Best time to visit Colorado

Cottonwood Pass Road in Colorado

One of the highest roads in Colorado traversing the Continental Divide

Best time: June–October

Cottonwood Pass Road
Cottonwood Pass Road

Cottonwood Pass is located in the Sawatch Range of the Rocky Mountains of south-central Colorado. The mostly paved road to the pass goes through the border between Gunnison and Chaffee counties passing picturesque San Isabel National Forest and the Gunnison National Forest. The saddle point of the pass at 3,696 m (12,126 ft) is marked with The Continental Divide, the major hydro logical divide of the Americas that stretches from Bering Strait to the Strait of Magellan.

Cottonwood Pass is the third highest paved road in Colorado with a 10% grade section. It's famous for beautiful scenic views along the way, that are exceptional in the fall when trees turn golden and red. To get to the pass, drive east from Buena Vista on Chaffee County Road 306. After the summit, go down on Gunnison County Road 209. You will pass Taylor Park Reservoir and arrive in the town of Almont.

Like many mountain roads in Colorado, the pass is closed for the winter due to snowfall, typically from November to May. Even in the summer, portions of the road are often closed due to repairs after mudslides. Keep in mind that this area is very remote and there are not many cars on this road, so take some supplies in case of an emergency.

Practical info

When is the best time to visit Cottonwood Pass Road?

The months of June to October are the ideal time to visit Cottonwood Pass Road. It offers picturesque views of splendid scenery that are open and accessible to everyone during these months. One should be informed that the road remains closed during repairs caused by mudslides, so pre-trip planning is necessary to avoid inconvenience. Show more

Where exactly is Cottonwood Pass Road located in Colorado?

Cottonwood Pass Road passes through the border of Gunnison and Chaffee counties in the Sawatch Range of south-central Colorado. The scenic road is the perfect way to explore the beauty of nature, offering views of surroundings that span the San Isabel National Forest and Gunnison National Forest. It is accessed by driving east from Buena Vista on Chaffee County Road 306 and passing through the summit. Show more

What is the total length of the Cottonwood Pass Road?

Cottonwood Pass Road is about 47 miles long, which takes approximately 2 hours to drive the full length of the pass. The journey is a breathtaking one, displaying wilderness, reservoirs, and gorgeous mountain ranges. Travelers will find themselves immersed in nature and enjoy stunning views throughout the journey. Show more

What are some of the nearby attractions to visit when driving on Cottonwood Pass?

Taylor Park Reservoir, Anaconda Wildlife Management Area, Collegiate Peaks Wilderness Area, and the towns of Buena Vista, Gunnison, and Almont are among the many other nearby attractions to visit while driving on Cottonwood Pass. The National Forests in the area are perfect for activities such as hiking, sightseeing, camping, shopping, and dining. Show more

Are there any precautions you should take when driving on this remote road?

Travelers must consider precautions when visiting this remote pass. Besides checking weather conditions beforehand, they should remember that the road remains closed during snowfall due to the higher elevation. One should also pack emergency supplies as it is a remote area. The area is also known for its steep grades, so caution while driving is necessary to ensure one's safety. Show more

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Last updated: by Eleonora Provozin