Cottonwood Pass West Bike Climb - PJAMM Cycling

5.6
FIETS
12.2 mi
DISTANCE
2,571 ft
GAINED
4 %
AVG. GRADE

FULL CLIMB STATS

INTRO

This 12.2 mile bike climb is located in Gunnison County, Colorado, USA. The average gradient is 4% and there is a total elevation gain of 2,571 ft, finishing at 11,489 ft.

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See more details and tools regarding this climb's grade via our interactive Profile Tool.
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ROUTE MAP
PROFILE TOOL

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CLIMB SUMMARY

Cycling Cottonwood Pass, Tayler Camp, Colorado - white PJAMM Cycling SAG van parked in parking lot next to NPS sign for Cottonwood Pass, Continental Divide

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.

Before heading to Colorado on your cycling adventure, be sure to rely on our list of Things to Bring on a Cycling Trip, and use our interactive checklist to ensure you don't forget anything.

Cycling Cottonwood Pass, Tayler Camp, Colorado - photo collage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, before and after photos of the road at Cottonwood Pass, left photo is pre-pavement, bike parked at red gate in front of Road Closed sign, right photo is the newly paved two-lane freeway

Right:  Then . . .

. . . Left:  Now!  👍👍👍

Cycling Cottonwood Pass, Tayler Camp, Colorado - photo collage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, bike parked at sign for Taylor Park Guard Station Gunnison National Forest, parking lot at Tayler Camp, bike leaning against large grey stone in front of trees, aerial view looking down hillside, two-lane newly paved roadway winding through trees

Cycling Cottonwood Pass, Taylor Camp, Colorado - PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, parking lot at Taylor Park Trading Post, lots of off road vehicles parked in parking lot

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.  

Cycling Cottonwood Pass, Taylor Camp, Colorado - photo collage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, bike parked along roadside against sign reading "Cottonwood Pass Open", stretch of newly paved two-lane highway next to road sign for winding road coming up, bright blue skies

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%).

Cycling Cottonwood Pass, Taylor Camp, Colorado - photo collage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, PJAMM Cycling's white SAG van parked along roadside, two-lane roadway surrounded by tall pine trees, bike parked against large grey stone, roadway beyond opened road closure fence

Cycling Cottonwood Pass, Taylor Camp, Colorado - photo collage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, PJAMM Cycling's white SAG van parked in parking lot, bike parked against NPS sign for Cottonwood Pass & Continental Divide, bike parked against rock overlooking a pond, aerial view of roadway snaking up hillside

Finish at Cottonwood Pass and the Continental Divide.

View west towards Taylor Camp Reservoir and the climb start.

Cycling Cottonwood Pass, Taylor Camp, Colorado - photo collage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, aerial views of road snaking up mountainside

Aerial views from the pass looking west toward Taylor Park Reservoir and the beginning of the climb.

Continental Divide Top 100 US Bike Climbs

cycling Independence Pass CO - Continental Divide Sign

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.