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 dual sport rides is a little more complex because many of the roads aren't shown on the normal highway maps or the roads themselves aren't always well marked. And wheres a paved highway is a paved highway, dual sport roads can include smooth well-treated surfaces, gravel, deep gravel, rock, bigger rock, gradual rises, and steep climbs. Quite a variety, requiring more planning time and better maps and other resources.

Listed here are some of our favorite travel aids (in order of usefullness), most of which you can find at your local book store or at

"The Passes of Colorado, An Encyclopedia of Watershed Divides", by Ed Helmuth & Gloria Helmuth, Pruett Publishing Company, 1994, ISBN 0-87108-841-X. 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", "Landscape Maps (93 pages), Recreation Guides (30 pages), Detailed Roads, GPS Grids". Benchmark Maps, 2007, ISBN 0-929591-94-1. Like the Gazetteer, but highlights recreational roads more than hiking trails.
   Google Maps and Google Earth.
"Colorado Atlas & Gazetteer, Topo Maps of the Entire State", DeLorme, 1997, ISBN 0-89933-206-4. Divides the state into 103 very detailed topographic maps.
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.

Microsoft Streets & Trips. The favorite software of long distance riders which can be used to easily prepare routes to passes on paved highways. And sometimes, surprisingly provides some easy-to-follow back country routes.
"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. 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 author also has three similar books for different regions of the state.

"4WD Trails, North-Central Region" by Peter Massey and Jeanne Wilson, Adler Publishing, 2006, ISBN 1-930193-11-4. A glove box sized subset of "4WD Adventures".

4WD Trails, South-Central Region by Peter Massey and Jeanne Wilson, Adler Publishing, 2006, ISBN 1-930193-29-7. A glove box sized subset of "4WD Adventures".

4WD Trails, Southwest Colorado by Peter Massey and Jeanne Wilson, Swagman Publishing, 1999, ISBN 0-9665675-4-4. A glove box sized subset of "4WD Adventures".
"Guide to Colorado Backroads & 4-Wheel Drive Trails, Vol 1 and 2", by Charles A. Wells, FunTreks, Inc., 1999, ISBN 0-9664976-0-0 and 0-9664976-1-9. Between the two books there are directions and maps for 105 trails in the state.
"The Colorado Pass Book, A Guide to Colorado's Backroad Mountain Passes", by Don Koch, Pruett Publishing, 1987, ISBN 0-87108-728-6. Has information about 82 Colorado backcountry pass roads. A newer version is available.
"Backroads of Colorado", by Boyd and Barbara Norton, Rand McNally and Co., 1983, ISBN 0-528-88220-1. Has information about 44 back roads. A newer version is available.
"Colorado Above Timberline, Scenic Drives, 4WD Trips & Classic Hikes", by Jeremy Agnew, Westcliffe Publishers, 2005, ISBN-10 1-56579-498-2. 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. 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 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. The 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.
"Hiking the Highest Passes of Colorado", by Bob Martin, Pruett Publishing Company, 1984, 1988, ISBN 0-87108-756-1. 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 maps, photos, and appendicies listing many other passes in Colorado.
"Mountain Passes, Adventure Roads in Colorado", by Clyde and Chloe Edmundson, 1963, Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 63-3913. 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.

More resources are listed on the Colorado Mountain Passes spreadsheet.

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2009-17 Randy Bishop
Last modified: May 3, 2017