The road from Buena Vista is paved up to the Continental Divide at Cottonwood Pass, a stunning high-elevation pass that gets high above treeline and provides nice access to alpine tundra. If you are prepared for some strenuous high-altitude hiking, you might find White-tailed Ptarmigan and Brown-capped Rosy-Finch in summer. The pass is closed in winter. The road up the west side, from Gunnison, is not paved but should be passable to most passenger cars. Most of the east side of the Cottonwood Pass Road is San Isabel National Forest or the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness Area, so if you’re looking for a backwoods experience, stop at the Forest Service office in Salida for maps. If you are into butterflies, this pass is an excellent location for Melissa and White-veined Arctics, Magdalena Alpine, and Lustrous Copper.
Habitat: Spruce-Fir Forest, Krummholz, Alpine Tundra
Directions: Cottonwood Pass is a little under twenty miles west of Buena Vista along CR 306 (Cottonwood Pass Road/Main Street).
Delorme: 59 B6
Roads of Colorado: 102 A1
Dates of Access: Summer
Ownership: US Forest Service
Restrictions: Hiking can be a hazardous activity; bring raingear and water, and avoid thunderstorms
Parking: Gravel parking area
Lodging: Hotel in Buena Vista
Handicapped Access: Some viewing from car