Hayden Pass Loop
Mon Jul 10 2023
If you attempt this ride you are going to be pushing and/or carrying your bike for about 8 miles! With a mountain bike you may be able to reduce that by a couple of miles. I decided to attempt this on my gravel bike realizing that all the road miles would make up for the the extra hike-a-bike. The main reason for the walking is due to the sheer steepness of Hayden pass. Both sides are extremely steep and heavily loosened up by ATVs so even if you've got massive legs you're not going to be able to pedal up.
The ride starts in Salida and heads west on Highway 50 for a few miles. Take a left on Fremont County Roads 7 at Wellsville and head east along the river all they way through Howard and down to Vallie Bridge.
Cross the highway and continue on County Road 45 to the thriving metropolis of Coaldale. Take a right on County Road 6 towards Cutty's Resort and the Hayden Pass Campground. Watching the base of the mountains get closer during this stretch is really inspiring. You'll be able to see the low point where the pass goes over.
Once you hit the Hayden Creek Campground it is time to settle in to some serious bike pushing. There are a few rideable sections but they're really short. Plan for a 5 mile push to the top. Make sure to eat some raspberries and find some columbines on the way up!
From the top you'll be able to ride for a couple of switchbacks on the way down the west side of the pass. However, once the road starts heading down along the creek you'll be back to walking. This section is full of loose rock on a steep surface so be really careful! It'll take about 3 miles to get back down to rideable road.
Be sure to take in views of the San Luis Valley on your way down. Once on the valley floor it is a quick trip to another thriving metropolis, Villa Grove. Now, I am serious when I say that I'd rather chow down a cinnamon roll from the Villa Grove Cafe then eat at a Michelin Star restaurant. I hadn't planned for how much water and time I'd need to get over the pass, so they really saved my ride with some fresh cold water and a cinnamon roll.
From Villa Grove it is a very straightforward and scenic ride up Highway 285 to Poncha Pass, down to Poncha, and then back to Salida on the bike path beside County Road 120.
Heading up the east side of the pass:
Heading down the west side:
Sorry I forgot to take a picture of the cinnamon roll...