Cucharas Pass

The most unique scenic aspect of this pass are the many volcanic dikes, which look like straight stone walls, dividing the landscape over hill and dale. They radiate out from the Spanish Peaks like spokes on a wheel. Every now and then you can catch a glimpse of the peaks themselves too.

Cuchara(s) Pass crosses with the Spanish Peaks on one side (West Spanish Peak -13626ft and East Spanish Peak -12683ft) and the Culebra Range on the other side. The Culebra Range is part of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Or to be more specific, the road crosses between the foothills of these two areas.  While most books name this crossing Cucharas Pass, many locals use the singular: Cuchara


click on profile for more detail
1.(7040ft,mile00) START-END NORTH: downtown La Veta
2.(8460ft,mile12) town of Cuchara
3.(9941ft,mile18) TOP: Cucharas Pass. Cordova Pass joins from left
4..(8610ft,mile27) North Lake Reservoir
5.(7730ft,mile35) town of Stonewall
6.(6810ft,mile47) Cordova Plaza
7.(6720ft,mile49) Medina Plaza
8.(6550ft,mile53) START-END SOUTH ALTERNATE: Segundo Valley
9.(6050ft,mile67) START-END SOUTH: Trinidad

Approaches

From North. You could argue that the most impressive views of the Spanish Peaks themselves are actually below from where the profile starts, that is the section of US160 between Walsenburg and La Veta. From here you see the maximum elevation difference, The landscape is open range country, so that the view is persistent enough to be able to watch the various cloud formations form around the peaks. Leaving US160 for Co12 to La Veta, you have the impression of dropping down into a valley. But checking this on the map, the elevation loss is actually less than 100ft, and that is much less than the 500-600 ft that the route has been climbing since Walsenburg.

Finally the elevation profile begins. Co12 leaves La Veta in a combination of rectangular turns along alnd boundaries. It crosses a field with the last open view of the two breast like mountains to the south. Roughly following Cuchara Creek, the road comes very close to the lowest part of two dikes, which descend to the creek in steps. With only minor turns the road climbs gradually to the village Cuchara, containing a few tourist businesses. Now the gently gap in the dense forest ahead is obvious, but the pass lies just a little higher. The road climb climbs a little more steeply now and uses a series of large radius turns to get to the top. Surprisingly the road leads by a subdivision development, maybe 700ft below the summit. In the process of the climb from the development Cuchara to the summit Cuchara, the appearance of West Spanish Peak has changes from a large pyramid to an small obtuse triangle, that is cut off at the base by a line of aspen trees. There is no view of high mountains from the summit. But continuing on the dirt road to Cordova Pass instead, soon gets to a view point

From South. (described downwards) When you look at this pass from above (like from the top of West Spanish Peak), you can hardly discern the drop, the road makes on this side. But on a bicycle it all looks different. The bike definitely rolls down this side. But you barely need to use brakes. It rolls into what seems like an endless procession of green, forested hills. The dikes seem to reach even further on this side, and they tend to parallel the road.

As the road pulls two large radius curves at the peaceful North Lake Reservoir, all surrounding high peaks become visible again, the Spanish Peaks and also a series of rounded molars reaching above 13000ft in the Culebra Range. Somwhere up there is the old Whiskey Pass reaching over 12500ft. What was an object of much tax spending in the form of a WPA project in the 1930s is now for some bizarre reason under private ownership, and what belongs rightfully to the people - actually doesn't. That would be one great bike ride.

But back to Cuchara Pass. A full 17 miles as the crow flies from West Spanish Peaks the dikes are still alive and well. They even named a town after one of them: Stonewall. A group of picturesque old and new buildings shelter along the old volcanic duct work, as if to seek shelter from wind.

The paved road makes a 90 degree turn to the east here, leaving the dyke area and heading for a more regular variety of small wooded hills. Looking back from the Elk Peak mine you can once more catch a impressive view of the wall the east: the Culebra Range and its Whiskey Pass.

 
A Dayride with this point as highest summit:

PARTIALLY PAVED / UNPAVED

( < Cordova Pass | Kerp Road s(u) > )
Cucharas Pass x2, additional out and back:  FR415, a few miles east of Cucharas Pass > FR415 west > Cucharas Pass > Co12 south > Stonewall > jct with CR13.0 <> 5.4 mile (two way distance) out and back to turnaround point at Elk Peak Mine >> CR13.0 north > CR21.6 north > Co12 north > Cucharas Pass <> out and back down north side of Pass and 2 miles (total two way distance) up FR413 along Cucharas Creek >> back to starting point: 46.3miles with 4540ft of climbing in 4:24hrs (VDO MC1.0 m4:14.9.24).

A Day on a Three Day Tour with this point as highest summit point:

COMPLETELY PAVED:

(<Greenhill Divide , Bigelow Divide , Wixson Divide , CR329 - 347 Rosita Rd s(u) |)
Cucharas Pass: Walsenburg > US160 west > La Veta > Co12 south > Cucharas Pass > Stonewall > Trinidad: 79miles (mech Odo, m1:88.5.30)
Notes: with DBTC, this three day tour required a car shuttle to get back to the starting point Colorado City. For overview of tour click on first pass in list.

History

Cycling-Ride the Rockies: (<Cottonwood Pass|Dallas Divide>):  As of 2005 the Denver Posts "Ride the Rockies" ventured twice this far south to cross the pass in 94 and 00. The stage was Trinidad to Walsenburg, advertised at 82 miles of cycling pleasure.
Cucharas Pass (Summary)

Highest Point: 9941ft


Northern Approach:
climb
distance
drop
from La Veta (7040ft)
2901ft
17+1/2miles

Western Approach:



from Trinidad (6050ft)
3891ft
49+1/2miles
~800ft
from Segundo Valley (6550ft)
3391ft
40miles
~500ft

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