Kebler Pass connects Crested Butte and Highway 133. The Colorado Department of Transportation refers to the traversing road as Gunnison County Road 12. Kebler Pass closes during the winter.
Begin at Paonia River Park in Paonia
Start with your road bike on Grand Ave. (SH 187)
Right on SH 133 to CR 12--mile 15
Switch to mountain bike at CR 12
Ride to Kebler Pass Summit--mile 38.5
Finishing in Crested Butte, CO--mile 46
Kebler Pass is a two-lane gravel road and an old railway grade. A few portions of the road near the top of the pass have been paved. The 30-mile Kebler Pass road follows Coal Creek west from Crested Butte and climbs gradually past the old Keystone Mine. The road follows the old Rio Grande Railroad. At the top of the pass, a road forks left toward Ohio Pass and Gunnison and right toward Kebler Pass. Kebler Pass heads into the Anthracite Creek drainage and through incredible Aspen groves, meeting Highway 133 at the Paonia Dam.
Crested Butte, 7.2 miles to the east
Paonia, 38.9 miles to the west
Kebler Pass is the ending to West Elk Classic organized by David Weins. It is a gravel uphill mammoth finish on a road bike because – BECAUSE David is a Mountain Bike phenom who wants all road bikers to enter his pain cave.
“This is just an amazing route: completely around the West Elk Mountains on some of the loneliest, most off the beaten path roads in Colorado. This is a great event for fit and adventurous riders looking to support a great cause and experience a rarely seen part of Colorado. Blue Mesa Lake, the Black Canyon, Crawford, Paonia, Kebler Pass and Crested Butte. Next year I’m riding it!” – Dave Weins
Kebler Pass is named for John Kebler, Chief Lieutenant of the Colorado Fuel and Iron Corporation, which owned many properties in Colorado and mined coal in the area.
Kebler Pass was originally a Ute trail. Homesteaders used Kebler Pass Road to transport the potatoes they grew to the towns of Paonia and Hotchkiss. Cattle and sheep were herded along the road to railroad freight yards for shipment to the Denver stockyards.
Two former silver mining camps established in 1870, Ruby and Irwin, lie near the pass. After silver was discovered in the Ruby Chief Mine the two towns united and became the town of Irwin. The Denver Rio Grande Railroad (DRGR) ran a spur line from Crested Butte to Irwin in the early 1880s. Irwin was one of the most important camps in Gunnison County and became the supply center for mining camps in the area with over 500 buildings, including a large stamp mill, three churches, a bank, six sawmills, a theater, hotels and 23 saloons. Saloons were quite important after a hard day at work.
The road provided a good connection to the coal mining community of Somerset.
Somerset had become the largest coal producer in the state by 1903 when the Denver Rio Grande Railroad reached it. The old road bed is marked by a stone bed which sits above the current Kebler Pass Road. The road today follows the route which the railroad traveled at a four percent grade. This bed is now used as a bike trail.