Navigating rides on major paved roads around the mountains is easy. All that is really needed is a Colorado state highway map and a relatively short
planning session.

Navigating rides on unpaved roads is a little more complex because many of them aren't shown on the normal highway maps and sometimes they are poorly marked.
Unpaved roads can include smooth well-treated surfaces, gravel, deep gravel, sand, rock, bigger rock, gradual rises, and steep climbs.
Quite a variety, requiring more planning time and more detailed maps and other resources.

Listed here, in order of usefulness, are some of our favorite travel aids. Most of them can be found at your local book store or at
Newer versions of many of the books are available.

"The Passes of Colorado, An Encyclopedia of Watershed Divides", by Ed Helmuth & Gloria Helmuth, Pruett Publishing Company, 1994, ISBN 0-87108-841-X, 315 pages, 6x9. Contains information about 469 passes around the state, including elevation, county, watershed divides, description of location, and history.

Our number one resource for the Pass Bagger 50.
"Colorado Road & Recreation Atlas", Regional Maps (10 pages), Recreation Guides (30), Landscape Maps (93) with geographic coordinates, and Metro Area Maps (5), Benchmark Maps, 2018, ISBN 0-929591-12-7, 142 pages, 10.5x15.5. Like the Gazetteer, but highlights recreational roads more than hiking trails.
Google Earth, used to map locations, to get a birds-eye view of a site, and to rotate the direction, angle and elevation of the view point. Very handy for getting an idea of how the road or trail will look when approaching the site from different directions.
Google Maps, used to map locations and to show directions from one site to another.
Garmin's MapSource United States TOPO. Features digital topographic maps for the U.S., including Alaska and Hawaii, that are comparable to the U.S. Geological Survey's 1:100,000 scale paper maps.
"4WD Adventures, Colorado, How to Explore the Remote Grandeur of Colorado Without Getting Lost", by Peter Massey and Jeanne Wilson, Swagman Publishing, 2004, ISBN 0-9665675-5-2, 225 pages, 8.5x11. Contains 76 maps of various trails around the state. For each trail there is a history, route directions with milages and GPS coordinates, and a map. The authors also have four similar books for different regions of the state.

"Colorado Trails, North-Central Region" by Peter Massey and Jeanne Wilson, Adler Publishing, 2006, ISBN 1-930193-11-4, 107 pages, 6x9.

"Colorado Trails, South-Central Region" by Peter Massey and Jeanne Wilson, Adler Publishing, 2006, ISBN 1-930193-29-7, 108 pages, 6x9.

"4WD Trails, Southwest Colorado" by Peter Massey and Jeanne Wilson, Swagman Publishing, 1999, ISBN 0-9665675-4-4, 129 pages, 6x9.

"Colorado Trails, Front Range Region" Peter Massey, Angela Titus and Jeanne Wilson, Adler Publishing, 2009, ISBN 978-193019350-5, 220 pages, 6x9.
   "Guide to Colorado Backroads & 4-Wheel Drive Trails" by Charles A. Wells, FunTreks, Inc., 1999, ISBN 0-9664976-0-0 and 0-9664976-1-9, 248 pages, 6x9. Southern Colorado.

"Guide to Colorado Backroads & 4-Wheel Drive Trails, Vol 2" by Charles A. Wells, FunTreks, Inc., 1999, ISBN 0-9664976-1-9, 172 pages, 6x9. Northern Colorado.
"Hiking the Highest Passes of Colorado", by Bob Martin, Pruett Publishing Company, 1984, 1988, ISBN 0-87108-756-1, 226 pages, 5.5x8.5. A guide to fifty of Colorado's best hiking passes, with hikes that range from Rocky Mountain National Park in the north to the San Juans in the south. Includes hiking distances and difficulty, maps and photos. The passes are 4WD and/or trail accessible.
"Crossing the High Divide, a Guide to 81 Passes 12,000 Feet & Higher in the Colorado Rockies", by Sallie Varner, Earthbound Sports, 2010, ISBN 0-9643698-9-4, 373 pages, 6x9. There are 129 Colorado mountain passes at 12,000 foot elevation or more. This book describes 81 passes that are not in Bob Martin's book, including 20 4WD and 59 trail accessible passes. For each pass, Varner lists the distance from trailhead to pass, elevation, and difficulty, describes the route to the trailhead and then on to the pass, and in most cases provides a map. She also includes a "Sallie's Hike" narrative of the hike, highlights and reflections. An excellent book that describes the routes to some rideable passes, and might even encourage us to hike from Taylor Pass to nearby Difficult, Bowman and New York Passes. Check for more photos. .
"Colorado Atlas & Gazetteer, Topo Maps of the Entire State", DeLorme, 1997, ISBN 0-89933-206-4, 104 pages, 11x15. Divides the state into 103 very detailed topographic maps.
"The Complete Guide to Motorcycling Colorado", by Steve Farson, Whitehorse Press, 2011, ISBN 978-1-884313-92-9, 448 pages, 6x9. Contains colorful in-depth descriptions, including historical background, of 172 different rides that can be combined in a variety of ways to create motorcycle journeys ranging from half a day to several days. Many maps and color photos are included.
"Colorado Above Timberline, Scenic Drives, 4WD Trips & Classic Hikes", by Jeremy Agnew, Westcliffe Publishers, 2005, ISBN-10 1-56579-498-2, 204 pages, 6x9. Includes information about ten scenic drives and ten 4WD trips, each with directions, maps, and excellent color photos.
"John Fielder's Best of Colorado", by John Fielder, Westcliffe Publishers, 2002, ISBN 1-56579-429-X, 464 pages, 8x11. More general in nature but with its 469 pages, the book contains a lot of information, maps, and of course, John Fielder's most excellent photographs.
"The Colorado Pass Book, A Guide to Colorado's Backroad Mountain Passes", by Don Koch, Pruett Publishing, 1987, ISBN 0-87108-728-6, 162 pages, 9x11. Has information about 82 Colorado backcountry pass roads.
"Backroads of Colorado", by Boyd and Barbara Norton, Rand McNally and Co., 1983, ISBN 0-528-88220-1, 205 pages, 8.5x11. Has information about 44 back roads.
"The Great Gates, The Story of the Rocky Mountain Passes", by Marshall Sprague, Little, Brown & Company (Canada) Limited, 1964, Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 64-13189, 468 pages, 6x8.5. A classic history of passes in the Rocky Mountains in the US and Canada. Includes a roster of passes in the Canadian Rockies and Selkirk Range, and in Colorado, Montana, Northern New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. Highly recommended by the Helmuths.
"Mountain Passes, Adventure Roads in Colorado", by Clyde and Chloe Edmundson, 1963, Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 63-3913, 68 pages, 5.5x8.5. Location and information about mountain passes, including adventure roads, scenic drives and places of interest in Colorful Colorado. Includes maps, photos of the authors' Volkswagen on high passes, and a list of 214 Colorado mountain passes. This book was one of the source documents for the Helmuth's book.
Microsoft Streets & Trips. Can be used to easily prepare routes to passes on paved highways. And sometimes surprisingly provides some easy-to-follow back country routes.
U.S. Forest Service maps. Arapahoe National Forest 1979, Grand Mesa 1976, Gunnison 1983, Pike 1970, Rio Grande 1975, Roosevelt 1974, Routt 1975, San Isabel 1972, San Juan 1974, White River 1979. Uncompaghre 1978, Rio Grande 1991, Roosevelt 1997.
National Geographic Trail Illustrated Topographic Map, Telluride / Silverton / Ouray / Lake City, 1992. Many others are available.

More resources are listed on the Colorado Mountain Passes spreadsheet.

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2009-18 Randy Bishop
Last modified: February 12, 2018