Hardscrabble Saddle 

Hardscrabble Pass is a crossing in low forested mountains north west of the Sawatch Range. Both approaches lead from light colored badland hills into forested mountains. The approach from the west is quite obvious and open to motorized traffic, even when I didn't meet any at all during my last traversal of the route on a weekday. The surface is generally very smooth and extremely bikable during dry weather. In contrast the approach from the east offers many approach options, including unsigned single tracks with several confusing junctions and access points. The route is more easily identified in a downward direction. The saddle is marked on National Forest maps and included in Helmuths' book "passes of Colorado".

click on profile for more detail
01.(6310ft,mile00) START-END WEST: Gypsum
02.(6340ft,mile01) right turn onto Valley Road
03.(6400ft,mile01) left turn onto Cooley Mesa Road
04.(6520ft,mile03) right turn onto Spring Gulch Road
05.(7620ft,mile06) stay right at this fork. Left goes to the top of Hardscrabble Mtn.
06.(8859ft,mile08) Hardscrabble Saddle
07.(8300ft,mile10) profile diverges from Abrams Gulch, taking a right. All trails single track.
08.(9066ft,mile11) TOP: point of highest altitude
09.(8950ft,mile12) profile continues left
10.(7890ft,mile13) profile continues right
11.(6600ft,mile18) outskirts of Eagle. End of single track. Beginning of Abrams Gulch Drive
12.(6600ft,mile19) Eagle, intersection with US6


From West. The profile starts in Gypsum, turns up Valley road ( same as Cottonwood Pass ), the turns onto Cooley Mesa Road towards the Eagle airport. At the airport Spring Gulch Road turns south. It turns to a very rolling but smooth dirt track traversing a trashed BLM area that has been restricted because of people who can't hold their Coors Light, which is probably why they drink Coors Light in the first place. There are many forks in this lower area and most of them just converge back to the main route. The one or two that don't can be eliminated by a little sense of direction and riding down them for a couple of hundred yards. The pass is in the direction of the power lines that disappear on the mountain. The route climbs high above the valley and affords good views of the unique light colored soft rock outcrops south of Gypsum. The track traverses back around the west side of the gentle but big forested Hardscrabble Mountain ahead and finally climbs straight for the gap separating the drainage to the east. Several double track trails diverge immediately before the pass and at its top. All of them lead to points with a higher altitude than this pass. The description follows the double track trail that seems to cross the pass and decend the other side. It is signed as a dead end trail open to motor vehicles. After a short decent it becomes an easily ridable forested single track trail that forks after a stream crossing in a small meadow. The trail to the left following the stream more closely eventually ends in a tangle of woods, in spite of the fact that topo maps show it decending directly into Abrams Gulch. The right fork climbs over the next ridge where it reaches its highest altitude and then joins a double track trail at a spot with a great view on the Sawatch Range.

The spot where this narrow steep single track joins the double track is difficult to recognize from the other side. Riding up from the east, it is located right after a straight steady climb in a long meadow. The double track makes an abrupt 90 deigree turn to the left and a metal stake marks the take off point of the single track trail. At exactly this point the first far view of the Wasatch Range is visible roughly behind.

From East. The approach is described in a downward direction. At this point it may seem like all the work is over. But there still is more rough stuff ahead. After a short decent back into the forest the rider is forced to choose between another fork. Both forks cross gates. The description follows the left fork. The decent now becomes a little rockier and leads to yet another fork. The route to Gypsum goes downhill to the right on a trail signed as being closed to motorized traffic after a few miles. It then becomes a single track that cruises straight into Gypsum to the end of Abram's Gulch Drive. Even though this is a public access point it is necessary to lift the bike over a fence at this point, and voila you are now in the middle of suburbia in the mountains.




A ride from Dotsero, approaching the pass via Gypsum, descending to Eagle and retuning to Dotsero on paved US6 measuered 41 miles with 4520ft of climbing in 4.52 hours, using an onboard cyclometer with altimeter (m3:06.08.26). This also includes following the dead end, mentioned in the western approach section to its end, plus a few other minor wrong turns.