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Cordova Pass

The Spanish Peaks are unique set of mountains, especially for Colorado. Their cone shape speak of volcanic activity. But there are no craters on top, even if it may look like it from a few locations below. These volcanic features originated under the sea and never erupted. Instead molten volcanic magma collected in two bulges. Cracks developed in the surrounding rocks. Magma filled these craks, and after erosion did its job, today dikes radiate outward from these ancient undersea bulges like spokes on a bicycle wheels. Since the magma was more difficult to erode than the surrounding sedimentary rocks. they lie exposed today.

Two pass roads go near the peaks, this one and Cucharas Pass, which also serves as approach to the west side of this pass. Much of the beauty of Cordova Pass is in its isolation. The views of the peaks and the dykes radiating out from them are really better from the La Veta - Cucharas Pass section, that is the paved lower western side of the approach.

click on profile for more detail
1.(5340ft,mile00) START-END East: Aguilar
2.(6590ft,mile04) profile continues left
3.(11248ft,mile29) TOP: Cordova Pass
4.(9941ft,mile35) Cucharas Pass; profile continues left on paved road
5.(7040ft,mile52) START-END WEST: La Veta


From West. For some notes on the section La Veta - Cucharas Pass, see the Cucharas Pass page. From the top of Cucharas Pass a good dirt road takes off to the east across a high meadow. It heads for the forest. The Spanish Peaks are not really visible from here. After 2 or 3 level miles the road begins to climb. The trees break open twice to reveal a partial view of West Spanish Peak. No switchbacks and just limited turns are required to get to the summit. There still aren't any far views from the summit either. Instead there is a pay campground, a trailhead, and two summit markers. Interestingly they differ in elevation. The older, more elaborate monument made from natural stone with plaque commemorating Jose Cordova states an elevation of 11005ft. The newer generic national forest sign says 11248ft.

Hiking .2miles to the south gets to a good vantage point on the peak. For a mountain bike it would be no effort at all on this smooth, flat handicap accessible thoroughfare. But where bicycles are grouped with ATVs (like here) this is not a legal option.

From East. (described downwards) The road continues in the forest in a westerly direction. On the south side of East Spanish Peak it finally engages in a few extra turns, still with only limited views of the peak and several dikes through the trees. A interesting curiosity is an a tunnel or arch that has been cut through one of the dikes to accomadate the road. Now leaving behind the peak the road heads about as straight west as the landscape will allow. After the first ranch below the peaks, the road becomes as wide as interstate highway for a while, but the surface remains various variations of dirt, but with little if any washboard.

The peaks are now a decoration at the horizon to the back, possibly with monumental clouds above them. The road becomes a fast dirt road, passing through Gulnare, a collection of ramshackle housings that not only sound but also look new Mexican. Apishapa Canyon too, fits the New Mexican definition of a canyon better - it's just a small valley bordered by low ravines. Finally the long dirt road treck ends in Aguilar, a nice sleepy town with a collection of buildings on main street that speak of past importance. It even has a small grocery store of sorts.

Dayrides with this point as highest summit


Cordova Pass: CR46.0 south of Aguilar > CR46.0 south > Cordova Pass > Cucharas Pass(shp) > Cuchara > La Veta > Co12 > US160 east > Walsenburg > I25 south > CR53.7 south > Aguilar > CR46.0 west back to starting point: 87 miles. (m1:91.05.29)

( < FR401 Deer Peak Rd s(u) | Cucharas Pass > )
same summit point: a few miles east of Cucharas Pass > Cordova Pass > CR46.0 east > Gulnare > down Apishapa Canyon > Agular > CR53.7 north > I25 north > Walsenburg with detours > US160 west > Co12 south > La Veta > Cuchara > Cucharas Pass(shp) > back to starting point: 88.0miles with 5810ft of climbing in 7:34hrs (VDO MC1.0 m5:14.9.22)
Notes: this is the basically the same route as above in reverse



Modern Roads. If this route was used by nomadic Indians and/or Spanish traders is speculation. But this is one road, the existence of which is not due to a group of people seeking riches from minerals, but the persistence of a single man, the Las Animas county commissioner Jose Cordova. The road was finished in 1934. In 1942 its official name became "Apishapa", Apache for the "stinking water" in Apishapa Canyon on the lower eastern side of the pass. The name Cordova was officially attached by the USGS board on geographic names in 1978.

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

Cordova Pass (Summary)

Highest Point:

Eastern Approach:

from Aguilar (5340ft) 5908ft 29miles
Western Approach:

from La Veta (ft) 4208ft 23+1/2miles ~100ft