5 PASSES HEADWATERS LOOP
Independence, Hagerman, Mosquito, Weston and Trout Creek Passes
1 Loop- 2 Days
Day 1 – 200 miles
Day 2 – 150 miles
5 Passes Elevation profiles
The 5 Pass 2 Day Headwaters Loop is 350 miles with an overnight hotel in Leadville option on you.
Leadville is a historic mining community and the highest city in the Country at over 10,000 feet.
If Dual Sport and Adventure riding to you is Jeep trails and 2 track, old Railroad right of way, high mountain passes, twisty paved roads and stunning scenery you would find this loop very enjoyable.
Why is this a recommended as a 2 Day, 350 mile loop ? The thinking is your on vacation with nothing to prove. The ride to Leadville is around 200 miles over 2 spectacular mountain passes. So if you averaged 25 mph and left at 8 AM your in Leadville around 4 PM. Take your time, enjoy the ride. You do not want to be on Mountain Passes typically after 4 PM in the summer because of the possibility of rainstorms & lightening strikes. Enjoy the old mining town of Leadville and go over Mosquito Pass first thing in the morning. The ride over Mosquito Pass is a spectacular ride, but not one you want to do in the afternoon if your already tired.
Day 1 Salida to Leadville over Independence and Hagerman Passes
Day 1 starts from Salida where you’ll head towards the crossroads of the Rockies in Poncha Springs before heading North towards Buena Vista. But your heading North off-road.
The Adventure starts with a short jaunt on a dirt road along the Arkansas River below the Continental Divide. After crossing the Arkansas River, the route takes you to the historic Smeltertown Smokestack for a quick stop outside Salida.
From the Smeltertown National Monument, you head a bit further down river before crossing the Tennessee Pass railroad tracks on our way up Ute Trail. Ute Trail was a racetrack back in the day, ala Pikes Peak. Except Ute Trail was never paved.
From Ute Trail you head west towards Railroad Gulch and the back of Brown’s Canyon National Monument, but we are actually headed for Aspen Ridge, Trout Creek Pass and the 4 Mile OHV Area.
Aspen Ridge is a 20 + mile of mostly 2 track jeep road through the largest aspen grove in the Arkansas River valley. Uphill’s, downhills, a few rocks but generally a pleasant fun ride with outstanding views of the Collegiate Peaks and the Continental Divide.
Once you drop down to Trout Creek, you will ride past the Castles at Trout Creek and cross the Hwy to the North side of the 4 Mile OHV area.
From the 4 Mile Area you head up the old Midland Railroad right-of-way north of Buena Vista through the old Midland tunnels along the Arkansas River. You’ll then continue north along the Arkansas river towards the old county seat of Granite.
After a few miles of pavement, you’d jump off-road at Granite and head towards Twin Lakes and Independence Pass. We like to take a little off-road section around the back of the Mt . Elbert Forebay Lake with outstanding views of Twin Lakes, and the drop down to Independence Pass.
Independence Pass is the 3rd highest paved pass in the Country, crosses the Continental Divide and will take us to the iconic ski town of Aspen after some awesome epic twisty pavement. Several sections of the pass are a single lane requiring caution and most of the scenery is absolutely spectacular. Since you crossed the Divide you have been riding in the Colorado River headwaters.
Lunch and fuel is in Aspen. Make sure to stop somewhere cool and check out the local scenery. Wink Wink.
From Aspen we are headed downhill along the Frying Pan River towards the Roaring Fork River Canyon and Basalt. We follow the Old Denver & Rio Grande and the Colorado Midland Railroad lines North out of Aspen and then head East through Basalt towards Hagerman Pass.
The ride along the Roaring Fork River and over Hagerman Pass is one you will not soon forget. The route over Hagerman pass is not difficult, but could be wet and muddy in mid-August.
From Hagerman Pass we loop around the west end of Turquoise lake to some fun old mining roads into Leadville. If your in the mood for some good food, try Gringos on the left just before Hwy 24. Lodging is on you in Leadville and the GPS Tracks will not take into account where your Lodging is located. So pay attention!
More Information on Independence and Hagerman Pass can be found at the bottom of this page.
Day 2 Leadville to Salida over Mosquito, Weston & Trout Creek Passes
From downtown Leadville after a great breakfast at one of several Café’s downtown, you will head East on 7th Street towards Mosquito Pass. As mentioned, Leadville was a mining boomtown from the late 1860’s to around 1900. We will take a small detour past some old mining infrastructure before heading up the highest pass that goes somewhere in the entire Country.
Mosquito Pass Summit
Heading up the west side of Mosquito Pass there are a few switchbacks, and it is not near a steep as the descent on the East side. You will know why they call it the Rocky Mountains by the time you get the scenic North London Mine after the summit. Be sure to stop for a few photos at the summit and at the mine, and enjoy the view from the top. Chances are, you won’t be coming up here again.
North London Mine on Mosquito Pass
After the rock gardens from the summit, it’s a quick trip down to the London Mill. The North London Mine was so successful, they started a South London Mine on the opposite side of the mountain and connected the 2 mines in the middle.
The London Mill was the first to make use of an aerial tramway to transport ore. You can still see the remnants behind the mill. Back in the day, they brought the gold came down the mountain. Today with ski lifts the money goes up the mountain!
From Mosquito Pass Road on the east side will take a jaunt up to the highest small town in the country at Alma. If you’re in Alma, you have to stop in and browse at the Al-Mart General Store.
From Alma, we’ll head down the road to Fairplay and Southpark. Yes, that Southpark…
If you left early you should have plenty of time and the Southpark Museum on the right is worth a quick visit.
Gas up in Fairplay and we head South on 285 back towards Buena Vista. Except we are headed towards Buena Vista off-road. Just a few miles of pavement and we head west and south towards Weston Pass. Weston Pass was an old stagecoach route, known as ‘The Road to Riches’ and tops out at almost 12,000 feet. An easy enjoyable ride up to the summit and back down to the Arkansas River near the old County seat of Granite.
We now cross over the Arkansas River and head up to a lake below Mt. Elbert, the tallest mountain in the Rockies. Awesome views from Lake Elbert of the Twin Lakes and Independence Pass that we passed by yesterday.
Now we’ll reverse course for a few miles back to the Midland Railroad Tunnels north of Buena Vista. We will venture into the 4 Mile OHV area on different 2 track than the day before and head over the mountains to the top of Trout Creek Pass off road all the way on some more old stagecoach roads.
Now This Is Colorado
From the top of Trout Creek Pass at 9,300+ feet we will head down to the Castles at Trout Creek and then ride south on Aspen Ridge towards Herring Park. There are some awesome old growth Aspens in this little trafficked area, and several cattle gates that must be opened and closed and we wind our way back towards the Arkansas River Valley.
As we head back towards Salida on Ute Trail, you’ll pass an epic old granite quarry on your left. Stop there for a few photos as the view of the Continental Divide is breathtaking at the particular location. A few more miles and we heading back the same way we came up on day 1 from Salida. After we cross the Tennessee Pass Railroad tracks we will head past the Mt Shavano fish hatchery, past several fishing lakes and up onto the mesa that leads back to the fairgrounds.
Day 2 Leadville to Salida and the Chaffee County Fairgrounds – 150 miles
Links to Info on the 5 Passes
Trout Creek Pass
- If your looking for enduro like trails this is not your loop. We have others.
- We have ridden portions of this route on X-Roads in the past as a Dual Sport ride.
- If you can ride and your not afraid of rocks this an excellent loop for an ADV motorcycle.
- In other words though, we would not send a beginner on an ADV motorcycle over Mosquito Pass.
- You have the option to bail out from Leadville, not ride Mosquito Pass and pick the loop back up at the western side of Weston Pass.
- Turn Day 2 into a 100 mile instead of 150 mile loop.
- Shoot us an email with any questions ? firstname.lastname@example.org