Old La Veta Pass  
USGS 7.5' Map: La Veta Pass
Difficulty: Number: Miles: Altitude: Obstacles: Time:
Graded Cnty443/CntyVv5 5.30 8,700 to 9,380 ft. NA 1-2 hours
County: Huerfano and Costilla
Adopted by:      
Managed by: Huerfano County
Costilla County
401 Main Street, Walsenburg, CO 81089
352 Main Street, San Luis, CO 81152
Summary: Old La Veta Pass is the original route over La Veta Pass before the highway was built.
Attractions: History
Nature - Closed by snow.
Best Time: May - Could be snowed in
June - Best
July - Best
August - Best
September - Best
October - Watch for early snows late
Trail Heads
Camping: None
Base Camp: This would not be a good area to base camp.
Fall Colors: Average - There are aspen groves on both sides of the pass.
Navigation: From Walsenburg, CO head southwest on US-160 W/W 7th Street toward S Albert Ave. Continue to follow US-160 W for 24.3 miles. Turn left onto County Rd 443. This is the Old La Veta Pass road.

From Fort Garland, CO, head east on US-160 E/4th Ave toward St. Vrain Ave. Continue to follow US-160 E for 18.0 miles. Take a slight right onto County Rd Vv 5. This is the old La Veta Pass road.
History: La Veta Pass, and other wagon routes into New Mexico were used for trade and transportation from 1840 well into the 1880's.

In 1853, surveys by the U.S. Army Corps of Topographical Engineers began. The central Rockies route was surveyed by Captain John Williams Gunnison. This expedition was to follow the thirty-ninth parallel from St. Louis to the West Coast. A team of thirty scientific men, with an escort of thirty dragoons, along with eighteen wagons, an instrument wagon, and an ambulance, made their way along the Arkansas River to Bent's Fort. From here the party crossed the Sangre de Cristos at La Veta Pass and proceeded through the San Luis Valley, westward to Cochetopa Pass.

As the Arkansas River Valley developed, so did other drainages, such as the Huerfano and Purgatoire Rivers. Demand for food was so great from the numerous mining camps that farms arose in these areas. J.M. Francisco established a community at Francisco Plaza, near the Spanish Peaks, in 1862. This became La Veta, Colorado.
The town at the top of the pass was once a railroad stop and logging town. In 1877 the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad ran a narrow gauge railroad over the pass to connect Alamosa and the agriculture in the area with the eastern plains. When the railroad changed to standard guage tracks they moved the line south to its present location.

From 1920 to 1960 the old grade was used as a highway connection from Walsenburg to Alamosa. When the new highway was put in, the pass location was moved to where Hwy 160 now crosses. In 2001 the old railroad stop and logging camp was named Up Top.
Once you leave Hwy 160 the road drops down crossing South Abeyta Creek. It wil be mainly gravel as you head southeast climbing up along a ridge. There will be old degraded sections of pavement as you climb higher. The road will head around the point of the ridge where you will pass the remains of the original cable guard rails. Heading back northwest again the road will head up toward a the old pass going through small openings in the gambel oak. At the top of the pass is the old town of Up Top, presently private property. There are building that have been converted to residences and others that look abandoned. At the west end of town is a small church with some information on the history of the town.
Town of Up Top

Photo by:
Adam M

Town of Up Top, small church

Photo by:
Adam M

The road continues to the west as a wide graded road. It will quickly drop back down to Hwy 160.

Data updated - April 14, 2016     4WD Road driven - September 6, 2015     Copyright 4X4Explore.com - 2000-2016