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Fact Table:

Location Central
High point 12,126 Ft
Max Grade 8.2%
Arv Climb Grades

Monarch 4% Cottonwood 4%

Climb Class

Monarch and Cottonwood are Cat 1's

Elev Gain 11, 270 Ft
Rating 2 Day ride- Moderately Diff 3 Day ride- Moderate
Access City Salida, CO



Ride Tips:

  • Call 970-641-0044 to confirm Cottonwood Pass is open before you go.



Colorado, cycling, bicycle touring, bicycle, Salida, Profile

Color elevation map created using

View full version for some points of interest.

Salida Loop (Cottonwood Pass)

NOTE: Cottonwood Pass is closed during winter months (November through May) and can be closed for repairs, rock mitigation, and any reason CDOT wants. VERIFY IT IS OPEN BEFORE YOU TAKE THIS TRIP by calling Gunnison County, CO at 970-641-0044 before you try this pass. Paving of the west side of this pass and re-paving of the east side was completed late in 2019 and the work has left this as an excellent and smooth surface. Don't rely on the COTrip website for current information yet. Also the route map above is based on the old west side dirt road. In fact, you can see the changes pavement made by zooming in on the west side route. A number of small switchbacks, including one where wind once blew me off my bike, are gone and a rest stop near the top has been added. I'll get the routing updated soon.

On the full version of the route above ( I have marked some campgrounds, stores, resorts, hot springs, etc. that can help you decide on a two or three day ride. Salida to Gunnison is a 65 mile leg. Monarch from the east is longer, but easier than Monarch from the west. And, from the summit, it's downhill to Gunnison. The benefit of the downhill can be offset by a likely headwind (or crosswind). If you choose to stay in Gunnison, then you are likely going to make this a three day ride, as Gunnison to Salida will be a century day and Cottonwood Pass is some 60+ miles from Gunnison, making it a later in the day climb (read that as rain/sleet/snow is more likely the later in the day that you get). I've riden from Crested Butte to Buena Vista and Salida a number of times (similar distance from Gunnison) and have gotten caught is some pretty nasty late day weather over Cottonwood. For a two day trip, I'd take a rest in Gunnison, but then head toward Almont for the night. Note, camp grounds in that area generally do not take reservations. There are a couple of resorts on the way up to Almont. But those would increase your costs significantly.

For a Three day ride... Gunnison is a great place to stop for night one. Any of the downhill camp grounds off Cottonwood or into Buena Vista are good day two stops. Day three would be a short ride back to Salida and visiting some of the hot springs on that leg might be a worth while diversion.

If you want to make the trip a little longer and don't mind a little dirt, keep going north from Almont to CO 813, Jack's Cabin Cut-off. After a few miles, 813 turns to dirt until it meets up with 742 for your trip to Cottonwood. In Colorado, many dirt roads are better than the paved roads in that they are hard packed and firm. I've riden my road bike with the skinny tires on Jack's Cabin a number of times with no problems (unless it was raining when slushy mud can be an issue).