[Land Rover on Mount Bross, Colorado. Photo: Nick Taylor] Colorado plays host to a myriad of breathtaking mountain roads that will inspire awe and wonder in equal measure. They span the length and breadth of the state, encompassing some of the most beautiful scenery that you’ll find in the entire of North America.
There is something for every taste and every level of experience – from the hair-raising heights of the unpaved Mt. Bross mountain road, famed for being the highest road in the United States, to the paved Mt. Evans Scenic Byway, which is ideal for intrepid beginners, you name it and you’ll find it in the Centennial State. If you’re looking for adventure, fun and profound natural beauty, then check out the highest roads in Colorado!
What is the highest road in Colorado?
The highest unpaved road is Mount Bross at 14,178 feet. It’s located in northern Park County beside Alma. This rocky dirt road just barely beats out the highest paved road is Mount Evans at 14,130 feet. The latter can be accessed by nearly anyone with a working 2WD low clearance usually from late May to mid October. Whereas that is not the case with Mount Bross where you’ll need a solid 4×4 and additional skill behind the wheel.
Colorado’s Highest Paved and Gravel Roads
The higher you get the better the views. While that is certainly not true in the Rocky Mountains, you can still be assured an incredibly scenic journey on one of the following roads. Most are gravel rocky roads only suitable for high-clearance 4×4 with an experienced driver. The asphalt ones are usually suitable any commuter car to make it to the top.
Aside from Pike’s Peak and Loveland Pass, which are accessible year round and only close temporarily due to winter weather conditions like snow, all the rest of the highest roads in Colorado are seasonal and usually require you to wait until at least after Memorial Day to think about driving up it. Some not until later in the summer.
Most of these roads are all seasonal, only granting access after the winter snow melts from their roads in late spring to early fall. You’ll also need a durable, high-clearance 4×4 if you going to make most of these treks. If that doesn’t sound like you, consider some of Rockies top mountain passes that give you a taste of high alpine life.
On the other hand if you’d prefer looking up at the mountains as you drive instead of down at the clouds, consider one of these scenic byways. They ensure a remarkably stunning drive with plenty of tourist stops on the way. It’ll also limit your exposure to heights and mountain switchbacks. Safe driving!
Here are the highest drives in Colorado, in order of elevation:
Mount Bross – 14,178ft (Gravel) Park Co.
Mount Bross is a towering mountain road, which is the highest, unpaved road in Colorado and one of the highest roads in the USA. It’s accessed via Pike National Forest and will take you 150 ft away from the summit of Mt. Bross. It’s a relatively easy drive until you reach around 11,000 ft when the road’s surface gets looser, you’ll also encounter narrow sections during the ascent, meaning that the drive should only be attempted by an experienced four-wheel driver. You’ll need to climb the last 150 ft to the peak on foot, where you’ll be rewarded with stunning vistas over Pike National Forest and the Mosquito Mountain Range.
Mount Evans Scenic Byway – 14,130 ft (Asphalt) Clear Creek Co.
The Mount Evans Scenic Byway is the highest paved road in Colorado, the United States, and the entire of North America. It stretches for 28 miles and reaches a dizzying height of 14,130 ft. It’s found in Clear Creek County, starting at the junction of Interstate 70 and State Highway 103, and ends close to the summit of Mount Evans at the Crest House Observatory, where you’ll have to leave your vehicle and climb the last 135 ft on foot. The drive is very popular amongst petrol heads with a myriad of hair-raising hairpins, rapids ascents, and thrilling downhill runs. There are also several notable other attractions along the road, including the Mount Goliath Natural Area and Summit Lake Park.
Pikes Peak Highway – 14,115 ft (Asphalt) El Paso Co.
Pikes Peak Highway is a stunningly beautiful mountain road that climbs 14,115 ft and encompasses some of the most awe-inspiring scenery in the entire of North America. The road stretches over 19 miles and climbs all the way to the summit of Pikes Peak, offering glorious views over Colorado Springs and, the aptly named, Garden of the Gods. The drive is worth it, rewarding you with incredible photo opportunities, exciting driving sections and much, much more. However, it can also be very nerve-wracking at times and the road should be treated with care at all times.
Mount Lincoln Rd. or Crest Drive – 13,854 ft (Gravel) Park Co.
The Mount Lincoln Rd. is a former mining trail, which leads all the way to the summit of Mt. Lincoln. It’s only accessible in the summer and is a difficult drive, meaning that it should only be attempted by experienced drivers in the appropriate vehicle. The views from the top are spectacular, encompassing Mt. Bross, Mt. Cameron, and Mt. Democrat, along with much of the Mosquito Range. The peak is named in honor of President Lincoln in revenge to the Democrats naming its sister mountain after themselves.
Mount Antero – 13,743 ft (Gravel) Chaffee Co.
Mt Antero is a colossal 13,743 ft mountain, which overlooks the verdant San Isabel National Forest in Chaffee County, Colorado. A winding mountain road called Baldwin Gulch leads to its summit, rewarding visitors with stunning views over the area once they reach the peak. The road to the top is rugged and difficult, meaning that it should only be attempted by experienced drivers with 4-wheel drive. Mt. Antero is located in the Southern section of the Sawatch Range and is famed for its incredible mineral deposits. This makes it quite busy in summer, combining entrepreneurial visitors seeking to make some money and tourists coming for the spectacular panoramic vistas.
Kuss Peak – 13,569ft (Gravel) Lake Co.
Kuss Peak is a 13,569 ft peak, which towers above Lake County in Colorado. A former mining road leads to its summit, allowing visitors to enjoy panoramic views across the Mosquito Gulch Basin and the Continental Divide. The road snakes its way close to the top of the mountain and is only accessible during summer, due to the harsh weather conditions throughout the year. While the surface is loose and it gets narrow in places, meaning that it should only be attempted by experienced drivers with 4-wheel drive.
Mosquito Peak – 13,540 ft (Gravel) Lake Co.
Mosquito Peak is a 13,540 ft mountain, which is nestled in the Mosquito Range of the Rocky Mountains. A meandering mountain road takes you close to the top of the pass and then the summit is an easy 1.5-mile hike up the North Ridge. The view from the top is simply spectacular, punctuated by a plethora of dramatic peaks, verdant valleys, and sapphire blue lakes. The Mosquito Peak road is rated as difficult and should only be attempted in a vehicle with 4-wheel drive and excellent clearance.
Peak 10 or Forest Service Road 751 – 13,392 ft (Gravel) Summit Co.
Peak 10 stands 13,392 ft above Summit Country in Colorado. A winding mountain road, known as Forest Service Road 751, leads to its summit, offering visitors the opportunity to enjoy the breathtaking vistas of the Tenmile Range, the Mosquito Range, the Gore Range, and the Front Range. The road is located in the Breckenridge Ski Area and can only be accessed during the summer. The ascent is considered to be difficult, meaning that you’ll need to have a 4-wheel drive vehicle and experience of driving on difficult terrain.
Boulder Mountain – 13,238 ft (Gravel) Chaffee Co.
Boulder Mountain is a towering mountain peak, rising 13,238 ft above Chaffee County in Colorado. It’s located in the Sawatch Mountain Range and offers spectacular views of the iconic 14er Mt. Antero. A meandering former mining road, called Forest Service Road 279, winds up its slopes to above the treeline, finishing at an abandoned mine. You’ll then need to depart your vehicle and complete the rest of the journey on foot. The road is considered to be extremely dangerous and requires a 4×4 vehicle and plenty of experience – some parts get so narrow that it would be impossible to pass someone going in the other direction.
Hurricane Pass- 13,238 ft (Gravel) San Juan Co.
Hurricane Pass is a 13,238 ft mountain pass, which is perched above San Juan County in Colorado. Its summit will reward you with awe-inspiring views of the San Juan Mountains and Corkscrew Gulch. The road to the top is accessed via Hwy 100, which becomes County Rd 10 or the Hurricane Pass about 6 miles after Silverton. As mountain roads go, it’s fairly easy, but you will need a 4-wheel drive vehicle due to the conditions on the road’s surface. The area is famed for its beautiful wildflowers and pine trees, which dominate the otherwise barren mountainous terrain.
Sunnyside Saddle – 13,221 ft (Gravel) San Juan Co.
Sunnyside Saddle is a 13,221 ft mountain that rises above San Juan County in Colorado. A gravel mountain road climbs to its summit, rewarding you with spectacular views of Corkscrew Pass and the Red Mountains. The drive is considered to be dangerous with tight hairpins and terrifying drop-offs, however, the view is definitely worth it if you have a 4-wheel drive vehicle and off-roading experience. The road can only be accessed in the summer, and you may even see snow then, so come prepared for all conditions.
Bennett Peak – 13,209 ft (Gravel) Rio Grande Co.
Bennett Peak is a towering mountain that stands 13,209 ft above Rio Grande County. It’s the highest point in Rio Grande and is surrounded by the Rio National Grande Forest. The peak is dome-shaped and a gentle hike, but the road leading to it is not in the best condition and should only be attempted with a four-wheel-drive vehicle. The area is less harsh than many of the mountain ranges in Colorado, meaning that you’ll see plenty of incredible birdlife and gorgeous meadows of wildflowers.
Mosquito Pass – 13,208 ft (Gravel) Lake Co.
Mosquito Pass is a notoriously dangerous road that rises 13,208 ft above the Mosquito Range. It’s nicknamed the “highway of frozen death” and should only be attempted by expert drivers in the appropriate vehicle. It begins to the north of the town of Fairplay and travels to the town of Leadville. Along the way, you should expect to have to ford streams and drive along terrifyingly high rugged sections. However, the Mosquito Pass also offers glorious views over a seemingly never-ending series of mountains that stretch as far as the eye can see.
Argentine Pass – 13,207ft (Gravel) Summit Co.
Argentine Pass is a 13,207 ft mountain pass that is part of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. The drive is considered to be fairly easy, when compared to some of the other roads on this list, however, you will still encounter some stream crossings and rocky sections, meaning that you’ll need four-wheel drive. The area is dog-friendly and there are plenty of remote camping locations along the way, meaning that you can spend some time there and enjoy the mesmerizing views and beautiful wildflower meadows.
Mount Sheridan – 13,192 ft (Gravel) Park Co.
Mt Sheridan is a high 13,192 peak that is nestled in the Mosquito Range of the Colorado Rockies. A winding former mining road climbs to its summit, allowing visitors to see the remnants of the Hilltop Mine, which was once one of the most productive mines in the entire of Colorado, and enjoy some mesmerizing views of the famous Horseshoe Mountain. The road is rugged and experiences lots of wind, meaning that it can only be accessed in a 4×4 vehicle during the summer months. However, the views from the top are well worth the effort.
Bartlett Mountain – 13,175 ft (Gravel) Chaffee Co.
Bartlett Mountain is a steep, 13,175 ft, mountain peak, located in the Mosquito Range of the Colorado Rockies in Summit County. It was a very productive mining area and was once the largest source of molybdenum in the world. The peak used to be much taller, however, part of it collapsed, creating a new and smaller mountain. The road to the summit is tricky and should only be attempted by experienced mountain drivers in a 4-wheel drive vehicle. However, the views from the top are truly incredible, encompassing Clinton Peak, Mount Arkansas, and Wheeler Mountain.
Quail Mountain – 13,167 ft (Gravel) Chaffee Co.
Quail Mountain is a towering mountain peak, perched 13,167 ft above the stunning Clear Creek Reservoir and the haunting Lost Canyon. It’s located in Chaffee County Colorado and can be accessed via Forest Service Road 398. The first half of the road is considered to be easy, however, once you climb above the timberline it becomes a lot rockier and more difficult. This means that it should only be attempted by experienced drivers, who won’t be intimidated by the dizzying altitude. Once you reach the summit, you’ll be greeted by incredible panoramic views of the tranquil Clear Creek Reservoir.
Santa Fe Peak – 13,149 ft (Gravel) Summit Co.
Santa Fe Peak is a high 13,149 ft mountain, balanced above the White River National Forest in Summit County, Colorado. The area is famed for its remarkable natural beauty, dotted with pretty wildflowers and verdant pine trees. A winding mountain road climbs all the way to the summit, offering spectacular views of Snake River and Geneva Creek. It can be accessed in the town of Montezuma, passing through forests and sharp hairpin turns as it weaves its way to the summit. The surface of the road is fairly rugged, meaning that it should only be attempted in a four-wheel-drive vehicle.
Imogene Pass – 13,114 ft (Gravel) Ouray Co.
Imogene Pass is a towering 13,114 ft mountain pass in the San Juan Mountains. It crosses a rugged ridge that connects Ouray with Telluride and is the highest mountain pass in the San Juan Mountains and one of the highest mountain passes in the state. Its summit rewards visitors with sprawling views of grassy mountains that stretch as far as the eye can see. The road is not for the faint-hearted, with steep drops, sharp hairpin turns and uneven ground. It should only be attempted by experienced drivers in the appropriate vehicle.
McClellan Mountain – 13,110 ft (Gravel) Clear Creek Co.
McClellan Mountain is a 13,110 ft peak, which overshadows Clear Creek County in Colorado. It’s a famous off-road destination, which also has a rich mining history. The McClellan Mountain Road leads to its summit, replete with 6 dramatic switchbacks and plenty of exciting turns. The drive is not for the faint-hearted and should only be attempted by experienced mountain drivers in a 4WD vehicle. However, the views from the top are well worth the effort with Mt. Edwards, along with a host of others punctuation the horizon.
Kendall Mountain – 13,061 ft (Gravel) San Juan Co.
Kendall Mountain is a high mountain peak, which rises 13,061 ft above Silverton in San Juan County, Colorado. A 7-mile road, known as County Road 33, starts at Silverton and climbs all the way to its summit, offering panoramic views of a never-ending sea of mountains and the opportunity to see some abandoned mines. Country Road 33 is rated as difficult and should only be attempted in a high clearance 4WD vehicle.
Hermit Pass – 13,047 ft (Gravel) Custer Co.
Hermit Pass is a towering mountain pass that stands 13,047ft above Custer County in Colorado. It’s located in the Sangre di Cristo mountains and can be accessed via a gravel road called Hermit Road 160. The drive is easier than many of the other roads on this list, but you’ll still need a four-wheel-drive vehicle to get to the top. The summit overlooks tranquil lakes and peaceful pine forests, offering incredible photo opportunities and the chance to sit back and appreciate the profound beauty of Mother Nature.
North Star Mountain – 12,992 ft (Gravel) Summit Co.
North Star Mountain is a towering peak located in the Mosquito Range in Summit County. A former mining road, called Co RD 2 leads to its summit, allowing visitors to enjoy some spectacular panoramas over Hoosier Pass, Mt. Lincoln, Mt. Bross and Mt. Democrat. The drive to the top is fairly easy, however, you’ll still need a four-wheel-drive vehicle as it can get quite bumpy at times. It can also only be accessed between June and late-September due to the harsh weather during the rest of the year.
Bald Mountain – 12,965 ft (Gravel) Summit Co.
Bald Mountain is a 12,965 ft peak, which is located in the Front Range of the Colorado Rockies. It can be accessed via a former mine trail, called Baldy Road, which is rated as difficult and should only be attempted by experienced drivers in the appropriate vehicle. However, the journey is well worth it, snaking its way through the Arapaho National Forest, before rewarding you with stunning views of mountains as far as the eye can see.
County Road 36 – 12,965 ft (Gravel) Hinsdale Co.
County Road 36 is a steep gravel trail that reaches 12,965 ft above sea level. It ends at the abandoned Upper Carson ghost town, famed for its eerie atmosphere and location on the iconic Continental Divide. The drive is considered to be fairly easy, although you’ll still need a four-wheel-drive vehicle to complete it, as it is subjected to heavy winds throughout the year. However, it’s well worth the journey, thanks to the rich history of the former mining community and the spectacular views.
4 More of the Highest Paved Roads in Colorado
After County Road 36 you have another former mining road, aptly named Hilltop Mine at 12,959 feet. This gravel route in Park County is one of many more 4×4 and dangerous roads. You can find the full list of highest roads in Colorado with a whole bunch more gravel roads at dangerousroads.org. We cherry picked the rest of the highest paved roads in Colorado below.
Trail Ridge Road – 12,201 ft (Asphalt) Larimer Co.
Trail Ridge Road rises 12,201 feet at its highest above Larimer Country in the Rocky Mountain National Park. This meandering mountain road links the towns of Estes Park and Grand Lake. The road is very popular among nature lovers, as it is considered to be the best way to see the Continental Divide and is also famous for being the highest continuously paved road in the USA.
The spectacular Iceberg Pass – 11,827 ft (Asphalt) is located on the route, offering stunning views of rolling Alpine Tundra and the Never Summer Mountain Range. Despite the route being paved, it can be dangerous and are often totally impassable in winter. If you plan to drive anywhere in the winter, check if it’s open first, and let someone knows where you’re going and be alert for things such as avalanches at all times. The drive is definitely worth it and will reward you with some of the most majestic mountain views in the entire of North America.
Cottonwood Pass – 12,126 ft (Asphalt east, Gravel west) Chaffee Co.
At 12,126 feet, Cottonwood Pass crosses the Continental Divide in central Colorado. It can be reached by a pair of mountain roads, which are contiguous but are given different names due to the change in surface.
The east road is known as Chafee Country Road 306 and is gravel, which then turns into Gunnison County Road 209, as you approach the summit. The route is especially popular with driving enthusiasts, due to its nerve-wracking hairpin turns, steep inclines and dramatic switchbacks. However, the views from above the treeline are definitely worth it, as a seemingly never-ending expanse of mountains unfurls in front of your eyes.
Independence Pass – 12,112 ft (Asphalt) Pitkin Co.
Independence Pass is a two-lane mountain road that peaks at 12,112 feet. It offers a series of dramatic drop-offs, hair-raising turns and petrifying narrow stretches where only a single car can pass. Thus, it should only be attempted by confident drivers who aren’t afraid of heights! From its summit, you’ll enjoy stunning views of Aspen and the Sawatch Mountains.
Loveland Pass – 11,992 ft (Asphalt) Summit Co.
Crossing the Continental Divide, Loveland Pass climbs to 11,990 feet. It was previously the main route over to Summit County until Eisenhower Tunnel was finished in 1973. It’s open year round, weather pending, and often boasts of being the highest mountain pass in the world to remain open in winter. However, driving on Loveland Pass in snow is not for the faint-hearted, with road conditions becoming increasingly difficult the higher that you get.
It’s kept well plowed though as its a well used route. Enjoy some of the most incredible views of snow-capped mountains and Loveland Ski Area.