Guanella Pass

Vail, Colorado 81657

Guanella Pass

Guanella Pass Professional Guide

Detailed Trail Description from our Guidebook

"Guanella Pass is among the toughest climbs in the state. Starting from a quaint Victorian town and reaching to alpine meadows, this route is a true test for those who think they can go uphill on a bike.

The climb begins in earnest right out of Georgetown. You can see it zigzagging up the mountain from just about anywhere in town. After the initial switchbacking climb, there is a respite for a few miles, some fl at stuff and rolling terrain as the road chugs past a series of lakes and reservoirs and a small hydroelectric power plant. Then it’s a serious grunt all the way to the top at 11,654 feet above sea level, with plenty of pitches at 10 percent or more.

The summit of the pass is a saddle between the 14,000-foot peaks of Mounts Bierstadt and Evans on the east and thirteeners Squaretop Mountain, Argentine Peak, and Mount Wilcox to the west. The Mount Bierstadt trailhead is here, too; the trail saunters off across the boggy hinterlands on a series of wooden boardwalks. Bierstadt is one of the easiest and most popular of the fourteener climbs, and the trailhead accounts for much of the car traffic up here."

More Guanella Pass Professional Guides

Detailed Trail Descriptions from Our Guidebooks

75 Classic Rides Colorado (The Mountaineers Books)
Jason Sumner
View more trails from this guide book
"Not so long ago, Guanella Pass Road was reserved for only the most adventurous road cyclists. The north-side approach to this 11,669-foot summit was paved only partway up. And even this “good” section was a mess of broken pavement and potholes. The south side? Just as bad."
"This 22-mile paved road, a National Forest Scenic Byway, climbs from Georgetown over 11,669-foot Guanella Pass to Grant in the Front Range."

Guanella Pass Trip Reports

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This is one of the best high mountain passes that can be negotiated in a regular car, while still having a rustic, uncrowded feel. Except at the height of aspen season and holiday weekends, there are generally not that many people to contend with.

One big problem right now though is the construction. They are widening sections of the road, which has brought it down to one lane in two stretches. You can expect a long wait at these areas (I waited about 15 minutes at each) Also, because they are using stoplights instead of flaggers, there is the chance that you could meet someone going the opposite direction.

That said, the views at the top of the pass are spectacular and well worth any frustration you might have on the way. If you have an aggressive 4-wheel drive, take the side trip to Waldorff and Argentine pass, which is one of the most scenic routes in the Front Range.
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This is a nice drive and the fall colors were quite brilliant on this particular Tuesday. While there are dirt sections, it's an easy drive for any car. We chose it as our first pass with our 2 week old daughter and it was perfect for a family outing. Don't forget to start the trip in Georgetown, stopping for ice cream at one of the two ice cream shops on the far end of town. Georgetown has personality and is worth an hour's walk around town.
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Wonderful drive! A few too many people last Sunday, since it was at the peak of color change, but saw full range of colors on both sides of the pass. Road varies from newly paved to sever wash board, but the vistas encourage you to go slow anyway. Highly recommended.
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I have made this a regular drive! Wonderful mountain drive with a lot of great views. Cascading waterfalls and streams will follow your assent from the route 285 side of the pass. There is a very nice parking spot at the top of the pass where you can see fantastic views of Mt Beirstadt, Mt Evans, and the Sawtooth. It is also the start of the trailhead for those inclined to hike to the top. This was the year that a massive project to pave the road was begun, and what normally was less than an hour drive took over 5 hours, Check with CDOT to see construction progress.

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