Loveland Pass Colorado

The Coloradan's Guide to Everything You Need To Know

sun streaming over the mountains near pass lake hiking trail on Loveland Pass Colorado

Loveland Pass - The Ultimate Mountain Pass Guide

A Travel Guide Crafted By Locals

When it comes to famous and iconic roads in Colorado, Loveland Pass is a total classic. This approximately 20 mile long stretch of road is home to hikes for all skill levels and plenty of skiing and snowboarding (including backcountry routes). And it’s located a little over an hour from Denver, making it a super easy day trip for locals and travelers alike.

Loveland Pass Colorado tops out at the continental divide at an elevation of 11,990 feet, with gorgeous views of the mountains and i70 down below. While it’s certainly on the shorter end, this pass really packs a punch in a short distance, with scenic (and sometimes scary) switchbacks lining the routes up and down the mountain.

view of the second lake on pass lake trail located on Loveland Pass in Colorado

Its accessibility makes Loveland Pass one of the busier and more trafficked mountain passes near the Front Range of Colorado. It also functions as an alternate route to taking the Eisenhower Tunnel on i70 (particularly for trucks that are either too large to enter the tunnel or are carrying hazardous materials).

Honestly, when we have the time, we like to avoid the tunnel altogether and take Loveland Pass instead. The scenic views never get old.

As locals who live on the Front Range, we’ve been to Loveland Pass more times than we can count and have seen it in every season. And we’ve crafted this guide to Loveland Pass Colorado with that expertise (along with some of our favorite photos we’ve taken during our visits and scenic drives).

We’re here to give you all the must-know details about your trip up the pass. We cover everything from how scary the drive really is to the best times of year to make the trek to what hikes are nearby to how long you should budget for your drive.

a layered pink and orange sunset over the snow dotted mountains from the overlook on Loveland Pass Colorado

Disclosure: We’ve included lodging and gear recommendations in this guide to Loveland Pass Colorado. If you choose to book or buy through our links, we may earn a commission, at no cost to you. Shopping through these links helps support our small Colorado business. All recommendations are crafted with love and expertise, from platforms we use and trust for our own adventures.

Where is Loveland Pass in Colorado?

Directions to Loveland Pass Colorado

alpenglow on the tips of snow mountains you can see from the Continental Divide overlook on Loveland Pass in Colorado

Loveland Pass is located in the northern central part of Colorado, with both ends accessible from i70.

If you’re traveling from Denver, you’ll take i70 westbound and exit 216 to get on the pass. Once you exit, the road will take you right to US 6 (aka Loveland Pass).

A little over 4 miles of driving will get you to the continental divide (at 11,990 feet elevation). There’s a parking area on the left side of the road located at the GPS coordinates below.

If you’re traveling to Loveland Pass from the west (e.g., Vail, Colorado), then you can exit 205 off i70 and then keep right to get on US 6.

It’s about 16 miles of driving before you get to the top of Loveland Pass from this end. You’ll pass by Keystone and then begin the trek upward to the continental divide and summit of the pass.

  • GPS Coordinates (Top of Loveland Pass/Continental Divide): 39.663589, -105.878858
  • Nearest Towns: Silver Plume (to the northeast) and Dillon and Keystone (to the southwest)
  • Loveland Pass Length: 20 miles (from exit 216 on i70 to the start of US 6 in Dillon)
  • Loveland Pass Elevation (Highest Point): 11,990 ft
  • Elevation Gain: 3,197 ft
  • Cell Service: none/minimal (we recommend downloading offline maps and bringing a satellite device like this brand we use)

When Will Loveland Pass Open?

And When Does Loveland Pass Close?

view of Grizzly Peak at dawn on a summer morning on Loveland Pass Colorado

Loveland Pass, unlike many of Colorado’s other mountain passes, is actually open year round. CDOT does occasionally close it due to severe winter weather, but once the roads have been cleared, it opens back up.

Its year-round accessibility is also what makes it a popular spot for backcountry skiing and other winter sports. Although, it is worth noting that the roads can get icy during the winter months and there are steep drop-offs and no guardrails in some of the diciest areas.

If you plan to drive Loveland Pass Colorado in the winter (or even during parts of spring and fall), we highly recommend bringing an AWD vehicle or equipping your car with tire chains.

Leave No Trace Note: Loveland Pass Colorado has several trails located in what is referred to as the “alpine tundra”. This area is known for its spongey, grass-like plant life that is extraordinarily delicate and can take decades to grow back if trampled.

When hiking in the tundra, please stay on the trail at all times. We want to keep Loveland Pass beautiful for generations to come.

Why We Love Loveland Pass

Puns Aside, What Makes It So Special?

snow covered mountains on Loveland Pass on a cold winter night

As Colorado locals, we spend pretty much all of our free time exploring our state. And we have a special thing for mountain passes. If there’s an option to take the scenic route, we do.

Loveland Pass is one of those scenic Colorado mountain pass drives that make this exploration easy. It’s a spot that’s perfect for advanced adventurers and newbies alike. It’s great for families and solid for solo travelers.

And the fact that it’s accessible year round makes it perfect for those days when you’re missing the high alpine in the dead of winter and so many other roads are closed.

Plus, its location along i70 gives you accessibility to some of best mountain towns in the state

Make Loveland Pass a Part of a Bigger Colorado Excursion

Why stop at just one mountain pass? We love the idea of making your drive up Loveland Pass a part of a bigger trip.

If you’re visiting Colorado and have a couple weeks open, we highly recommend hitting up some of our favorite spots. And we’ve crafted an epic CO road trip itinerary that covers all the details.

Our Favorite Seasons for Driving Loveland Pass Colorado

view of the second lake on pass lake trail on Loveland Pass on a summer morning

If you’re looking to hike the trails along Loveland Pass Colorado or peep the wildflowers in the high alpine, summer is hands-down the best season. Generally speaking the time window between early July and late August gives you the most accessibility, as it’s the least likely time of year for winter storms at very high elevations.

That said, most high alpine locations in Colorado, like Loveland Pass, experience high altitude thunderstorms that can be extremely dangerous. The best way to avoid these is to explore at sunrise.

We also love winter on Loveland Pass. It turns into a stunningly snowy wonderland, with gorgeous views of the mountains. You’ll want to bring along snowshoes if you plan to do any hiking, as spots like Loveland Pass Lake have snow several feet deep in winter.

If you’re into skiing, there are also plenty of options nearby, including A-Basin, Loveland Ski Area, and Keystone, as well as backcountry routes (just be aware of the avalanche risks on the pass, as even the most experienced backcountry skiers can get caught in the wrong place at the wrong time).

snow covered mountains on Loveland Pass Colorado bathed in warm sunset alpenglow

The worst season? Personally, we don’t love Loveland Pass Colorado in the spring. This season tends to be very muddy, with snow still melting all the way through June. It’s not snow sport friendly, but it’s also not hiking friendly, either. We like to call this the “meh” season.

Autumn on Loveland Pass Colorado isn’t bad, but it isn’t a huge fall colors spot. LP is not really a hub for aspen trees, so you mostly see drying out alpine grasses and shrubbery. As far as scenic fall locations in Colorado, Loveland Pass isn’t really it.

If seeing stunning aspens if your goal, spots like Indy Pass are where you want to travel to.

When's the Best Time to Travel to Colorado (and Loveland Pass)?

Colorado’s seasons can be seriously wild. And some are definitely better than others, particularly when you’re planning to adventure on mountain roads like Loveland Pass. We cover everything you should keep in mind in our guide to the best time windows to travel in the Rockies.

Best Places to Stay When Visiting Loveland Pass

The Closest Lodging for Excursions on Loveland Pass

hazy summer morning on the Loveland Pass Lake hiking trail

If you’re traveling to Loveland Pass from out of town, the best lodging options are going to be in Keystone, Colorado. Keystone is right along US 6 (aka Loveland Pass), about 14 miles from the top/continental divide.

We’ve included some awesome places to stay below, from budget-friendly spots to larger homes for groups:

  • This beautifully renovated, modern townhome has the prettiest interior design and is giving serious luxury vibes. And for how many people it sleeps (8), it’s a total steal for the area, especially with a private hot tub and fire pit.
  • This gorgeously modern mountain home is perfection if you’re traveling with a large group for a winter ski trip. It sleeps 12 and could not cooler. It’s located super close to the lifts and has a hot tub to relax your sore muscles after a long day on the slopes.
  • This dreamy mountain house is perfect if you’re traveling with family. It sleeps 12 and has the cutest bunkbeds that’ll make the time away from home that much more fun for the kiddos.
  • This luxury abode is basically made for outdoors entertaining. If you’re traveling to Loveland Pass with a group, this is the perfect home base for enjoying a cup of hot cocoa by the fire in that dreamy backyard. And the interior of the home is just stunning.
  • This budget-friendly find is great if you’re traveling with a smaller group and need a place with the essentials, like a kitchen stocked with the cookware you need to avoid eating out every night and a cozy fireplace to snuggle up by after a day hiking on a snowy Loveland Pass.
fall sunset on Loveland Pass with pink hued clouds and snow on the ground

The Dillon/Silverthorne area also has plenty of options for places to stay. Those two cities are located right along i70, making them super accessible for anyone traveling from the airport. There are lots of grocery stores, restaurants, and shops in this area, too, along with being centrally located near lots of ski resorts and hiking trails.

If you’re traveling with a large group, this cabin style mountain home in Silverthorne is an awesome choice. It sleeps 10 and is close to Keystone, Copper, Breckenridge, and Vail. So it’s a great hub for exploring a lot of the trails and ski runs in the area.

Looking for Epic Hikes Near Copper Mountain?

Mayflower Gulch, one of our favorite hikes, is just a short 10 minute drive away from Copper Mountain. And it’s a great spot for cross country skiing in the winter and wildflower sightings in the summer.

Loveland Pass Colorado FAQs

Is Loveland Pass a Scary Drive?

pink sunset over a switchback with a steep drop off on Loveland Pass Colorado

Depending on your tolerance for heights, Loveland Pass can be a scary drive. If you’re traveling from the north end (from exit 216 off i70), you’ll encounter a few sections of road with steep drop-offs and twisting switchbacks before you get to the overlook at the continental divide.

There are no guardrails in this area, making it particularly scary if you’re driving during the winter. However, the southern half of Loveland Pass Colorado is a lot less scary. While it does include several twists and turns, there aren’t as many sharp cliff edges.

If you have a fear of heights, we highly recommend driving Loveland Pass from the Keystone, Colorado (southern) side and making your way north. This ensures you’re not driving along the cliff side edge on the scariest stretch of the road.

alpenglow on the tips of snow mountains you can see from the Continental Divide overlook on Loveland Pass in Colorado

The scariest parts of Loveland Pass Colorado are above tree line, at elevations higher than 11,000 ft. Not only do you not have trees blocking the steep drop-offs, but the high alpine conditions make this section of road particularly susceptible to dangerous weather conditions, including heavy snow and high winds.

If you can, avoid driving Loveland Pass Colorado during winter weather. CDOT will close the pass if weather becomes too treacherous, but we don’t recommend waiting until this happens. If you are driving up Loveland in the snow, it’s best to do so with a vehicle that’s AWD or has tire chains.

Pro Tip: Colorado mountain passes like Loveland Pass are no joke in the winter months. We highly advise being prepared for winter conditions with an emergency kit handy in your vehicle. You’ll want some warm essentials like emergency blankets and hand and foot warmers at the bare minimum.

How Long Does it Take to Drive Through Loveland Pass?

snow covered mountains on Loveland Pass Colorado bathed in warm sunset alpenglow with the road meandering through the valley

Loveland Pass is about 20 miles long and generally speaking, driving through without making stops takes anywhere from 35 to 45 minutes. But stopping to admire the mountains is a must, so we don’t recommend rushing through the trip.

Given that this is a common route for semi trucks who cannot go through the tunnel, it’s common to get stuck behind these vehicles, which can slow down your pace. However, we personally don’t mind this slow down, because it gives us the opportunity to admire the views along Loveland Pass.

There are also several roadside pull-offs where you can stop to breathe in the fresh mountain air, have a snack, and soak in the Rockies.

Loveland Pass Colorado is also home to some great hikes, ranging from light strolls to more challenging routes. More on that later, but we love to make a day out of our mountain pass adventures to fully explore these trails (especially in the summer).

view of a rainbow colored sunset on the snowy mountains near the continental divide overlook on Loveland Pass

So while, yes, you can technically drive the entirety of Loveland Pass in less than an hour, you’re missing so much by doing so. Take your time and soak in everything. 

At the very least, make sure to stop at the Loveland Pass overlook at the continental divide. There are gorgeous sweeping views looking down on the valley where i70 runs through, a couple thousand feet below. This spot is our favorite at sunrise and sunset.

view of i70 from the continental divide overlook on Loveland Pass on a winter evening

Pro Tip: Getting sunburned when you’re above tree line is super common. Even if you typically don’t burn easily, the elevation on Loveland Pass, and in Colorado in general, makes sunburns more common.

If you’re planning on doing any hiking or snow sports while on the pass, a solid sunscreen is highly recommended. This is the sunscreen we use for our faces (we love that it doesn’t leave a chalky residue or clog pores), and this is the sweat-resistant one we use everywhere else.

Living in the Rockies, it’s hard to find a good sunscreen that actually lasts and avoids gnarly burns, and our family swears by these, especially when visiting places with virtually no tree cover, like Loveland Pass.

Road Conditions - Is Loveland Pass in Colorado Paved?

section of paved road on Loveland Pass Colorado near the continental divide overlook

Yes, Loveland Pass Colorado is paved all the way through. And given it’s a major route for semi trucks that cannot travel through the Eisenhower Tunnel, it is very well maintained year round.

Is Loveland Pass Colorado Known For Having Good Fall Colors?

view of the second lake on pass lake trail located on Loveland Pass in Colorado

If you’re looking to do some fall leaf peeping while in Colorado, unfortunately, Loveland Pass isn’t the place to go. Like we mentioned earlier, it’s not known as an aspen-heavy area, and you’ll mostly just see browning tundra and some shrubbery that changes to autumnal oranges and reds for the season.

That’s not to say it’s not pretty. It’s just that Loveland Pass is not famous for its fall colors. The photo above gives you a good idea of what early fall in this area looks like.

For the best fall colors experience, Indy Pass outside of Aspen is a must visit. And Cottonwood is also quite gorgeous (although, it does have less aspens than Indy). In terms of our favorite towns for autumn, Telluride is always a no-brainer. Fall there is iconic (the drive up to Alta Lakes alone makes a fall trip 100% worth it).

Is Loveland Pass a Good Place to Have an Elopement?

couple standing together during their elopement on Loveland Pass in the summer

Thinking about getting married on LP? There are a few key pros and cons to planning a Loveland Pass elopement. For starters, the views are incredible, especially during the summer wildflower season.

There are also plenty of easily accessible spots along Loveland Pass to have your elopement ceremony, which is perfect if you’re bringing along friends or family who may not be avid hikers.

As for drawbacks, Loveland Pass is definitely a busier Colorado mountain pass, so you’ll need to navigate crowds when planning your elopement. We provide some advice on how to deal with this later. 

Need All the Details on What to See In Rocky Mountain National Park?

We live within an hour from Rocky and visit all the time. If this is one of your first times going to the park, we’ve curated a guide to all the must-see spots in Rocky Mountain.

Hiking Trails on Loveland Pass

snow covered mountains with alpenglow in winter

Loveland Pass Colorado is home to a nice selection of hiking options, ranging from super easy to challenging. These are a few of our favorites (we’ve included difficulty ratings as well, so you can choose one that matches the level of adventure you’re going for):

Loveland Pass Lake - An Easy Hiking Option

Loveland Pass Lake hiking trail frozen in the late fall during a cold sunset with alpenglow on the mountains

Loveland Pass Lake is a classic. It’s a loop trail located 0.6 miles south of the continental divide, and you’ll pass the road to the trailhead on the righthand side of the road on your way down LP towards Keystone.

The trail itself has virtually no elevation gain (68 feet) and clocks in at 0.8 miles. It’s an easy stroll-like hike, but you get great bank for your buck, with three little lakes making an appearance on the route. The first lake is Pass Lake, the second (which is our favorite) is Lake Kaz, and the third is more of an unnamed pond.

While technically this trail is open year round, like all of Loveland Pass, the road to the trailhead and the parking lot for pass lake aren’t maintained in the winter (and the snow get several feet deep). So unless you’re planning on snowshoeing in, you’ll want to plan for late spring, summer or early fall.

We personally love hiking Loveland Pass Lake in mid-July (especially at sunrise), when the summer wildflowers are everywhere. This is definitely the most scenic time to drive Loveland Pass Colorado and hike this trail.

Sniktau Mountain Trail - A Challenging Hiking Option

Mt Sniktau is one of Colorado’s many 13’ers, and it’s one of the main hiking attractions on Loveland Pass. While it’s a shorter hike, at only 3.8 miles, it packs a punch, sneaking in approximately 1,608 feet of elevation gain in that short window.

But the views are worth it. You’re basically hiking up a ridge and you’re rewarded with expansive mountain views all around. Truly stunning.

It’s important to note, you’re basically entirely exposed to wind and sun on the hike up to Sniktau (and boy does this area get windy). A solid sunscreen is a must for this hiking trail. And in the winter, MICROspikes can be crucial for gripping packed down snow and icy terrain.

Just be aware, the parking for Sniktau fills up very quickly, especially on weekends when Loveland Pass Colorado it at its busiest. Aim to arrive before sunrise (and ideally on a weekday) to snag a spot.

Hiking Tip: Looking to hike some more 13’ers on LP? Cupid Peak and Grizzly Peak are also solid options along the pass.

West Ridge Trail - A Moderate Hiking Option

pink sunset on West Ridge hiking trail on Loveland Pass Colorado in the winter

The parking area for Sniktau and the West Ridge Trail is actually the same (these are the coordinates: 39.663589, -105.878858), but after you park you’ll have to cross over Loveland Pass to hike this one, as the trailhead is on the other side of the road.

Similar to Sniktau, you get wide, expansive mountain views basically the entire way. But it’s a bit easier and shorter than Sniktau. It’s only 2.8 miles round trip, with 639 feet of elevation gain.

That said, it’s worth noting that this section of Loveland Pass is quite high in elevation, and the hike starts at nearly 12,000 ft above sea level.

Being acclimated to the elevation will be crucial (both in terms of your endurance and avoidance of altitude sickness). Those coming from lower elevations may find this to be a more challenging route, otherwise.

Considering Making Colorado Your New Home?

There’s no doubt Colorado is gorgeous, but does moving here make sense? Our guide to all the benefits and drawbacks of living in CO covers everything you need to know.

How to Avoid Traffic and Crowds on Loveland Pass Colorado

snow covered mountains on a winter day

We share a common piece of advice on pretty much all of our mountain pass guides, and it’s no different for Loveland Pass: if you want to avoid crowds, plan to drive during the less popular times of day (sunrise, in particular) and on weekdays.

We’re obsessed with Loveland Pass at sunrise. Frankly, it’s the prettiest time of day there, and the golden hour morning light is truly something else. Loveland Pass Lake is especially gorgeous at sunrise.

In the winter months, if there’s a good snowfall, tons of people flock to Loveland Pass for skiing. And this is even more pronounced on snowy weekends. In the summer, families and solo hikers alike make their way up LP to hit the hiking trails and peep the wildflowers.

The best way to steer clear of these large crowds is to aim for a weekday excursion, if possible. And this one probably goes without saying, but avoiding holidays is key. Places like Loveland Pass Colorado are super popular on holidays.

Even with crowds and traffic, though, Loveland Pass is iconic for a reason. And we hope our guide helps you enjoy all the exciting adventures it has to offer.

We're Your Guides to All Things Colorado

Sheena and Ed here! We’re hikers, outdoors advocates, and adventure photographers. And we don’t believe in gatekeeping the best Colorado has to offer.

Have a few weeks off work and want to see the best of Colorado? We’ve created the perfect 2-3 week itinerary.

Only have a short window of time to travel? Our list of our favorite mountain towns in Colorado can help you narrow down which spots you should make sure to add to your itinerary.

And make sure to take a peek at our guide to the best times of year to be in the Rockies, because not all seasons here a great for visiting.

Sheena Shahangian Photography LLC

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