The two ways that Frodo considers in order to make his way into Mordor are The Black Gate and The Pass of Cirith Ungol.

These seem to be the only ways that anyone considers taking at any point, yet they both seem nigh impassable due to the dangers i.e. the amount of Sauron's forces watching The Black Gate, and the proximity to Minas Morgul & Dol Guldur as well as Shelob's lair at the pass.

So were these the only two ways that people approaching from the West could get into Mordor?

I can believe that geographically these were the only two ways to cross the mountains from the West, but could one simply walk into Mordor anywhere else, such as coming from the East?

If there were more ways into Mordor, what was stopping Frodo from entering through that way? Was it better guarded, were they unknown to the Fellowship, or would the journey to get to these alternative entrances have been too difficult?

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    One does not simply... ah, you know. Commented Dec 2, 2015 at 16:31
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    Were-worms could dig in and Eagles could fly over. Though both would probably be detected, at some point.
    – TylerH
    Commented Dec 2, 2015 at 18:37
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    @PaulD.Waite I was supremely disappointed that this question did not start out As we all know, one does not simply walk into Mordor... Commented Dec 2, 2015 at 19:02
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    Yes, the giant gap in the back of Mordor seems to be a plausible entrance if you would look at a map of Middle Earth you will see it.
    – Fingolfin
    Commented Dec 2, 2015 at 20:51
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    @WayneWerner: sure, although I appreciate the subtlety of the question’s reference to the meme. Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 9:15

6 Answers 6



  • An early (1944) draft of The Two Towers indicates a pass in the southern Ephel Dúath, called the Nargil Pass:

    Now Orcs have passed south through Nargil pass into the Southland beyond [? River] Harnen.

    History of Middle-earth VIII The War of the Ring Part 3: "Minas Tirith" Chapter 1: "Addendum to 'The Treason of Isengard'" (ii) The Muster of Rohan

    Nargil Pass appeared on a map drawn by Tolkien in 1943. However it doesn't appear on any subsequent maps, so its canonicity is unclear

    It seems plausible that there are other ways over (or through) the mountains; mountains are unpredictable, and it's not at all unprecedented for them to form in a such a way that would allow you to slip through.

However, the major barriers preventing Frodo from taking an alternate route are

  • Time. Between Sauron's ongoing war against the rest of the world, the hobbits' dwindling supplies, and the mounting effort Frodo has to make to resist the Ring's influence, there's an enormous incentive to get the Quest over with quickly. They could perhaps have found another way, but would they have done so in time (and, more importantly, would they have believed they could have found one in time)
  • Lack of guidance. Mordor is not extensively charted, and the Ephel Dúath even less so. This is related to the above, but they had no guide able to lead them any other way. Gollum, on the other hand, does know a way out, and they know he's not lying (because they know he escaped before, and they know that escape via the Black Gate is implausible at best). Cirith Ungol may be a crappy bet, but it's a known quantity
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    The four places marked on the map seem to indicate sources of rivers that flow either into the inland Sea of Núrnen or into the western sea. I wouldn't expect mountains to be any more passable near river sources than anywhere else. I see no rivers mapped as flowing through the Ephel Dúath (which would indeed hint at passes - or possibly also wildwater gorges, for all we would know). Commented Dec 2, 2015 at 19:19
  • @StephanKolassa You're not wrong, which is why I said it "may hint." It's a question that runs up against the uncertainty inherent in these maps; do the rivers end here, do they continue through the mountains (without having been charted), or do they go undergound? We don't know the answer Commented Dec 2, 2015 at 19:29
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    I think you're right that "lack of guidance" was one of (if not the) most important factor; not just the lack of knowledge in that area, but the fact that Gandalf did not give Frodo clear directions to Mordor before he fell. Boromir, Faramir or Aragorn might have known of other ways in, but Frodo is reliant on information he's overheard from Gandalf and at the Council of Elrond -- which is why he makes straight for the Black Gate, the best defended way into Mordor. Luckily, he bumps into/kidnaps one of the few creatures in Middle Earth to successfully enter or leave Mordor.
    – Gaurav
    Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 3:00
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    Generally speaking, rivers flowing through a mountain range, while possible, are highly unlikely.
    – DevSolar
    Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 13:06
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    Mountain ranges form divides that separate watershed basins, and are therefore where rivers usually start. The map and the way most the rivers come from a mountain range without a clear "other side" to the river indicate Tolkien understood this and was mapping Middle Earth rivers accordingly. The idea that those rivers are flowing "through" the range does not make much sense at all in light of that map. That's simply not how geography works, and it seems Tolkien knew that as he was drawing the map. Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 15:02

Not a joke answer: you can get there by air.

Gwaihir the Great Eagle and his brothers Landroval and Meneldor rescued Sam and Frodo from Mt. Doom.

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    Not saying it would be the best way but the question was "Were there any other ways into Mordor?" Also - if the eagles had helped, they could have made it there before the Nazgul were un-horsed and took to the Fell Beasts
    – NKCampbell
    Commented Dec 2, 2015 at 17:10
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    @Nathan <fingers in ears & eyes closed > la la la I'm not listening...
    – gef05
    Commented Dec 2, 2015 at 19:30
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    – Samuel
    Commented Dec 2, 2015 at 20:18
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    @Samuel I was wondering how long it would be before that was linked. :)
    – reirab
    Commented Dec 2, 2015 at 20:18
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    Our question about eagles is scifi.stackexchange.com/q/2333/4918 "Why didn't Gandalf or Frodo Fly to Mount Doom?"
    – b_jonas
    Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 13:07

The only other way would have been to walk the long way around and to then approach Mordor from the East. This would have added on about 1,500 miles to the journey and would have taken time that they simply did not have.

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    Is it certain that there is actually open terrain to the east? Or is it simply uncharted and therefore left blank? I have only read the Hobbit, LoTR, and Silmarillion, so it could be mentioned elsewhere.
    – TylerH
    Commented Dec 2, 2015 at 18:38
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    @TylerH that is definitely possible. Tolkien never really wrote much about the far east and south.
    – ibid
    Commented Dec 2, 2015 at 18:55
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    If you look in the map on the other answer, there is a large gap on the east end of Mordor. However, the point about taking time they did not have is critical: it would have taken several months on foot and extra food and supplies they did not have either.
    – user31563
    Commented Dec 2, 2015 at 19:16
  • He receives grains and resources from lands that pay him tribute in the east, so there must be substantial roads to bring in the foodstuffs needed to feed his armies. Commented Feb 16, 2023 at 12:48

If the question is meaning to ask, was there another physical possible entrance, most likely. But if the question is meant to ask, was there another realistic entrance given the scope of the task, probably not. Look at the maps and see Orodruin's proximity to the Black Gate and Frodo's entrance, both are quite good as access to the mountain. If Frodo entered Mordor from almost anywhere else, he would have to venture significantly farther across the interior. From the experience he had on a strong trip through Mordor and other descriptions of the land, it seems untenable that another entrance is possible to meet the end of Frodo's task.

  • The question was kinda both, whether there were other entrances and how reasonable they would have been for Frodo to take. I never actually considered that if they found another way into Mordor, they would still have had much further to travel to get to Mount Doom, increasing the likelihood of capture. Good catch! Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 15:59

Only one point is missing from the above. It is also possible to enter Mordor from the South, as the Haradrim do. But that route would require going past Minas Morgul all the way to the southern end of the mountains that separate Mordor from Ithilien - too far a journey for the time allotted. Aragorn had gone that far south in earlier years, before the Fellowship, but the journey took him many years.

Sauron built the mountains of Mordor to keep his vassals in and his enemies out. The only three passes were the Black Gate, which he guarded, Minas Morgul, once Minas Ithil, which Gondor used to keep vile creatures in Mordor, and now guarded by the nine Nazgûl, and the secret pass near it, guarded by Shelob.

All in all, a pretty strong defense.


What has been overlooked here is that the east and south are enemy territory guarded and patrolled by allies of Sauron. To the east, the Easterlings and to the south the armies of the Haradrim both of which would most likely detect and capture Frodo, Sam and Gollum, not to mention none of them know the way, Gollum knew the way in from the west over the secret stair. Approaching from the east also has the added issue that they would pass by Sauron's fortress at Barad-dûr on their way to Mount Doom (it is east of Mount Doom) increasing their risk of capture by Sauron.

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