Guanella Pass passes through two national forests on it’s way from I-70 to US 285. It begins in Georgetown, CO, in the Arapaho National Forest and climbs to 11,669 feet in 12 miles. After the summit, it crosses into the Pike National Forest, before ending in Grant.
It’s breathtaking the whole way and definitely worth a trip, which takes about an hour. September and early October are two of the most popular times to drive the pass, with beautiful fall foliage everywhere. Both sides of the pass offer something unique, with plenty of forests and mountains to explore.
National Scenic Byway b/w I-70 and Hwy 285
Guanella Pass is a remarkable drive between two major highways. This national scenic byway connects I-70 and Georgetown, to the north, with Highway 285 and Grant, to the south.
Camping and hiking are the main activities on the byway. Mount Bierstadt (14,065′) is one of the easier 14’ers in the state to hike and is accessible from the Summit Area of the pass. The three mile trail to the top takes 3 to 6 hours roundtrip. Mt Evans is another 14’er with a trail from the pass. You can also drive up Mt Evans.
Highlights on Guanella Pass
(north to south)
- Georgetown & Georgetown Lake
- Silverdale Interpretive Site
- Clear Lake & Campground
- Silver Dollar Lake Trailhead
- Guanella Pass Campground
- Guanella Pass Trailhead
- Duck Creek Picnic Area
- Geneva Park Campground
- Burning Bear Campground
- Abyss Trailhead
- Three Mile Trailhead
- Whiteside Picnic Area
Activities near Guanella Pass
Biking – Some folks bike the pass.
Camping – There are four campgrounds on Guanella Pass, as well as lots of dispersed camping. There are two Arapaho National Forest campgrounds on the Georgetown side and two Pike National Forest on the Grant side.
- Clear Lake CG – Closest to Georgetown, 8 sites, non-reservable
- Guanella Pass CG – Just past Clear Lake CG, 18 sites, Reservations
- Geneva Park CG – Grant side, 26 sites, Reservations
- Burning Bear CG – Near Grant, 13 sites, Reservations
- Dispersed camping is available just after Clear Lake Campground (about 10 minutes outside of Georgetown). There plenty of spots directly off the road, throughout the byway, except the summit area. There are also lots of free dispersed camping spots on both sides of the pass. Sites can be found within 5 minutes out of Georgetown.
- Read about the camping near Grant and Guanella Pass.
- Read about the camping near Georgetown and Guanella Pass.
Fishing – Georgetown Lake and Clear Lake are the closest to Georgetown. There’s also a few lakes along the pass.
Hiking – Beautiful trails are found dotted along the pass. Most of the big hikes though are at the summit. A 1/4 mile hike overlooks the valley.
- At the top are big 13K-peaks and the 14,065 foot Mount Bierstadt. It’s a 3 mile hike (one-way) up 2,391 feet to the top of it.
- Silver Dollar Lake is a 1.75 mile (one-way) hike from the top.
Horseback Riding – Horses are allowed on certain multi-use trails.
Hunting – Permitted in parts of the federal land during appropriate seasons.
OHV – There are several forest service roads that allow off highway vehicles.
Winter Recreation – The pass may close if there is avalanche risk. Otherwise trails are open to cross country skiing and snowshoeing.
The pass is open year round, weather permitting. It does close in the winter sometimes. The 22 mile, 2WD route takes about an hour and is fine for all cars. From downtown Georgetown, take Co Rd 381/Gunella Pass Roadout of either the historic district or in ‘downtown’ Grant on Highway 285.
Season: April – November
Length: 24 miles
Roads: 2WD, Free
Map: Guanella Pass (.jpg)