Berthoud Pass

39°47’54”N
105°46’40”W
11,315 FEET
(3,449 M)
6.1% NB
6.3% AV.
ASPHALT
NORTH OF EMPIRE
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Berthoud Pass is located west of Denver and is the fastest road access to Winter Park and a secondary route to Steamboat Springs.

SUGGESTED ROUTE (PAVED) 32 MILES

Begin at Gateway Visitor Center in Georgetown

Ride east on Argentine Road (CR 306)--mile 3.4

Left on CR 308 under the Interstate 70--mile 3.5

Right on CR 257--mile 4

Left on US 40 through Empire to Berthoud Pass Summit--mile 18.5

Continue on US 40 and finish in Winter Park--mile 32

THE CLIMB

Berthoud Pass is one of the most notoriously difficult passes in Colorado for motorists, and even more so for cyclists. The two-lane paved road has steep grades on both sides at 6.3 percent, with multiple switchbacks on the southern side of the pass. There is a long straight section from Empire to the base of the climb, numerous switchbacks throughout the climb, and a steep twisty descent into Winter Park.  Lewis Sweet Shop in Empire is a must-stop shop.

NEARBY TOWNS

Winter Park, 11.3 miles to the north

Georgetown, 19.2 miles to the southeast

FUN FACTS

At least 55 avalanche paths have been mapped on Berthoud Pass.  Some of the paths intersect U.S. Highway 40.  In 2015, Colorado Department of Transportation installed an automated propane-fueled avalanche mitigation system that create concussive blasts to mitigate snow slab buildup.

The area is a backcountry skiing destination.

HISTORY

The pass is named for Edward L. Berthoud, the chief surveyor of the Colorado Central Railroad during the 1870s. Accompanied by Jim Bridger, Berthoud discovered the pass in July 1861 while surveying it as a possible route for the railroad. Berthoud concluded that the pass was suitable as a wagon road, but not as a railroad.

 

Berthoud Pass was once home to the now-defunct Berthoud Pass Ski Area. It operated from 1937 to the early 1990s and again from 1998 to 2001. It debuted Colorado’s first rope tow in the late 1930s, and the world’s first double chairlift in 1947. The ski resort was closed in 2002 due to financial problems caused by lack of water and sewage at the top of the pass. The ski lodge and facilities had been in use since the early 1950s. In 2003, the lifts were taken down, while some people continued to ski using snowcats for lift transportation. In 2005, the Colorado DOT began using a fund to restore the area to its natural state. A new warming hut was opened at the top of the pass in May 2008, along with an expanded parking area, two scenic viewing areas and a new summit marker sign.