Like this site? Help us to make it better.


Video: Mike Cotty rides Colorado's 3,687 metre Independence Pass

Latest Col Collective video sees cyclist tackle highest point on the Continental Divide

The Independence Pass may not be the highest paved road in the world,  or even the state of Colorado, but it does have the highest elevation of any road on the North American Continental Divide, the geographical line that splits watersheds draining into the Pacific to the west to those that empty into the Atlantic to the east.

With an elevation of 3,687 metres, it is also getting on for a tenth higher than Europe's highest paved road, the 3,394 metre Pico del Veleta in Spain.

From 2011-15 it featured in the now-defunct race the USA Pro Cycling Challenge - for comparison, the highest point reached by a Grand Tour is 2,802 metres when the Tour de France visited the Col de la Bonette in 2008.

It's the location of the latest video from Mike Cotty and the Col Collective, and here is what he has to say about the climb.

As the highest paved crossing of the Continental Divide in the U.S. Independence Pass is always going to have a special place in the heart of cyclists living or visiting Colorado. 

Best known for its silver and skiing, from Aspen (in the west) the climb is 19.5 miles / 31.4 km and although long it's the altitude that you really need to watch out for in this neck of the woods. Starting the day at an elevation that rivals some of the most prominent peaks in Europe, unless you're well acclimatised you're definitely going to feel the lack of air right from the gun. Fortunately the gradient is never too steep, generally hanging around 4-6% all the way, allowing you to appreciate endless landscapes alongside the Roaring Fork River on your journey to 12,095ft (3,687m).

With 3 miles (5 km) to go you pass the Independence ghost town, today a very different place to what it would've been in its heyday in the late 1800's. It's from this town that the pass took its name, prior to this it was known as Hunters Pass. With no road markings or signs at the side of the road indicating how far you have to go it's a welcome landmark, and from here you can just about trace the road in the distance all the way to the top.

I'd wanted to ride Independence Pass for such a long time, much like the famous climbs in Europe it had a certain lure that I wanted to see for myself. I think the first time I got a good look at it was when the pros were racing up it in the (now defunct) USA Pro Challenge and I remember being in awe at the road as it climbed through the forest and out into the vast expanse of the Rocky Mountains. Such a beautiful climb and one that I'm very glad to have now experienced.

Vital statistics

Start: Aspen
Length: 19.5 miles (31.4 km)
Highest Point: 12,095ft (3,687m)
Start Elevation: 7,951ft (2,423m)
Elevation gain: 4,144ft (1,263m)
Max gradient: 7.5% 
Average gradient: 4.2%
Ridden in September

Simon has been news editor at since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

Latest Comments