Last Updated on 07/19/2023 by Glynn Willard
What’s it like to tow a travel trailer over Wolf Creek Pass?
We were ignorant of its existence and had no experience towing over dangerous mountain passes.
We were headed east on Rt 160 and saw signs. Fortunately, ignorance is bliss, so there was zero anxiety (at first).
This was early in our full time travels before we knew to look out for more than just low clearance overpasses.
Regardless, I wasn’t worried. Isn’t that why I bought a 6.7 Liter Diesel? And the scenery was beautiful!
Does Wolf Creek Pass Have Hairpin Turns?
Yes, there were several hairpin turns.
The one that’s talked about the most is the switchback near Wolf Creek scenic overlook.
We didn’t know about it until we encountered the switchback.
We were heading up the mountain when we approached this turn and it’s definitely a bit of a shocker.
Fortunately, I drive slowly and under control, so it wasn’t a “nail biter.”
As you already know, speed is your enemy and a controlled slow pace is your best friend.
Use your brakes as sparingly as possible to prevent overheating. Use your gears of engine brake instead.
What’s the rush anyway? The scenery is beautiful!
Wolf Creek Pass Elevation
Are we ever going to finish climbing this mountain?
I admit, that thought crossed my mind several times.
Wolf Creek Pass has a peak altitude of 10,856 MSL.
Those 7% grades will not let you forget that you’re climbing a great distance.
Neither will your “screaming” engine!
On the flip side, it’s a really cool experience and the clean air at the top feels really good!
Wolf Creek Pass Grade
Both the east and west sides of Wolf Creek Pass have close to 7% grades on both sides.
I mentioned the dangerous hairpin turn on the west side earlier.
It just adds to the nail biting of the steep grades.
I’ll cover what these steep grades did to our tow vehicle later in the article.
Total Time To Cross Wolf Creek Pass
An experienced driver can likely cross it under good conditions in a little over an hour.
Yeah, in a car!
It’s about 42 miles long, so if you’re towing something, budget two hours. Why?
I suggest stopping to rest the tow vehicle’s engine and brakes (and trailer brakes).
But it’s just as important to take in the views and breath the fresh high elevation air.
It’s worth the time!
Be Aware Of The Weather On Wolf Creek Pass
If there are cold temperatures and precipitation predicted, skip it and find another way around.
All vehicles are required to use chains or auto socks in snow.
If you have no experience with these conditions, skip it. This is not the place to learn.
Ice on mountain passes can be deadly to any vehicle. Especially heavy trucks towing a camper.
So, again, before you embark on the journey over Wolf Creek Pass, know the weather on all parts of the pass.
Although, locals mentioned the road is really well maintained in the winter due to the ski resort.
That’s not good enough for me when I’m towing. Just throwing that out there.
Is Your Camper And Tow Vehicle Equipped To Cross Wolf Creek Pass?
An engine brake can make all the difference.
I was thrown to the wolves (pun intended).
I learned to use our engine brake on our 2017 F250 diesel on Wolf Creek Pass.
And I didn’t do a great job at first until Rose broke out the manual and figured it out.
It took a few tries before I trusted it to “do its thing.”
Make sure your tow vehicle and trailer have quality brakes.
Oh and make sure you don’t approach the pass with your low fuel light on.
That should be a no brainer, but it’s worth saying.
Test Your Brakes Before Going Over Wolf Creek Pass
Test your tow vehicle and trailer’s brakes before ascending the mountain.
If you have a brake control, test your trailers brakes on their own.
They should stop your tow vehicle from an un-accelerated coast.
I know it sounds like the obvious, but I forgot to test my brakes on several occasions.
It wasn’t until I had a lot of experience towing and doing preventative maintenance that I established so many safety checks.
This is a situation where it’s really good to know your trailer and tow vehicle’s systems inside and out.
Just as important, use your brakes sparingly. The last thing you need is them overheating.
If that happens, use the truck run offs.
But let’s prevent that in the first place.
Check Engine Light (CEL) On Wolf Creek Pass
Yep, the dreaded check engine light (CEL) came on at the peak. This was my first experience with a CEL.
I didn’t have a code reader yet. But it did inspire the purchase of the Inova 5160RS, OBD2 Bidirectional Scan Tool.
Yes, that’s an affiliate link. I think it helps the reader more than it helps us.
So, we’re sitting at the top of the mountain with a CEL, hood up and scratching our heads.
At the time, all I could do was let the engine cool, use the facilities in our rig (bathroom and kitchen) and enjoy the fresh air.
Once the diesel engine cooled, we started off and the CEL was still on. But the truck drove fine.
And everything worked as it should.
I had the truck scanned and it was an O2 sensor discrepancy. Oddly, from that point forward, the CEL would come on whenever we pushed the truck to elevation.
But the truck always drove just fine without the need for repair. Once we returned to sea level, it stopped coming on.
RV Etiquette: Let Them Pass
This applies to all RV drivers because it’s just the right thing to do.
If you’re holding up traffic because of your slow pace, pull off at the first opportunity and let cars pass.
We’ve all been stuck behind a slow vehicle and we all genuinely appreciate the few that pull off to allow passing.
Several states have made it a law that if you’re backing traffic up, you have to pull off and let them pass.
Colorado is one of those states.
Kindness on the roadway goes a long way.
Wrapping Up Crossing Wolf Creek Pass With A Camper
If Wolf Creek Pass is on your itinerary and your towing a camper, keep the following in mind:
- Know the weather and plan accordingly.
- Speed is not your friend. Take your time and budget approximately 2 hours.
- Is your tow vehicle and camper equipped with good quality, robust brakes?
- Check your brakes before the ascent and use them sparingly. Your lower gears and engine brake should be your go to when going downhill.
- It’s all about taking your time and remaining under control.
- If you’re the slow camper (and you should be), let the traffic pass that’s built up behind you.
Take in the beautiful views and fresh air that Wolf Creek Pass has to offer.
What’s the most difficult mountain pass you’ve towed a camper over?
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