“An absolute high alpine classic, well-known for its role in mountain bike history.
— Mike Pritchard
This steep jeep road up to a high mountain pass is a true test from the north or the south. Whether pushing and struggling up from Crested Butte via Brush Creek Rd., or from Aspen via Castle Creek Road, you'll find yourself a great time hammering down through the miles of scree and sharp rocks that masquerade as a road. The difficult nature of the road means the best/easiest line choice is often not apparent. Quick thinking and strong bike handling skills will keep you on your wheels instead of on your feet.
On the south side of the pass, in the Gunnison National Forest, the routes is #738. After passing over the On the northern side, in the White River National Forest, the route is #129 and #102.
While the rating may be debatable as you'll find long stretches of intermediate riding at lower elevations, this road is certain to provide an adventure best left to advanced riders.
The classic way to endure Pearl Pass is on a day's tour from Crested Butte to Aspen, leaving the 6-mile section from the Pass down towards the ghost town of Ashcroft (and then Aspen well beyond) as an epic descent from 12,705' down to the paved Castle Creek Road nearly 3,000' below.
Snow pack remains on the highest stretches of the road, often well into July, sometimes beyond. Time your adventure for late summer and fall. Beware of afternoon thunderstorms at this time of year; there is no good shelter (trees) for the significant portion above treeline.
Along with the impressive views of the Elk Mountains, including nearby 14er Castle Peak, you'll encounter aspen and dark timber forests, high alpine meadows, and impressive amounts of rocky scree fields once you're truly above tree line.
The Annual Pearl Pass Tour, the oldest mountain bike event in the world, is repeated year after year on a September weekend. The first tour happened in 1976 when a group of Crested Butte roadies pedaled and pushed their one-speed klunkers over the 12,705 ft. pass and on into Aspen.