As the Sawatch Mountains
surrender their height to the vast, high plain of
the San Luis Valley, they terminate with one last
lookout over the valley, Saguache Peak at 10550ft.
A short sidetrip from Ute Pass allows access to a
shoulder of this last grand valley overlook.
Compared with the many twelve thousand foot
Sawatch Range passes to the north, Ute Pass may
seem insignificant. True, the mountains to the
north are a lot higher. But the location of this
pass, at the southern tip of a range, with a
commanding overlook of two valleys, give this pass
its strategic interest.
In order to obtain this commanding view, a small
additional climb from the top of the pass is
necessary. I imagine that at one time the Utes
must have valued this strategic view very much.
From here you see all movement along
Saguache Creek, which leads up to the historically
. Today the town of Saquache seems to
sleep in the valley below.
click on profile for more detail
2.(7790ft,mile01) turn from Co114 right
onto dirt road signed Ute Pass
3.(9944ft,mile09) TOP: Ute Pass, sidetrip
to nearby hilltop is on right.
4.(8680ft,mile13) junction with little
Columbia Guch road. Continue downvalley
5.(8590ft,mile14) continue downvalley to
6.(7980ft,mile22) START-END NORTH: Villa
From South. The first dirtroad,
encountered heading west from Saguache on
Co114, is clearly labeled Ute Pass Road. The
smooth dirt road climbs gently and steadily
through pinyon cactus and sagebrush to Juniper
forest country. Good, quiet self-contained camping
is available here. The road climbs to the summit
in a steep bow and the road surface becomes much
rockier. Small powerlines cross the pass summit.
The main road continues to the overlook mentioned
above, where the strategic advantages are utilized
today by a radio tower and microwave transmission
dishes. The far views of the San Luis Valley and
Sangre de Cristo Range can be quite incredible.
But the clarity of crisp, late autumn light is
necessary to appreciate them.
From North. (described downwards) Because
of the rocks and the steepness on the top of this
side, I think the ordeal of going down is
preferable to the ordeal of climbing. The first
part of the descent is steeper and rockier than
anything on the south side, but still ridable in a
The road emerges at a private housing site, that
first looks like a public campground. There is a
"Ute Pass" sign at a critical intersection on this
side, for those heading up. After all that bumpy
braking the best part of the ride just may be the
final miles of perfectly smooth pavement, rolling
towards Villa Grove with the Sangre de Cristos in
the background. This final part is not unlike
descending into San Luis Valley from Poncha Pass, but
Poncha Pass without cars. Also from this side, the
name for the small settlement Villa Grove begins
to make some sense, as one rides past a majestic
grove of Cottonwoods trees lining Kerber creek, a
Dayrides. The two approaches are connected
by a paved road with very wide shoulder for a
dayride of comfortable proportion, even during the
hottest time of the year. I measured 45 miles with
3200 feet elevation gain, using an Cateye100A
cycle computer on such a ride. The ride included
the extra summit and a few circles around sleepy