The Alpine tunnel was a part of the narrow gauge rail system between Denver and Gunnison Colorado. Construction on the tunnel began in 1880 and started service in 1882. The tunnel was then abandoned in 1910 due to tunnel cave-ins. This was the first tunnel to be constructed through the Continental Divide. The tunnel sits at an elevation of 11,523 feet and has a length of 772 feet. At one time this was the highest tunnel n the world… Read more Below.
You can get to the Alpine Tunnel from the small town of Pitkin Colorado. The trip from Pitkin is about 10 miles. The road to the tunnel is in good condition, but a little rocky and rough in places. It can be driven by most 2 wheel drive vehicles, but I do recommend an SUV or pickup. From the Pitkin General Store and Gas Station head East on Forest Service road 765. A couple of miles down the road you’ll make a right on Forest Service road 968 (You’ll see the sign Alpine Tunnel). From here you’re actually driving on the old railroad track bed that leads to the tunnel. On the first three quarters of the trip along the way you’ll see a water tower and a little further down the road you’ll see a small section of the narrow gauge railroad. If you are afraid of heights or don’t want to drive on the cliffs road this might be a good place to turn around. However, the last 3 miles are the most spectacular with magnificent vistas and sheer drop-offs along the road. Along the way you come to the Palisades – a man-made retaining wall holding up the road that is still there from the 1880s. The wall is about 30 feet high and about 425 feet long. Continue on to the end of the road and take a short walk to the Alpine tunnel station. At the restored station there is also a small section of track that has been reinstalled. Take short hike past the station and you will reach the entrance of the tunnel. Unfortunately, the tunnel has been sealed off for safety reasons, but it is still well worth the trip.
I am always amazed traveling the back roads of Colorado finding new, amazing photographic opportunities in small towns and new discoveries like the Alpine Tunnel. So get out there and visit the Alpine Tunnel. You won’t be disappointed.
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