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U.S. Forest Service

Rocky Mountain Region Viewing Area


Marsh marigold.
Marsh marigold is frequent a Boreas Pass in seasonally wet soils. Photo by Steve Olson.

Arctic gentian.
Arctic gentian appears in the alpine tundra at Boreas Pass. Photo by Steve Olson.

Parry’s primrose.
Parry’s primrose can be seen along small streams in the alpine tundra. Photo by Steve Olson..

Boreas Pass

Forest: Pike National Forest

District: South Park Ranger District

Description: Boreas Pass is a diverse site high in the Mosquito Mountains. Sedimentary rocks of differing ages, igneous intrusives and glacial deposits underlie the landscape. Elevation of 11,000 to 12,500 feet, slopes up to 60 percent, and varying aspects add to the diversity of microhabitats in the area. Large areas of alpine tundra and grass/forb communities intermix with bristlecone pine (Pinus aristata), Engelmann spruce (Picea engelmannii) forests, and willow dominated riparian shrublands.

Viewing Information: Because of the high elevation of Boreas Pass, the viewing season for wildflowers is compressed, best seen from late June to early August. The alpine tundra varies from dry and rocky to wet with flowing water. Common species on dry parts of the area include pygmyflower rockjasmine (Androsace septentrionalis), arctic gentian (Gentiana algida), Whipple’s penstemon (Penstemon whippleanus), Parry’s lousewort (Pedicularis parryi), and alpine violet (Viola labradorica). Redtop stonecrop (Rhodiola rhodantha), marsh marigold (Caltha leptosepala), elephanthead (Pedicularis groenlandica), and Parry’s primrose (Primula parryi) are among the common plants in moist tundra. Subalpine meadows have bluebell bellflower (Campanula rotundifolia), fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium), and Parry’s gentian (Gentiana parryi). Patches of heartleaf arnica (Arnica cordifolia), subalpine larkspur (Delphinium barbeyi), and Eschscholtz’s buttercup (Ranunculus eschscholtzii) are found beneath Engelmann spruce.

Safety First: As with most high elevation areas, be aware of rapidly changing weather conditions. Lightning storms often form in early afternoon, so be prepared for a quick departure, if necessary. Sunscreen is a good idea in the thin air at high elevation. The elevation itself can cause discomfort in some people. Be cautious on the steep slopes and loose rock in the area. In addition, as always, be aware of other vehicles on the road and in the parking area.

Directions: From Fairplay, Colorado, proceed north on US-285 to the intersection with Park County Road-50 (about 10 miles). Turn left on to Park County Road-50 through the small community of Como. Follow this road (3-1/2 miles) to Forest Road 33, and then turn right to Boreas Pass (7 miles).

Ownership and Management: U.S. Forest Service, Pike National Forest, South Park Ranger District.

Closest Town: Fairplay, Colorado.