During the early 1900s, dozens of trains traversed across the Denver, Northwestern & Pacific Railway, chugging their way through the Needle's Eye Tunnel, 11,660 feet above the ground in Gilpin County, Colorado.

The railway itself was established in 1903 by Denver banker, David Moffat. At the time, it was the highest non-cog railroad in America. The route traveled above the tree line, through the scenic Rollins Pass, and over the Continental Divide.

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The Rollins Pass route had three tunnels on it, numbered 31, 32, and 33. Tunnel 32 was also known as Needle's Eye Tunnel. The tunnel was given its alternate name based on its resemblance to the eye of a sewing needle.

Larry W. Jones/YouTube
Larry W. Jones/YouTube

Needle's Eye Tunnel is situated above the tree line roughly one mile from the pass on the east side of the Divide. When train passengers looked down 800 feet below at Jenny Lake, it felt like they were on top of the world. The particular location was chosen after the first tunnel that was built was deemed unsafe because of crumbling rock.

With the completion of the nearby Moffat Tunnel, the railroad was no longer needed. The railway was abandoned in 1935 but the road still traveled through the Needle's Eye Tunnel.

The ironic part of the story though, is that multiple rockfalls ultimately led to the demise of Needle's Eye Tunnel regardless. The first incident occurred in 1979 when falling rocks caused significant damage to Moffat Road. The road to the tunnel was closed until 1988. Then, another significant rockfall happened in 1990, which caused the tunnel to permanently shut down.

Boulder County and the USFS sealed Needle's Eye following its closure.

Several years ago, efforts were being made to restore, repair, and reopen Needle's Eye Tunnel. Locals had hoped that doing so would reduce congestion along the I-70 Corridor, and a few surrounding counties were in favor of this plan.

Larry W. Jones/YouTube
Larry W. Jones/YouTube

Nowadays, people can hike or bike across and around the collapsed Needle's Eye Tunnel and get a glimpse of Colorado's historic past. However, the trails around the area remain snow-covered for many months during the year, so access usually isn't available until late June or early July. Remnants of other railway buildings and trestles can also be seen in the area.

This video shows what the area on Rollins Pass looks like in modern times and provides a look back at how Needle's Eye came to be.

10 Things You May Not Know about the Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnel

The Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnel open on March 8, 1973. Before the tunnel, Coloradans had to take the Loveland Pass over U.S. Highway 6 in order to make it over the Continental Divide. Scroll on to learn 10 facts you may not have known about Ike's tunnel.

Nasty Bad Reviews of Colorado's Eisenhower Tunnel

Personally, I consider the tunnels to be a remarkable human achievement. Others seem to disagree.

KEEP SCROLLING TO LEARN MORE: Colorado is Home to the Highest Vehicular Tunnel in the U.S.

At a maximum elevation of over 11,000 feet, the Eisenhower-Edwin C. Johnson Memorial Tunnel on Colorado's I-70 is the highest vehicular tunnel in the United States.

The first bore of the tunnel was opened in 1973 and named for former President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and the second bore was opened six years later, named for former governor Edwin C. Johnson.

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