Colorado Most Epic Bike Climbs

#1
Pikes Peak
USA, CO
#2
Mount Evans
USA, CO
#3
Trail Ridge
USA, CO
#4
Cottonwood Pass
USA, CO
#5
Independence Pass West
USA, CO
#6
Grand Mesa North
USA, CO
#7
Guanella Pass
USA, CO
#8
East Portal
USA, CO
#9
Red Mountain Pass North
USA, CO
#10
North Cheyenne Canyon
USA, CO

Climb List: Colorado
(sort by distance, difficulty, elevation and more)

Cycling Colorado

Colorado's Top 10 Most Epic Bike Climbs - photo collage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, sign for Independence Pass, Sign for Cottonwood Pass, Sign at Summit of Pike's Peak, Trail Ridge, and Mount Evans

Cycling Colorado’s Most Epic Bike Climbs

Photos clockwise from top left:

#5 Independence Pass; #4 Cottonwood Pass; #3 Trail Ridge

#2 Mount Evans; #1 (center) Pikes Peak

Throughout all my travels throughout the United States to document cycling climbs, I have never encountered a population as supportive and enthusiastic about cycling as I’ve seen in Colorado.  I LOVE cycling in Colorado. I have cycled throughout the state four times and ridden the top climbs between two and four times each.  Thus, although I am from California, I do feel at least quasi-qualified to rate the most epic Colorado bike climbs.  So, here they are in reverse order:

#10 of 10 COLORADO MOST EPIC BIKE CLIMBS

NORTH CHEYENNE CAÑON, COLORADO SPRINGS

Cycling North Cheyenne Cañon, Colorado Springs - two cyclists on roadway near stone sign for North Cheyenne Cañon

Cycling North Cheyenne Cañon, Colorado Springs

Ride 3.2 miles gaining 1,220’ to elevation 7,487’ at 7.2% average grade.

Cycling North Cheyenne Cañon, Colorado Springs - photo collage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, one lane road surrounded by thick forestation with sign stating that bikes may use full lane, bike parked next to stone sign for North Cheyenne Cañon, aerial view looking down over u-shaped curve in roadway next to tall rock outcropping, bike leaned against red dirt/rock area overlooking distant views below

This bike climb is through beautiful North Cheyenne Cañon Regional Park. The park is a National Register of Historic Places, and rightly so.  This is a superb ride that anyone living in or visiting the Colorado Springs area should experience.

Cycling North Cheyenne Cañon, Colorado Springs - photo collage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, panoramic views looking down on Colorado Springs from above from Lower Gold Camp Road, Garmin device reading 7,381 feet, dirt road surrounded by tall rock formations, sign warning of "Road Damage Proceed with Caution"

Be sure to ride at least one mile down Lower Gold Camp Road

Dirt, but easily manageable on a road bike.

Cycling North Cheyenne Cañon, Colorado Springs - photo collage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, bike parked at entrance of dark cave carved into hillside, craggy, sharp brown rocks surround cave entrance, Garmin device inside cave reads -4% grade

The paved 3.2 miles plus the bonus dirt section nudges this shorter climb into the Top 10.

#9 of 10 COLORADO MOST EPIC BIKE CLIMBS

RED MOUNTAIN PASS, OURAY

Cycling Red Mountain,  Ouray, Colorado - two cyclists with their bikes standing in front of sign for Red Mountain Pass, Elevation 11,018

Cycling Red Mountain

Ride 12.8 miles gaining 3,385’ to elevation 11,018’ at 5% average grade.

This climb is a bit of an outlier, but well worth cycling if you are ever in the area.  This southwestern Colorado road bike climb begins in Ouray, Colorado, known as the “Switzerland of America.”  Ouray is a restored 1870’s silver and gold mining town that had a population of 1,019 in 2019.  The town’s main street is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Cycling Red Mountain, Ouray, Colorado - photo collage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, views along the climb of rugged mountain terrain, a small waterfall along roadside underneath bridge

A beautiful road bike climb in southeastern Colorado.

#8 OF 10 COLORADO MOST EPIC BIKE CLIMB

EAST PORTAL, BLACK CANYON OF THE GUNNISON NP

Cycling East Portal, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park - bike parked in front of sign for Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Cycling East Portal

Ride 3.3 miles gaining 2,001’ (0 descent) at 11.4% average grade.

Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park -- Established 1999; 30,750 acres.

Cycling East Portal, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park - panoramic view overlooking mountain tops and large valley between them, large white clouds above

As with #9 Red Mountain Pass, this one is also a bit of an outlier, but well worth the drive to get to Black Canyon! The climb itself is brief, but gives you as much pop in three miles as you will get on any of the Top U.S. 100 Climbs. This Colorado climb is incredibly steep and gives you spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and vegetation along the way -- when you are not staring down at the pavement moving by slowly in front of you.  

Cycling East Portal, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park - aerial views of road snaking up mountainside, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner

Cycling East Portal, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park - photo collage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, sign for Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, aerial view of road snaking up mountainside, bike with PJAMM Cycling jersey draped over it leaning against white fence, bike leaned against "Use Low Gear" sign and 16% grade sign

#7 OF 10 COLORADO MOST EPIC BIKE CLIMBS

GUANELLA PASS, GEORGETOWN

Cycling Guanella Pass - photo collage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, sign for Arapaho National forest, bike leaning against railing overlooking town nestled in mountains, cyclist riding on roadway next to white PJAMM SAG van

Climbing Guanella Pass by bike -- a challenging and peaceful bike climb.

Ride 10.8 miles gaining 3,606’ to elevation 11,657 at 5.4% average grade.

The Guanella Pass bike climb is broken into three parts:  hard, easy, hard – the first 3.5 miles at 6.7% gaining 1,303’, the middle mild segment is five miles at 2.9%, and the final 2.3 mile switchback section at 7.4%.  We ride through a canyon for most of the climb, following the South Clear Creek River for nearly the entire route, although the creek is not always in view.  This is a hydroelectric area and we pass by two lakes, a reservoir and a major power station during the first 5.5 miles.

Cycling Guanella Pass - photo collage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, bike leaning against retaining wall along roadside over creek, cyclist on roadway surrounded by evergreen trees, bike leaning against pole along roadside, forestation and blue skies above

This is a beautiful climb with minimal vehicular traffic.

#6 OF 10 COLORADO MOST EPIC BIKE CLIMBS

GRAND MESA NORTH, MESA

Cycling Grand Mesa North - daisy flower, horses, gray skies Cycling Grand Mesa North, a top US bike climb in the Rocky Mountains.

Ride 21.4 miles gaining 6,110’ to 10,830’ at 5% average grade.

The Grand Mesa North bike climb is a remote one -- it is the furthest west of the nine Top 100 U.S. climbs in Colorado, and is located in the Grand Mesa National Forest. Its claim to fame is that Grand Mesa is the largest flat-topped mountain in the world. The pass can be reached from both the north and south, the north being the most scenic approach.

Cycling Grand Mesa North - photo collage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, NPS service sign for Grand Mesa National Forest, road sign for 45 1/2 Road, view of straight two-lane road headed toward mountains, road sign for Moose Crossing, views of forested lands

This is a long, challenging, and very scenic bike ride in eastern Colorado near Grand Junction. 

Cycling Grand Mesa North - photo collage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, distant view of white mountain (Chalk Mountain) from above, bike with PJAMM Cycling jersey draped over it parked in grass overlooking Chalk Mountain

Chalk Mountain (photo center) to the west as we climb.

#5 OF 10 COLORADO MOST EPIC BIKE CLIMBS

INDEPENDENCE PASS, ASPEN

Cycling Independence Pass - summit sign, bike, Stacy Topping, pjamm

Cycling Independence Pass, Colorado -- Route from Aspen is a US 100 Bike Climb.

Ride 15.8 miles gaining 4,128’ to 12,095’ at 4.8% average grade.

Cycling Independence Pass from Aspen, Colorado - photo collage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, views of road bike parked along different points along side of roadway guardrail along sheer cliff down the mountainside

There is a four-tenths of a mile segment along a sheer cliff.

Cycling Independence Pass from Aspen, Colorado - photo collage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, aerial drone views of mountainside sheer cliff with roadway carved into it

. . . terrifying in a car, but it was no problem on a bike.

Independence “Pass” is the second highest paved actual pass in the US at 12,095’ (Cottonwood Pass at 12,126’ is the highest). Each of Mt. Evans, Pikes Peak, and Mauna Kea are higher, but end at the top. 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’).

Cycling Independence Pass from Aspen, Colorado - photo collage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, aerial drone views of ride summit, Continental Divide, roadway leading up to summit

The summit is the second highest paved pass in the US.

Cycling Independence Pass from Aspen, Colorado - photo collage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, road sign covered in stickers, close up of PJAMM Cycling sticker on road sign

One of the few passes in the US with European-style stickers on the pass sign.

#4 OF 10 COLORADO MOST EPIC BIKE CLIMBS

COTTONWOOD PASS, BUENA VISTA

Bike climb to Cottonwood Pass - Continental Divide sign.

Cycling Cottonwood Pass -- one of US 100 Bike Climbs that reach the Continental Divide.

Ride 19.2 miles gaining 4,320’ to elevation 12,126’ at 4.1% average grade.

Cycling Cottonwood Pass, Colorado - photo collage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, bike leaning against, road sign warning of curved road ahead, San Isabel National Forest Sign, pole next to old wooden shack, large "U" shaped curve in road, PJAMM Cycling jersey draped over rock in front of "Holy Water" sign

Cottonwood Pass (East) is one of only six climbs in the U.S. that top out above 12,000' (five of those six are in Colorado -- the Himalayas of North America).  This is also one of only three of the 13 Colorado Top 100 U.S. Climbs that end at the Continental Divide  (Independence Pass and Wolf Creek Pass are the other two).

Cycling Cottonwood Pass, Colorado - photo collage of Cottonwood Pass wildflowers blooming in spring, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner

Cottonwood Pass in spring.

Cottonwood “Pass” is 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.

Cycling Cottonwood Pass, Colorado - aerial view of road snaking through mountain below

Cottonwood Pass & Continental Divide -- photo bottom center.

Loop and hairpin leading to the top bottom center left of photo.

Cycling Cottonwood Pass, Colorado - John Johnson standing with bike in front of Cottonwood Pass sign, aerial view of roadway snaking up mountainside below, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner

#3 OF 10 COLORADO MOST EPIC BIKE CLIMBS

TRAIL RIDGE, LOVELAND

Cycling Trail Ridge, Colorado - cyclist climbing on two-lane roadway surrounded by greenery, mountains in background

Cycling Trail Ridge

Ride 43.9 miles (not a typo!) gaining 7,767’ at 3% average grade.

Fragile World sign on bike climb up Trail Ridge

Trail Ridge Road is the highest continuous paved road in the United States, traversing Rocky Mountain National Park, and offers spectacular views along the giant switchbacks 20 miles below a summit that tops out at a whopping 12,000'.  At 43.9 miles, Trail Ridge is also the second longest bike climb in the U.S. and the fifth longest in the world.   Visit PJAMM’s Rocky Mountain NP page for more information.

photo collage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, cyclist standing with bike on wet roadway in front of very tall wall of snow, cyclist riding down roadway surrounded by two very tall snow walls

Now that’s EPIC (photos May 29, 2019)

Left photo:  Marloes Dekkers near Rainbow Curve Overlook (10,875’)

Right photo Tiemen van Boxtel near Forest Canyon Overlook (11,716’)

Cycling Trail Ridge - photo collage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, bike parked along various scenic points along climb, in green pasture, along roadside overlooking mountain ranges and evergreen trees

Scenes within the first few miles of entering the park -- around miles 28-32.

PJAMM cycling logo in corner, bike parked at Mary Parks Curve Overlook

Mary Parks Curve Overlook at mile 35 (elevation 9,700’).

Garmin 1000 elevation at top of Trail Ridge bike climb

Top of the climb, but not end of the line!

Cyclist holding bike over head at high point of Trail Ridge bike ridge Rocky Mountain National Park Colorado

Mission accomplished at 12,300’.

#2 OF 10 COLORADO MOST EPIC BIKE CLIMBS

MOUNT EVANS, IDAHO SPRINGS

Cycling Mt. Evans, Colorado - view from lookout point at top of climb, three big horn sheep standing on low rock retaining wall overlooking mountainside, blue sky and white clouds in distance

Cycling Mt. Evans, Colorado: The highest paved road in North America.

Ride 27 miles gaining 6,740’ to 14,130’ at 4.5% average grade.

Cycling Mt. Evans - Garmin headset with road, bike and deer 

Last hairpin to the top.

Cyclist and Mountain Goat at Summit of Mount Evans, Colorado 

You cannot cycle any higher than this in North America.

There are not many rides you will do where you can say, "This is the highest . . ." but this is one of  them.  Mt Evans, Colorado -- the highest paved road (therefore the highest paved climb by bike) in North America!  For all that strive to climb the hardest, the longest, the steepest, the highest, this is a must-do!  

Cycling Mt. Evans, Colorado - photo collage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, aerial view of two cyclists riding along road shoulder for Scenic Byway, blue road sign for Scenic Byway with blue PJAMM Cycling jersey hanging below it

Climb start.

Cycling Mt. Evans, Colorado - bike handlebars and Garmin looking over hillside, above treeline, Garmin reads 11633 feet elevation

View down to Echo Lake from four miles up Mt. Evans Highway.

Cycling Mt. Evans, Colorado - photo collage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, bike parked in grass along roadside,  heard of mountain goats crossing road next to bike, bike parked along turn in roadway with four bighorn sheep crossing road next to bike

Mountain goats (top) and Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep (bottom) in August 2020.  

Cycling Mt. Evans, Colorado - photo collage, PJAMM cycling logo in corner, views of Garmin device with readings of 12,000, 13,000 13,500, and 14,000 feet

Cycling Mt. Evans, Colorado - photo collage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, aerial views of hairpins at the top of climb

Aerial view of the hairpins at the top of the climb.

#1 OF 10 COLORADO MOST EPIC BIKE CLIMBS

PIKES PEAK, COLORADO SPRINGS

Cycling Pikes Peak  - three cyclists summiting Pikes Peak, summit sign reads "Summit, You Made It, 14,115 feet"

PJAMM’s September 2017 Pikes Peak Climb -- A Success!!!

Ride 24 miles gaining 8,037’ to elevation 14,115’ at 6.1% average grade.

#1 hardest CO bike climb, #4 US, #22 World.

3 cyclists posing at Pikes Peak Summit sign with bikes

This may be the most coveted cycling photo location in the US.

The Pikes Peak cycling climb in the Front Range mountain range, part of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, is one of the most incredible climbs, period.  This mountain is easily one of the most famous in the country, and even in the world.  Every year more than one million visitors travel to Pikes Peak; after Mt. Fuji in Japan, Pikes Peak is the second most visited mountain on earth.  The views are indescribable and unmatched -- it’s no wonder Katharine Lee Bates was inspired to write “America the Beautiful” after taking in the beauty of Pikes Peak’s summit (Come to Life Colorado).

Cycling World's Most Epic Bike Climbs - Pikes Peak - hairpin, road, cyclists

For cycling in the US, it just doesn’t get any better than Pikes Peak.  Located in the Rocky Mountains an hour outside Denver, Colorado, this one has everything you will ever want in a road bike climb: length, challenge, altitude, and breathtaking scenery.

Cycling Pikes Peak - photo collage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, Crystal Reservoir Visitor Center, Pike's Peak seen in the distance, PJAMM Cycling jersey draped over bike leaning against guardrail on roadside overlooking Pikes Peak

Upper left photo:  Pikes Peak as seen from Crystal Reservoir Visitor Center mile 11.

Upper right photo:  Pikes Peak from mile 11.6

Lower photos:  Pikes Peak seen from mile 12.7

Cycling Pikes Peak - PJAMM Cycling logo in corner, aerial drone views of hairpins at top of ride

Top: Aerial view of upper hairpins (miles 21-23).

Bottom:  Last four miles to the summit.

We have ridden Pikes Peak three times and consider it one of the most epic climbs in the world.  The climb is extremely challenging (#4 US/#22 World), scenic, and unique in that it is the second highest paved road in North America (a mere 15’ behind Mt. Evans).  The hairpins at 12,500’ are extraordinary and give us unobstructed views to the Colorado plains over a mile below.

Cycling Pikes Peak - views from above of straight segments of roadway below, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner

Hairpins on a steep road above the treeline permit unobstructed views of the roadway below.

Cycling Pikes Peak - cyclists at summit sign on various ascents up the mountain, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner

Be sure to get your photo at the Pikes Peak sign in front of the Pikes Peak Summit House

Center photo: August 14, 2020 waiting in line for the sign photo (mask wearing and social distancing)

Top left:  John and Rochelle September 6, 2014; Top right:  Bruce, Stacy, John September 10, 2017

Bottom right:  John, Todd, Eric August 14, 2020; Bottom left: John August 9, 2015

That’s a wrap! There you have it: Our 10 US Most Epic Bike Climbs. We welcome your thoughts and further contributions to this page.