Medano Pass in Colorado: 9 creek crossings to the summit

Medano Pass is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 3,052m (10,013ft) above sea level, located in the U.S. state of Colorado. The drive should not be attempted by any vehicle that is not 4WD, due to high clearance rocks/dips, and water crossings.

Medano Pass

Where is Medano Pass?

The pass is located on the boundary between Saguache and Huerfano counties, in the south-central part of Colorado.

How long is Medano Pass road in CO?

The rough road to the summit is totally unpaved. It’s called Medano Pass Primitive Road (County Road 559). It’s 32.34km (20.1 miles) long, running from the Great Sand Dunes to Colorado State Highway 69.

Is Medano Pass road in CO dangerous?

The road is really challenging, with deep sands, crossing Medano Creek nine times, and rocky and steep sections. There are a couple of flat rock obstacles to be covered, a steep descent, and several creek crossings that can be very challenging during the early spring runoff. The drive features substantial sections of single-lane shelf road, moderate grades, and sections of moderately loose road surface. Soft sand inside the park may require airing down tires. If your tires are narrow, your vehicle is heavy, or you are not skilled in driving through sand, dropping air pressure is advisable.

Are there river crossings driving to Medano Pass in CO?

Located within the Great Sand Dunes National Park, the road is narrow in spots and traverses Medano Creek nine times: numerous water crossings can be deep in the spring during peak flow. Creek crossings are low (10-15 inches), depending on how recently thunderstorm activity has occurred. However, depending on the time of year, the water crossings can get to be two feet deep or more. A 4-Wheel Drive (4WD) vehicle is required. All-Wheel-Drive (AWD) vehicles, mini-SUVs, wagons, and similar vehicles with lower clearance will get stuck in the deep sand or creek crossings.

Is Medano Pass in Colorado open?

Set high in the Sangre de Cristo mountains, the road is subject to seasonal closure, usually from November to mid-to-late May. Snow can block the trail well into summer. It’s only passable in good weather during the summer. The road can be closed anytime by heavy snow or high creek levels. It is highly recommended that you contact Great Sand Dunes National Park to ensure the pass is not closed due to snow or high water at one of the 8 creek crossings west of the pass.

How long does it take to drive Medano Pass road in CO?

To drive the road without stopping will take most people between 2.5 and 3 hours. The warmer months are the best times to go, and fall is one of the prettiest times to drive the road.
Pic: Tomas Dawson