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Mc Cord Pass

This is probably one of the least known 10000ft unpaved pass roads in Colorado. It is listed in Helmuth's "Passes of Colorado" book, which sources it back to quad topo maps. It is not marked in my (older) National Forest maps. Mc Cord Pass is located on Piney Ridge, the next range west of the Gore Range. In between lies the Piney Valley running straight all the way to Vail. Yet no real bikable trail runs along the length of the valley, and the maps in this area seem to be made to Mexican standards (no insult intended).

For me this is also a pass of two stories. One side is a steep and rocky climb, yet most of it is perfectly rideable and with many scenic high points. The other side is a "where the heck am I" story. I was glad to have a gps unit along. Even with maps corresponding to reality, this area has some confusing twists and turns.

1.(mile00.0,6920ft) START-NORTH: Radium, bridge over Colorado River
2.(mile02.9,7260ft)START-END NORTH ALT: jct: Trough Rd - Sheephorn Rd
3.(mile05.6,7970ft)route turns off Cottonwood Creek Rd and becomes rougher
4.(mile13.9,10380ft)route passes below Walter's Lake
5.(mile15.0,10825ft)TOP: McCord Pass
6.(mile17.6,9750ft)START-END SOUTH: end of road in Box Canyon


From North.
The profile starts in the campsite, called Radium on the map. The second point is where this river access road crosses Trough Road (running from State Bridge to Kremmling). On the east side of Trough Road, the rout is named Sheephorn Creek Rd. Soon the profile takes a right onto Cottonwood Creek Road. The fast and easy dirt road riding soon seems to end. A sign at a gate prohibits just about everything on the other side of the gate. When you are close enough to read the fine print below the signs, you notice that the public forest road keeps going after a switchback. It is just much rougher now that the ranch entrance is now longer subsidized.

Yet it's pleasant enough riding. There are no rocks here and the deep ruts keep most motor vehicles away. The road switches back and forth on sunny rangeland with Trough Road Pass and the Colorado River appearing in view below. Mc Cord pass is on the left side of the rocky cliff ahead, Cottonwood Peak.

Now the road enters forest and the first puddles appear. At the next jct the profile heads uphill on FR401. Now the road makes a long detour to the west in order to attack the rocky lip from its side. At one point, before the road starts to deteriorate drastically, the best view of the entire ride opens up: Piney Valley and the peaks of the Gore Range, looking along the ridge.

The next right onto FR442 becomes much rockier with more frequent water puddles covering the entire road. Finally I reach Walters Lake. On the other side a small section of shelf road is visible, still completely covered by an ice sheet. The remoteness of this scene makes it appear bigger and more fantastic than it really is. From here to the ice sheet is extremely rocky so that riding really takes longer than walking, with all the getting on and off the bike. That's all right. I like to walk. The ice sheet is not a big problem. It is not steep enough to present a danger and the snow has the right consistency at the end of June. Instead mosquitoes are the real problem. This shelf road quickly reaches the top of the ridge. The view is mostly obscured by trees. There are better vantage points on the traverse below.

From South. (described downwards). My map shows a road heading down the southern flank of Piney Peak. In reality it has been closed or abandoned a long time ago. As evidence there are many logs across the grown over path. But according to my map this path ends anyway, and heading south along the ridge does seem to be more promising.

However my plan was to make this a two way  summit, and for this I headed down the next left on what is marked FR404 on my forest map. The top is extremely rocky, but what else is new ? After descending about 500ft the track became quite ridable. But then - the track reaches a big meadow at about 1000ft below the pass. It is not quite as simple as a track simply ending, because a meadow of this size can have any number of exit points on the other side. Isn't this a problem tailormade for my Garmin gps and its trusty topo maps. According to it I was right on the road. But around me was a creek, a swamp, and a little later wild primeval forest with too many logs to carry a bicycle across. I followed the imaginary road for a quarter mile, carrying my bicycle, until reality caught up with me. There is no road here - even if a gpsfiledepot map, the de Lorme Gazeteer, and my forest map from the eighties insist that there is a road here. Point 6 is where it ends. A name like Box Canyon is never a good omen. I would be interest to know, if anybody ever managed to descend back to Co131 between Walcott and State Bridge, and which route would be useful for this. For me it was a long slog back up to the pass.

Dayride with this point as hgihest summit:


( < FR700 Red Sandstone Road s(u) | FR212 Radium - Tonopas(sh) > )
Mc Cord Pass x2 : Trough Road, a short distance east of Racho Rio <> Trough Rd east > up FR401 Sheephorn Rd <> up FR402 Cottonwood Rd <> FR401 north <> FR442 east <> Walters Lake <> Mc Cord Pass <> down FR404 Box Canyon Rd to end of road at meadow and firewood area: 37.5miles with 6040ft of climbing in 6:27hrs (Garmin etrex30 15.6.25).