Cottonwood Pass Skyline Hike - Buena Vista & Salida, Colorado Visitor Guide
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Published with permission from the guide book: Mellow Mountain Trails Hiking Guide to Colorado’s Upper Arkansas River Valley

by Nathan Ward.

  • Featuring 27 Fun Day Hikes in Buena Vista & Salida – beginner to expert..
  • Maps and Elevation Profiles for each ride, including altitude gain and loss.
  • Local Advice on riding areas and seasons, where to sleep, where to soak, where to find the best pizza, the best coffee and the best bars in Buena Vista & Salida, Colorado.

Cottonwood Pass Skyline Hike

The Skyline Hike takes you from the top of Cottonwood Pass to the quick and easy small summit to the southwest. From the top, enjoy a 360º view above treeline – the Collegiate Peaks, the Sawatch Range, Taylor Park and all the way to the Elks near Crested Butte. It’s an easy hike to an incredible high alpine viewpoint.

Hike the obvious singletrack past the small summit and go as far as you like. This hike can be turned into a several hour walk or even an overnight camping trip.

Trailhead Access & Facilities
From the stoplight in downtown Buena Vista, drive west on West Main Street, which turns into CR 306. Follow CR 306 just under 20 miles to the summit of Cottonwood Pass. Park in the large summit lot.

No facilities at the trailhead or along the trail.

Location: Top of Cottonwood Pass, West of BV
Distance: 1.6 Miles – Out & Back
Hiking Time: 1 hour
Best Months: June through September
Trail Type: Singletrack
Difficulty: Moderate – High Altitude
Dog Friendly: Yes – Dogs on leash in wilderness areas.
Elevation in Feet: Low Point 12,138; High Point 12,574; Climbs/Descends 436
Land Status: Gunnison National Forest, Collegiate Peaks Wilderness Area
Maps: Trails Illustrated #129


Cottonwood Pass Skyline Hike Mileage Log

0.0 Trailhead – From the parking lot, find the trail that starts right behind the big summit sign at 12,126 feet. Walk around the sign and follow the singletrack headed southwest. (N38º49.66, W106º24.56)
0.3 Enter saddle between 2 small hills – stay on the main trail and minimize impact on this fragile alpine tundra. Here there are nice views of the summits of the Three Apostles mountains to the north and the Sawatch Range to the south. From here the trail switchbacks up the small hill directly in front of you.
0.8 This is the high point of the hike – look for the circle of rocks on the summit – 12,543 feet (N38º49.46, W106º24.95). Follow your tracks back to the parking lot.
1.6 Back at the trailhead.


We want you to have a safe and enjoyable trip into Colorado’s backcountry. Be prepared it could be a long walk out. Be sure to read this list of equipment you should bring on your ride along with tips to make your biking trip more enjoyable.


The Colorado backcountry is popular – bikers, hikers, motorcycle riders, hunters and equestrians use the trail system in the Arkansas Valley, and everyone wants a private piece of heaven. Even if you don’t agree with everyone’s motives or methods of travel, please treat them in a courteous manner.


If you require search and rescue services, it can be costly. Buy a Colorado Outdoor Recreation Search and Rescue (CORSAR) card to protect yourself. Funds from the CORSAR program go into the Colorado Search and Rescue (SAR) Fund. If a CORSAR card holder becomes lost or injured in the backcountry, the Colorado SAR Fund pays eligible search and rescue expenses.


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Buena Vista Chamber of Commerce
111 E Main St
Buena Vista, CO 81211

Salida Chamber of Commerce
406 W Rainbow Blvd.
Salida, CO 81201

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