Tincup Pass (near Buena Vista) gets its name from prospector Jim Taylor, who in 1860 brought his gold strike back to camp in his tin cup. The pass was used to move supplies between St. Elmo and the town of Tin Cup starting in 1881, when a wagon road was built. Tincup Pass was needed because there was no railway near Tin Cup to supply the town.
Rating: Difficult (moderate except for 2 small areas on the south side)
4×4 Road: 267
Round trip: 24 miles / 38.6 km (St Elmo to the town of Tin Cup and back)
Elevation: 9,961′ – 12,154′ (+2,193′)/ 3,036m – 3,705m (+669m)
After 4 miles the road climbs to the north toward Tincup Pass.
Another mile in brings you to treeline with a good view of the remainder of the route to the pass. The switchbacks ahead are very narrow.
Once up the ledge road and switchbacks you will be at Tincup Pass, about 6 miles from St. Elmo.
Heading down the north side of the pass, the road is rough for the first mile while it winds through the tundra.
The road gradually widens and becomes more maintained.
After crossing a creek you will drive on a section of road made up of large talus along the edge of Mirror Lake. This section is rough so use caution.
Once past the lake the road becomes passable by passenger vehicles.
From the town of Tin Cup we took Cottonwood Pass back to Buena Vista to make it a loop. Note that Cottonwood Pass is a nicely paved road.