ROLLINS PASS ROUTE
Rollins Pass (a.k.a. Corona Pass) sits approximately 5 miles east and above the popular ski areas around Winter Park, between Winter Park and Rollinsville. The pass is traversed by two unpaved roads, mostly the former roadbed of the Denver and Salt Lake Railway which abandoned the route in 1928 when the Moffat Tunnel opened to replace it. This high altitude railroad was known as the Moffat Road. The Boulder Wagon Road, which predates the rail route, also uses much of Rollins Pass to cross the Continental Divide.
The majority of the route of the Moffat Road is open, except for a long, deteriorated trestle just east of the pass, and sections leading to the Needle's Eye Tunnel, a short high altitude railroad tunnel which was closed in 1990 after a rock fell from the ceiling. Since then, the tunnel was sealed by Boulder County and the USFS. The original Boulder Wagon Road (BWR) also goes over Rollins Pass and bypasses the Needles Eye Tunnel.
Although open prior to 2008 and in good condition, this road remains to this day a subject of much controversy between its users and some officials who want it closed. In 2002 the James Peak Wilderness and Protection Area Bill (aka Public Law 107-216) was signed into legislation by President George W. Bush and Congress. The Bill specifically created a narrow road corridor between the Indian Peaks and James Peaks Wilderness areas and states that if any of the affected counties (Grand, Gilpin or Boulder) request, the Secretary of the USDA will cooperate and assist with the repair of the Rollins Pass Road and until that time the attendant road (the BWR) will remain open to motorized use. Boulder County officials and the USFS-Boulder Ranger District have resisted the wording of the law and have closed the BWR. Both Grand and Gilpin Counties have made numerous written requests to the Secretary for the repair of Rollins Pass Road but to date there has been no repair of the road or the barricaded Needles Eye Tunnel. The reopening of the BWR, and/or repair of the Rollins Pass Road, and even the facts surrounding the 1990 accident in the tunnel, have become contentious and ongoing issues.
Before the Moffat Tunnel was opened in 1928, trains on the Denver and Salt Lake Railroad had to cross the Continental Divide via Rollins Pass at an elevation of about 11,670 feet. This was the highest railroad pass in America. The Rollins Pass route had three tunnels on it, which would be numbered 31, 32, and 33. Tunnel 32 is the famous Needle's Eye Tunnel located above treeline roughly 1 mile from the pass on the east side of the divide. Tunnel 33 is located on the west side of the divide several miles from the pass. It was known as the Riflesight Notch Tunnel. Tunnel 31 was not lucky enough to get a name and was located on the lower section of the route on the east side. Just east of Rollins Pass, several trestles were built and were known as the Devil's Slide Trestles. At the pass itself, a small service town was built called Corona. The tracks (and wye) at the pass were covered by wooden snow sheds. Remants of the buildings and the snow sheds are still evident.