Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Change of Pace: Colorado Mountain Passes

Colorado has many high mountain passes that have a high pucker factor. Some are summer only, some are gravel, and some left over  from early mining days should just be blocked off; damn dangerous.

A well traveled acquaintance and I had a conversation about which are the “worst” passes. Restricted to open to year around travel, paved, in regular use 24/7/365, this is my top six that get my attention. Some passes have one side that is worse than the other and some are just hard all the way.

Douglas Pass between Fruita and Rangley. The Fruita side gets my attention as no other pass in Colorado.

Loveland Pass, US 6, is a bitch on both sides. Watch out for free range snowboarders and hazmat trucks. In general, fuel tankers can’t use the I-70 Eisenhower/Johnson tunnels. Instead, they run over Loveland as do all oversize loads.  Big, heavy trucks on narrow roads with huge drop offs should be feared.

Red Mountain Pass. Just nasty. Big drop offs and no guard rails.

Wolf Creek Pass. Forget CW McCall. This one is sharp curves, narrow road, falling rocks, and blind corners on the East Side. On the West side, a controlled fall off a cliff.

Monarch Pass, US 50. Everything Wolf Creek is without the scenery. In the summer swarms with wanna be Billy Bad Ass bikers and bikerettes who can’t ride. Pose well, if you want to take their picture.

McClure Pass.  A slick way to get from Glenwood Springs to the upper Grand Valley without going by Grand Junction. Not a high pass, but the East side is 9% grade for six mile with no letup,  and a 20 mph corner at the bottom.

On all passes, your major concerns are human powered vehicles, deer, and the occasional elk, moose, bear, or pronghorn.

Wintertime conditions changes everything. Professional truckers tell me the best regional drivers are employed by Safeway Stores. Just get behind one and be patient. If they are parked, you should follow their example.

Other will have their own list. Berthoud Pass, especially before the East side improvements. Divide to Cripple Creek. US 24 Minturn to Leadville. Copper Mountain to Leadville.  Gateway to Nucla. West side of Rabbit Ears.

Any I’ve missed?

All picture are from Google. No copyright infringement intended. If you own it, let me know, and I will remove it and/or give you credit.


Anonymous said...

Slumgullion Pass?


Well Seasoned Fool said...

9% grade in places but an easy drive otherwise.