amongst those rugged mountains, is Schofield Pass.

I revisited McClure Pass and the town of Marble in 2014, during the peak of fall colors. This is one of the most extraordinary places on earth to see the Aspens turn. Check out that visit here.

As CO 133 descends from the pass, you’ll also get a great view of what lies ahead on the highway.  If I could have kept driving up 133, I would have.  But there’s no other way to get to Crested Butte, so I reluctantly turned around and began backtracking, over McClure Pass and down the other side.

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