Just In Time To Go See Some Fall Colors, Cottonwood Pass Will Soon Be Fully Open For The First Time In 2 Years

September 6, 2019
A motorist descends down Cottonwood Pass, a mountain road along a scenic view of autumn color of aspen trees in full bloom, near Buena Vista, Colo. on Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2009.A motorist descends down Cottonwood Pass, a mountain road along a scenic view of autumn color of aspen trees in full bloom, near Buena Vista, Colo. on Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2009.Nathan Bilow/AP Photo
A motorist descends down Cottonwood Pass, a mountain road along a scenic view of autumn color of aspen trees in full bloom, near Buena Vista, Colo. on Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2009.

Cottonwood Pass, which connects Buena Vista to the Gunnison Valley through the Collegiate Peaks, is expected to fully open next week.

The road, which tops out at 12,126 feet, has been closed since spring 2017. It was re-aligned in some places, stabilized, and is now entirely paved.

Gunnison County Commissioner Jonathan Houck said he expects those improvements will attract more people to summer vacation spots like Tincup and the Taylor Park Reservoir. The east side is a well-known fall colors destination, too.

“For some folks, this is a good thing. For other folks, they feel it's potentially opening the floodgates to more and more people,” Houck said.

He hopes the improved road will be safer for all of those new travelers.

“It will be able to handle the increasing size of the traffic that's come over as people have moved on to bigger toys and trailers and campers,” Houck said.

The road is currently closed to cyclists, pedestrians, and vehicles with trailers or those over 36 feet in length. Doug Hecox, spokesman for the Federal Highway Administration, said rainy weather has delayed the final steps of the project, including striping. But he expects those will be completed next week. A ribbon cutting is scheduled at the summit on Sept. 19.

Houck said the federal government covered most of the project’s $26 million cost. The county spent $1.3 million. 

The road won’t be plowed in the winter. It’s generally open from May to November, Houck said.