Cycling the newly minted (as of September 2019) Cottonwood Pass West
Ride 12.2 miles gaining 2,570’ at 4% average grade.
Until September 2019, Cottonwood was not a true pass, but, rather, an up-and-back. That all changed with the opening of a gorgeous new road in autumn 2019. With the paving and opening of the pass, Cottonwood “Pass” immediately became the highest paved actual pass in the US at 12,126’ (Independence Pass is a close second at 12,095’). Each of Mt. Evans, Pikes Peak, and Mauna Kea are higher, but end at the top. Until September 2019, Independence Pass held top honors as Highest US Paved Pass because Cottonwood Pass was not paved on its back side. Trail Ridge is slightly higher, but its high point is not marked as a “pass” (Iceberg Pass is down from the Trail Ridge high point at 11,827’). Thus, as of September 2019, Cottonwood Pass claims the prize for highest paved pass in the US.
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Right: Then . . .
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The only provisions on this side of the pass are at Taylor Park Trading Post, 3½ miles from climb start.
Taylor Park has the Nugget Cafe (open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner) and the Trading Post (general store) which has limited food and drink. When we visited in July 2020, it was overrun with off road vehicles and zero cyclists.
The climb begins by riding east on County Road 209 from Taylor Park Reservoir.
The climb is very scenic, the roadway absolutely pristine (as of summer 2020), and the grade generally a consistent 3-5% throughout (steepest quarter mile is 7.8%, half mile 6.6%, and mile 6.3%).
Finish at Cottonwood Pass and the Continental Divide.
View west towards Taylor Camp Reservoir and the climb start.
Aerial views from the pass looking west toward Taylor Park Reservoir and the beginning of the climb.
Continental Divide Top 100 US Bike Climbs
Wolf Creek Pass: top photo, southwest Colorado (Pagosa Springs)
Independence Pass: central Colorado (Aspen)
Cottonwood Pass: central Colorado (Buena Vista)
Trail Ridge: stops nine miles short of the Divide.