Hayden Pass

Hayden Pass is the northernmost, named bikable pass, crossing the Sangre de Cristo Range. About 38 miles separate this crossing from the next low crossing to the south east, Medano Pass, which is even slightly lower than Hayden Pass. Hayden Pass barely reaches timberline. But a few great views can be obtained by venturing a few hundred feet off the trail.
1.(mile00,6470ft) START-END EAST: junction of Hayden Pass road with US50 near Coaldale
2.(mile05,7300ft) Coaldale campground
3.(mile05,7590ft) Rainbow trail crosses
4.(mile10,10709ft) TOP: Hayden Pass
5.(mile15,7890ft) low point crossing Rock Creek
6.(mile17,7980ft) START-END WEST: Villa Grove on US285


From East. From Coaldale a paved road starts climbing an alluvial fan with constant gradient, whic is characteristic for this range. By the time the Coaldale campground is reached the surface has turned to a good dirt road. In addition to the fee camping at the Coaldale campground, there is also excellent free camping on national forest land. The Rainbow trail crosses the Hayden Pass road here, offering further MTB possibilities for the rest of the weekend.

Continuing towards Hayden Pass, the route changes to a jeep trail immediately after the campground Surprisingly the steepest part of the entire climb is on the initial slope, soon after the campground.  It may not seem that way from the elevation profile, but past the long initial steep section, the terrain also contains short, intermittent shallow parts. Comparatively - progress becomes much quickly - occasionally - unless you get sidetracked and leave the bike behind to explore a vantage point for views on the lower part of the Arkansas valley, which is what happened to me. This can be a very worthwhile venture with a camer, especially during late light. To get good views from the top of the pass requires a fairly long hike up towards Galena Peak to the north.

From West. (also described upwards) The small settlement of Villa Grove marks the turnoff from US285 to the Hayden Pass road. About half of the climb from this side is up a large alluvial fan in sagebrush country, that gets progressively steeper. Once you enter the forest, the top is surprisingly close.

the start from Coaldale Campground is very steep


Hayden Pass has a long history for westbound travelers who preferred to "lop off" the northern part of the Sangre de Cristos instead of detouring through today's Salida and the Arkansas Valley. Already the Ute Indians used the pass.

Hayden Survey (<Wolf Creek Pass|Mosca Pass>): In 1873 a subgroup of the Hayden survey examined the Sangre de Cristo Range south from Poncha Pass. The existence of the pass was duly noted by the group of surveyors. A road over the pass shortened the pack train distance from Canyon City to Cochetopa Pass by thirty miles. The pass was already named after a different Hayden, not the director of the survey, but a Wet Mountain Valley settler who had pioneered the route, Lewis Hayden. To confuse matters further a third Hayden, a state geologist who surveyed the Sangre de Cristo Range for governor Gilpin in 1879 is sometimes also associated with the pass name.

By 1879, a well used wagon road over the pass provided the option to substitute Hayden Pass for Poncha Pass, when traveling between the San Luis and Arkansas Valleys. 


top: Hayden Pass from Rainbow Trail
bottom: rolling down towards Villa Grove

Cycling. An early mountain biking guide, first published in 1987, mentions Hayden Pass as being suitable for mountain biking in its appendix, without describing it any further (William L. Stoehr's: Bicycling the Backcountry).

Dayride with this point as highest summit:


Hayden Pass, Poncha Pass: Hayden Creek area > Hayden Pass > Villa Grove > US285 north > Poncha Pass > Poncha Springs > Salida > US50 south > back to starting point: 63 miles (mech Odo m1:87.6.13).