As you can see my Colorado Trail Hardest HABS are all in the first half of the race.  Note that I raced on an odd number year, so my direction of travel was South to North (West to East as some call it).  This greatly effects the overall difficulty of the race and which passes are hardest.

My Colorado Trail Hardest HABS

*This are in order of appearance and not by effort needed to get over or their difficulty.

-1. Kennebec Pass

The simple fact that Kennebec Pass makes up the very first miles of the race alone make it hard.  But the fact that it gets steeper as it goes and also gets rockier makes it a very challenging start to the race. During the last section of the climb you also get above tree line thus adding exposure to the mix.

-2.  Blackhawk Pass

Blackhawk Pass is largely tough due in part to what comes before it.  Not only is it your second pass in what is mostly like your first day, it’s extremely steep at times too.  Despite being downhill, the approach is a roller coaster which can be draining.  It’s also one of those passes you can see for most of the climb and the top taunts you from afar.

Kennebec Pass - Colorado Trail - San Juan National Forest - Colorado Trail Planning Guide - Colorado Trail Dispatches
Stony Pass - Colorado Trail - Bikepacking - Hiking - Colorado Trail Dispatches

-3.  Stony Pass

This is a big climb.  Add the fact that you’re bike is loaded down with 180+ miles of food, a steep loose gravel road surface and there’s almost no protection and the recipe is hard to swallow.  I wouldn’t say it has false summits but it is hard to know where the top is, making it hard to gauge your effort.  The truck and ORV traffic creating dust and also breaking your rhythm doesn’t help either.

-4.  Coney Summit

I could just put the numbers 13,271′ in this space and leave it at that but there’s more than just the altitude that makes Coney Summit such a hard HAB.  Like Blackhawk Pass, if you know where you’re headed, you can see the summit from miles away.  It takes forever to get there too.

Just hiking it is hard enough, I know I’ve done it.  But add a bike to the super narrow tread and the pushing gets even harder. You have two options.  Walk in the trail, thus pushing your bike over bumpy ground or walk over the bumpy ground while pushing your bike on the smoother trail.  Both have their pros and cons.  You WILL kick a pedal or two on this beast.

-5.  Sargents Mesa

Sargents Mesa is one of the few areas that would make the worst HAB sections for both directions of travel on anyone list.  The issue isn’t exposure, altitude or even the steepness.  It’s the ROCKS, tons of them.  Finding a rhythm for both trying to walk or pedaling is extremely tough through this section.  It’s also sandwiched between some very tough up and downs, thus adding to the misery.