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Columbine Pass

The nicest paved road ride from Steamboat Springs just may be heading north to Columbine with its old store and cabins, located above Hahn's Peak basin  On the other side the pavement ends about 200ft below the summit. So that's why this road is in the "unpaved" category.

The name Columbine Pass is not very commonly used today. The designation is included in Ed and Gloria Helmuth's book "the passes of Colorado". They source it back to members of the Colorado Mountain Club, who identified it in the 1920s.

01.(mile00.0,6600ft) START-END NORTH: jct Wy70 - CR123,near Slater Wy.
02.(mile00.2,6600ft) profile turns left onto paved CR129
03.(mile19.3,6990ft) road passes entrance to Three Forks Ranch and starts climbing more steeply
04.(mile31.7,8550ft) jct with FS550 on left
05.(mile32.4,8680ft) TOP: Columbine Pass
06.(mile35.7,8120ft) jct with CR62 and closest entrance to Steamboat Lake on left
07.(mile37.1,8140ft) jct with FR13 in town Hahn's Peak
08.(mile44.6,7270ft) jct with CR62 and Great Divide bike route from CR42 Mill Creek Rd s(u)
09.(mile49.0,6970ft) jct with CR56 on right
10.(mile51.8,6950ft) jct with CR54 on right
11.(mile53.8,6820ft) jct with CR52e on right
12.(mile61.5,6680ft) START-END SOUTH: jct Elk River Rd - US40, just west of Steamboat Springs


From North.
The two approaches are very different. This is the popular paved side. Starting west of Steamboat Springs CR129 is a fairly busy road without shoulders, that serves the numerous houses scattered in this direction from the busy ski town. But the road is also heavily used by cyclists, so most drivers are used to dealing with bikes.

As I make my way up into the gentle hills, my overwhelming impression is of being somewhere in New England. Just look at all those wooden barns, green fields, the small white church with the wooden steeple - actually that "church" turns out to be a church to education, an old school house. The congregation of school children must have been very small. - But then past Clark, most of the traffic is gone, now the road has a shoulder, and this large cone shaped mountain appears ahead. Hahn's Peak is the number one landmark from both sides, and unmistakable from any angle by its cone shape.

Steamboat Lake is the number one destination for most traffic coming up here. The road leading around the north end has several quiet access points. It turns unpaved after a short distance and continues down valley along the west side to join back to CR129 in Clark.

CR129 to Columbine Pass reaches a clearly defined saddle at a restored general store, with nearby cabins for rent, in what maps label as a town: Columbine.

From South. (also described upwards) This approach appears to be on the opposite side of the world from a ski area. It starts in Wyoming. Steamboat  not only seems like long ways from here, it actually is about 60 miles away. No sign at the turnoff onto CR129 at point 2 mentions Steamboat Springs - just the county road number 129.

Continuing on this peaceful valley journey, a green sagebrush carpet covers angular hills along the Middle Fork of the Little Snake River, which still meanders wildly through the landscape like a snake, since the trappers named it. For me this is the most interesting landscape along the entire ride.

Countless ranches, safely separated from one another by many miles of open ranch land, line the road. Each ranch house has a different architecture, and each one fits into the landscape in a different way. The last house turns out to be a extravagant mansion, built by some Hollywood mogul. Well actually - no - it's another ranch. The Three Forks Ranch just has a different look to it.

Immediately after leaving the hundreds of "no trespassing - three forks" sings behind, the road starts climbing in earnest. The increase in slope feels larger than what the profile leads to suspect. Soon after that the route crosses into National Forest land. And with that come the actual trees in the forest, and also less graveled but more rutted road conditions, which are really better for riding a mountain bike. Parts of this road are on a surface of dark ash of sorts, that turns into extremely sticky mud with the slightest of rainfall. - Not very pleasant on a bicycle.

Before the final climb the road enters another spacious park and Hahn's Peak points the way, together with old acquaintance from the other side: Nipple Mountain. Hahn's Peak appears a lot higher from this side. But maybe it is just, that the mud was deeper on this side. With less energy the apparent dimensions of the landscape increase, and the mud on the wheels rob a lot of energy. Luckily it stops raining before I reach the top, and by the time I'm back it has all dried to dust, that breaks off like crusted coca powder with the nudge of a finger.

A ride with this point as intermediate summit is on page: FR42 Mill Creek Rd s(u)