On the road to Breckenridge: The original five routes before Highway 9
It may surprise some of you that there was life in, and access to, Breckenridge long before good old Highway 9 came along. Furthermore, “back in the old days” — meaning the spring, summer and fall of 1860 and before — there were actually a lot more ways to enter the Breck area than there are now, and these alternatives were used very extensively.
It’s probably safe to say that all of the “old” routes into Breck were originally seasonal game trails used by migrating mountain buffalo, elk, deer and other animals that moved to and from summer and winter grazing areas. Ute Native Americans also used the trails as they followed the game from season to season for thousands of years. In turn, early trappers later plied these routes in the first half of the 19th century.
When early Pikes Peak Gold Rush prospectors and miners appeared on the scene in the spring of 1859, why should they bushwhack through the woods when there were perfectly good trails, already well trodden? Recent research — in old diaries and personal accounts — by Bill Fountain and Mary Ellen Gilliland (see her book “Breckenridge: 150 Years of Golden History”) has turned up some unexpected early access routes into Breck. Not surprisingly, all of these early routes came through high mountain passes, most over the Continental Divide and most from South Park.
Two of the earliest routes came over passes no longer carrying their original names — Tarryall and Breckenridge passes. Tarryall Pass was the next pass to the southwest from our current Boreas Pass, while Breckenridge Pass was the next pass to the southwest. Breckenridge Pass was renamed Hamilton Pass in 1861. The currently unnamed Breckenridge/Hamilton Pass has high-tension electrical power lines running over it.
The Tarryall Pass road wound its way down through Dyersville, which is now a ghost town, in Indiana Gulch and passed through the current development of Spruce Valley Ranch, near the HOA’s skeet-shooting range. The road over Breckenridge Pass actually split soon after it entered the Blue River Basin — one branch forking into Indiana Gulch and passing through Dyersville before continuing through the current Spruce Valley Ranch, the other winding its way down Pennsylvania Gulch. There are actually the remains of an old stage stop along this road in Pennsylvania Gulch.
A third original route came over what we now call Georgia Pass but what was originally called Swan River Pass. This route wound its way down through Georgia Gulch, the long-gone town of Parkville, through Gold Run and to the Blue River. The “Georgia” name undoubtedly derived from the early prospectors from Georgia, veterans of the 1830-40 Georgia gold rush, who came west again to seek their fortune.
A fourth route came over what we now call Hoosier Pass (originally called Ute Pass) from South Park and down the Blue River (roughly the path of Highway 9). Yet another route came over French Pass, through a current private development roughly three miles above the Country Boy Mine, through Lincoln City, along French Creek and eventually to the Blue on what is now French Gulch Road.
Aside from these original five routes, several others came into Summit County, but probably later — over Loveland, Argentine and Boreas passes. It appears that despite its being a relatively easy-access pass, Boreas was not used extensively until a toll road was built over the pass in 1866.
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