Loveland Pass the Local’s Guide

As the alternative route through the Eisenhower Tunnel, Loveland Pass is a wonderful scenic drive found right near I-70. The top of the pass features a few fun-filled activities and plenty of drool-worthy views. For the uninitiated, the climb to the top of the pass can feel a bit dizzying.

As one of the premier scenic drives in Colorado, Loveland Pass is like a rite of passage for anyone in Colorado. The easy access makes this drive a quick hitter. Perfect for a quick sunset jaunt into the mountains, you can’t miss Loveland Pass.

I’ve lived in Colorado for over 13 years and literally can’t count the number of times I’ve been to Loveland Pass. From backcountry skiing to high-alpine hikes, you’ll get spanning mountain views from the top. So if you’re looking to explore Loveland Pass like a local, not a tourist, then you’re in the right place.

About this Guide to Loveland Pass

Inside this local guide to Loveland Pass, you’ll find:

  • Practical information about Loveland Pass, such as the location, and drive times
  • Hikes along Loveland Pass
  • Other recreation opportunities
  • Additional Colorado travel resources you don’t want to miss
loveland pass in spring

Where is Loveland Pass?

Loveland Pass is a high-altitude pass (11,990 feet to be exact) that bypasses the Eisenhower Tunnel. To get there from Denver, simply take I-70 west until you reach the Loveland Pass Exit. The pass itself goes from outside of Silver Plume to Keystone.

From there, you’ll head up and over the Continental Divide. You’ll pass the Loveland Ski Area, Arapaho Basin, and Keystone. The route dumps you off in Silverton, where you can reconnect with I-70.

The total drive time from Denver to the top of the pass is 1 hour and 10 minutes – making it an easy day trip from Denver. For the full map click here.

The History of Loveland Pass

Loveland Pass opened in 1910 and was the original way through the Continental Divide until the Eisenhower Tunnel opened in 1973.

The pass is named after William A.H. Loveland, who was the president of the Colorado Central Railroad.

Traditionally, the Arapaho and Ute Native Americans used the area for migrating and living during the summer months.

Best Time to Drive Loveland Pass?

Loveland Pass is an easy adventure year-round. In fact, it’s one of the most accessible scenic drives near Denver.

There are a few times of the year when Loveland Pass is truly stunning. June through July is a particularly beautiful time to explore Loveland Pass. The snow-capped peaks and lush alpine meadows are truly beautiful. Not to mention the wildflowers bloom too!

However, you’ll want to avoid Loveland Pass during the afternoons of the monsoon season (July through mid-August) if you plan to get out and explore. Treacherous thunderstorms pose a lightning threat.

Winters are lovely too, although driving conditions can vary. However, if you’re looking to get into some challenging winter hiking (and you have proper avalanche safety training), Loveland Pass has some awesome “beginner” winter summits nearby.

You’ll want to avoid Loveland Pass late afternoons on weekends and mid-morning on summer weekends. The traffic on I-70 is horrendous during this time, so getting to Loveland Pass can be a bit frustrating. Not to mention, if the tunnel is closed, Loveland Pass backs up as it is the alternative for through-travelers. Also, traffic stacks up pretty heavily from 6 am to 11 am heading westbound during ski season.

Local Tip: Loveland Pass is an awesome place to go for sunrise or sunset. It’s easy to get a killer view, and you won’t have to contend with traffic.

What is the Loveland Pass Elevation?

Loveland Pass is located at 11,990 feet above sea level. The air here is thin! If you’re coming from out of town, don’t be surprised if you’re out of breath atop Loveland Pass. Be sure to acclimatize safely to the altitude before attempting any hard hikes in the area.

loveland pass - cupid peak

How Long Does it Take to Drive Loveland Pass?

From the time you get off of the highway until you reach Keystone is roughly 20 to 30 minutes depending on how slowly you’re driving. If you want to return to I-70 you’ll travel another 20 minutes or so depending on traffic.

Is Loveland Pass a Scary Drive?

For the Colorado local, no, Loveland Pass is one of the easier scenic drives in Colorado. But for the uninitiated, some of the switchbacks crawling up towards the divide can be nerve-wracking, especially in the winter.

However, the road is paved and there are guardrails in place. Take your time and go slowly.

Loveland Pass Hike

At the top of Loveland Pass, you’ll find a large-ish parking lot and a few awesome hiking opportunities. Most of the hikes located off of the pass are rated as difficult. This is because they tend to be steep and at very high altitude. If you head west from Loveland Pass, you’ll encounter easier terrain.

Loveland Pass hiking

Grizzly Peak and Cupid Peak

Grizzly Peak (13,433′) and Cupid Peak (13,117′) are two popular Colorado 13ers located off Loveland Pass. The trail is steep, but short – making it a great option for the more beginner peak bagger.

Local Tip: In winter this trail goes through dangerous avalanche terrain. You’ll need to take a safer winter route (on the ridge proper) in order to avoid avalanche danger.

Head east on the Mt Sniktau Trail. Once you reach the top of the false summit a trail veers southeast (right). Follow it to the top of Cupid and continue onwards to the summit of Grizzly.

Distance: 6.7 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,631 feet
Difficulty: Hard
Approximate Time: 5 hours
Dog Friendly: Yes, on leash

Loveland pass hike

West Ridge Trail

For a more moderate hike, consider heading west from the Loveland Pass Summit parking area. You’ll still get expansive views, but not nearly as much elevation gain required. Typically the west side sees fewer crowds too.

Distance: 2.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 639 feet
Difficulty: Moderate
Approximate Time: 1.5 hours
Dog Friendly: Yes, on leash

Local Tip: This is a great sunset jaunt! Just be sure to pack a headlamp.

Mount Sniktau

Arguably one of the most popular Colorado 13ers, Mount Sniktau is worth doing at least once. This straightforward summit delivers you views of the Tenmile Range, Gore Range, and many of the most famous mountains along the Front Range.

It’s a great first mountain climb and an excellent training hike if you’re into tougher stuff.

Distance: 4 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,587 feet
Difficulty: Hard
Approximate Time: 2 hours
Dog Friendly: Yes, on leash

Mt sniktau at loveland pass

Loveland Pass Ski Season

A lot of people head to Loveland Pass to enjoy skiing. There’s plenty (albeit dangerous at times) of backcountry skiing along the pass. A lot of skiers and riders start at the top of the pass, then hitch rides back up to run laps. Just because there’s a crowd, doesn’t mean avalanches aren’t abundant in the area. Always practice safe snow travel and bring your avalanche gear.

For in-resort skiing, Loveland Pass is home to Loveland Ski Resort, one of the best ski resorts near Denver. Its budget-friendly pricing and fun-filled terrain make an excellent day out for beginners and experts alike. Typically, the ski season for Loveland runs from late November to early April.

Additional Things to Do Near Loveland Pass

Loveland Pass is located so close to a variety of awesome things to do in Colorado. Nearby you’ll find a variety of attractions and activities suitable for all types of adventurers. A few fan favorites include:

Additional Local Colorado Travel Resources

Looking to get out like a local in Colorado? I’ve got you covered with these amazing insider resources:

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Meg aka Fox is a 30-something who's born to explore. Her mission is to get you out on your greatest adventure. She'd rather be dirty than done up.