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2016 Summer Mountain West Road Trip Part 1; US Route 40 Berthoud Pass

Back in 2016 I took two significant road trips to the Mountain West region.  The first trip was during the summer months when all the mountain passes in the Rockies had cleared.  I flew in from California and stayed my first night in Denver.  The following day I started out by heading west on I-70 into the Rockies where I picked up US Route 40.  I took US 40 over Berthoud Pass to US 34 to reach Rocky Mountain National Park.






At the bottom of Berthoud Pass about 8,600 feet above sea level is the small town of Empire.  Empire has less than 300 residents left and founded in the early 1860s during the silver boom in Clear Creek Valley.




US 40 west of Empire begins to climb to Berthoud Pass via series of switchbacks that are largely two-lanes.  I thought the grade was pretty solid but I the climb is steep enough that the climb to Berthoud Pass is likely a dangerous one in the winter months.  Berthoud Pass lies at an elevation of 11,307 feet above sea level which makes it among the highest all-year mountain passes in the United States.


Berthoud Pass was discovered in 1861 by surveyors for the Colorado Central Railroad.  While the grade of Berthoud Pass was considered to be viable for a wagon route it was ultimately found to be too steep for railroad service.  Berthoud Pass can be see on this 1884 map of Colorado as a wagon route.

1884 Map of Colorado

When the US Route system was created in 1926 Berthoud Pass was selected as part of the alignment in Colorado.  An early version of the US Route system in Colorado can be seen on this 1941 State Highway Map.

1941 State Highway Map

The views from the top of Berthoud Pass aren't the most scenic but there was a nice view of the down hill grade approaching Winter Park.



Part 2 of this trip can be found here:

2016 Summer Mountain West Road Trip Part; Rocky Mountain National Park and US Route 34/Trail Ridge Road

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