< Left Panel   Colorado Summits and Passes   Areas   Tables   Maps   All Favorites  
Main Panel:   Main Page   Map+Profile   Colorado Map  

Douglas Pass

This pass is on the western edge of the state. It is a gradual but very long climb to a sage and forest covered plateau. But - unlike you would expect from this plateau - the road does not linger long on the flat table top, but quickly finds the nearest drainage, along which to descend, West Douglas Creek, It used to be that even on holiday weekends this pass was far from the maddening crowd. But during the Memorial Day weekend of 2017, traffic conditions were less than pleasant. Otherwise traffic is generally light. But  it is necessary to pack all provisions between Loma and Rangely.

The location and orientation of the pass is unusual for Colorado. This is the westenmost paved pass in the state with a larger north south reach than any other pass in the state. Two dayrides to the top of the pass are on this page, under the heading "the ride to Nowhere".

The views area a lot better a short distance above the pass on dirt roads. All pictures were taken from there: Four A Ridge Rd and ZVI Rd.

Principal  Approaches

click on profile for more detail
1. (mile00,4517ft) START-END SOUTH: Loma
2. (mile11,4932ft) START-END SOUTH ALTERNATE: dirt road turnoff on right has undeveloped dessert camping on public land
3. (mile14,5122ft) route crosses East Creek and enters the Book Cliffs
4. (mile33,8259ft) TOP: Douglas Pass, Rope Canyon ridge route joins from right
5. (mile45,6340ft) Rope Canyon turnoff is on right
6. (mile70,5246ft) turn left onto Rte64 to Rangely
7. (mile72,5234ft) START-END NORTH: Rangely

From North. This stretch through layer cake dessert hills must be one of the loneliest paved cycling climbs in the state, which only helps to preserve the archeological areas found along the route. There are a number of examples of native rock paintings from the Fremont period, that can be seen in much the same context as Escalante once did in 1776. A few idiots added their names, but fewer than the average number of idiots.

From South. The lowest, southernmost point on the profile also happens to be the starting point of another bike route, the trailhead for the Kokopelli Trail heading into Utah. The route to Douglas Pass heads in the opposite direction, first crossing the expanse of Grand Valley towards the cliffs. The rolling hills in that portion of the profile get lost in the scale. But they do exist.

Once the road enters plateau country, it follows East Salt Creek in a relatively straight grassy valley. After hours of this the switchbacks approaching the top come as a surprise, unless exhaustion has eliminated the ability to be surprised at this point. Approaching the top of the pass, there are several spur roads, leading to gas wellheads. Some of the drilling sites are at vantage points above the valley, that could have been chosen for their view instead. But, unlike in other parts of the workd, instead of a medieval ruin, the visitor is instead greeted by the odor of natural gas escaping from a wellhead.

Dayride with this point as shoulder point:

An out and back ride from Loma to the top of the pass and exploring a few miles of tracks near the top measured 85 miles with 7100ft of climbing, using a Cateye 100A over 6.5 hours.

A Dayride with this point as intermediate summit is on page: Four A Ridge Rd s(u)


Escalante (<Alkali - Road Gulch Divide|Daniel's Summit(utah)>): The Escalante expedition entered Colorado in the Hesperus Pass area near Durango. After having worked their way around the southern end of Grand Mesa, the fathers continued to De Beque and up Roan Creek to the top of Douglas Pass. But today's paved Rte. 139 from Loma to Douglas Pass doesn't share a single mile with the Escalante route. The Ute trail they utilized, penetrated the magnificent cliff edges of the Roan Plateau far to the east, ascending Roan Creek from De Beque. On one of the steeper slopes an accident occurred, where two pack animals fell and rolled 20 yards. Attempting to approximate this route on a mountain bike today, while remaining on public land, would require a portage to the top of the plateau.

On the north side of Douglas Pass, modern Rte. 139 is much closer to the Esclante route and the old Ute trail. Both descent the Douglas Creek drainage to the White River through what Escalante called "Painted Canyon", because of the many pictograms left by indians. Crossing from the Colorado at today's De Beque to the White River took the expedition 4 days.

Douglas Pass was the last Colorado pass crossed by the fathers. The next challenge was the dessert. After that they crossed an outlying plateau of the Uintas in Utah over Daniel's Summit to Utah Lake and returned to New Mexico from there. Dominguez and Escalante never found what they were looking for, an easy route for other California bound Spaniards. They received little or no credit for their discoveries, large parts of which would eventually become part of the old Spanish Trail network.

The Escalante story stands in contrast to other stories of pass exploration. It seems like history is filled with stories of ambitious lieutenants, who lead men in frantic searches of nonexistent rivers. It is also filled with stories of Indian raids and revenge killings, stories of passes built by virtual slave labor, except here it's called capitalism. The Escalante expedition built a cultural bridge to natives. They described more and traveled further without weapons and lived to tell about it, which is quite an accomplishment in the larger scheme of things. The Escalante expedition touched upon many scenic perls of the central western states, the canyons of Dinosaur, the lakes of Grand Mesa, bits of Mesa Verde and a hundred others.

Modern Highways: Today's road over the pass is a result of mining. But unlike most Colorado mining passes, this in not the story of a frantic rush for shiny precious metals. Gilsonite started to be mined in Vernal (Ut) in 1897. The railhead was on the other side of the pass in Grand Junction, and in addition to the existing transportation route over Baxter Pass, a road was advantageous to get the ore out. The road was named after the Ute chief Douglas, known for his involvement in the Meeker massacre in 1879.

Douglas Pass (Summary)

Elevation/Highest Point: 8259ft~2517m

Southern Approach: paved road climb
from Loma (4517ft~1177m) 3742ft~1141m
Northern Approach: paved road

from Rangely (5234 ft~1595m)