Hancock Pass is at the center of at least six Sawatch
Range passes, approaching 12000 feet in top elevation.
All can be crossed with a bicycle. On this pass a steep
top makes for a fast transition from a dense forest to a
dramatic alpine summit view. Both sides of the pass have
rocky stretches that necessitate some walking. In spite
of the roughness of this pass, the 14er Region Mountain
Bike Guide ( a free publication available at local
businesses ) has included both sides of the pass as
recommended MTB routes since 1995.
click on profile for more detail
START-END ALTERNATE EAST: turnoff onto Co162 ,
south of Nathrop
02.(mile05,8190ft) START-END: Princeton Hot
03.(mile16,10040ft) take left onto jeep road
shortly before Saint Elmo
04.(mile21,11090ft) take right, signed for Hancock
Pass. Route straight continues to Chalk Creek
05.(mile22,11160ft) Route to Williams Pass is on
right, stay straight.
06.(mile24,12125ft) TOP: Hancock Pass
07.(mile25,11490ft) Tomichi Pass route joins from
left. Continue towards right.
0 8.(mile25,11140ft) Williams Pass route joins
from right. Continue on left branch.
0 9.(mile33,9660ft) Go left towards Pitkin
10.(mile36,9189ft) START-END WEST: Pitkin
From East. A large part of the
approach to Hancock Pass is common to the approach to Chalk
Creek Pass, Tincup Pass
and Williams Pass. A smooth
dirt road leads towards the attractive old settlement of
Saint Elmo. The route continues south up Chalk Creek past
the site of the old mining settlements Elmo and Hancock.
Here the route turns west and begins a steep two mile climb
to the summit, where it opens up a dramatic summit view onto
Tomichi Pass. This last
stretch is only about two miles long but contains 90 percent
of the rocks and gains a thousand feet. The top half
mile is so rocky and steep that bicycling becomes a
different set of exercises, consisting of getting on and off
the bike for some, just plain walking for others, and
falling on their faces for a select few.
From West. The approach to Hancock
Pass, Tomichi Pass and Willliams
Pass pass follows a good dirt road paralleling Quartz
Creek. It is at the junction of Williams with Hancock and
Tomichi Pass that the ridability of the route takes a
nosedive. Leading up between Mount Chapman (12756 ft) and
Van Wirt Mountain (13025ft), a trail much to steep and rocky
to bike, climbs to the summit. The single mile of distance
on the profile hides the true amount of time that is
invested in this part of the climb. Halfways to the top, the
rocks subside. But now it is just too plain steep. Then at
the very top the trail is quite rideable. At this point the
only thing missing may be enough energy left in the tank.
Along the way it is impossible to miss the impressive views
of Tomichi Pass slicing across Paywell Mountain, on the
other side of the valley in Silver Brittle Basin.
Dayride with this pass as highest summit:
Hancock Pass , Williams
Pass : Hecla Jct area > Princeton Hot Springs
> Hancock > Williams Pass > Hancock Pass > back
to starting point: 69.3miles with 6890ft of climbing in
7.56hrs (Cateye100AT m3:5.7.6)
Notes: starting from Mount Princetn Hot Springs would be
23 miles less, and not much climbing less
Two Day Tour. A group ride starting
near Mount Princeton Hot Springs, crossing over Tincup
Pass and Cumberland Pass
to Pitkin measuered 39 miles. The next day the return to the
starting point over Hancock Pass measured 36 miles
Hancock pass has sometimes been confused
with Williams pass. The fact that Hancock Pass has been
called "New Williams Pass" only adds to the
confusion. The name "New Williams Pass" can be
justified by the fact that the two pass routes only differ
in a short top section. At least the difference appears
short on the map, in comparison to a traversal of the entire
profile. Even though Williams Pass is lower, swampy
conditions at the top often make it impassable, prompting
the search of a different nearby crossing.
Trail conditions conspire to favor Hancock
Pass over Williams Pass for much of the summer and fall. Yet
Williams Pass is the more historic crossing. The earliest
regular use of Hancock Pass was around 1888 as a mining
route. At this time the Arkansas Valley already had two
railroads. Williams Pass was 8 years old, and the reason
that Williams Pass existed - namely the alpine tunnel, was
already decommissioned for five years. An official name for
the impromptu crossing was accepted by the USGS in 1962.
Cycling. An early mountain biking guide, first
published in 1987 mentioned Hancock Pass as being
suitable for mountain biking in its appendix, although
the name was misspelled as "Handcock Pass".
(William L. Stoehr's: Bicycling the Backcountry).