Cars driving through snowy mountain road surrounded by trees

How long is Berthoud Pass?

Published by Pat Dorri on November 22 2023

The Rocky Mountains are one of the great natural wonders of North America, running for more than 3,000 miles across Canada and the United States. Cutting across the Front Range of the Colorado Rockies, you'll find Berthoud Pass, a spectacular scenic drive.

Berthoud Pass is a 44-mile scenic byway that runs through the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. It will take around 1 hour to drive the byway, but we definitely recommend stopping to enjoy the view at the summit or to hike the Berthoud Pass Trailhead.

Just 40 miles west of Denver, Berthoud Pass is an unforgettable way to immerse yourself in the scenery of the Rocky Mountains, whatever time of year you're traveling. Keep on reading for more details on how long it will take to drive and other things to plan for on your journey.

How long is Berthoud Pass?

Berthoud Pass follows a stunning 44-mile route through the Rocky Mountains. Allowing some time to stop and admire the view from the summit, the drive will take around 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Snowcapped mountains and twisting road, mountain pass in Colorado on a sunny day
Berthoud Pass is a 44-mile long drive that will take you through the beautiful Colorado Rockies.
Arina P Habich/

That means that you can easily drive the Berthoud Pass in the morning, but with some amazing hiking and winter sports opportunities along the pass, you might want to build in some extra time to hike or ski.

You don't need to make an overnight stop on this route, but if you want to hike the trail, or even if you're just looking for a relaxed break in the mountains, it might be best to stay overnight. There are hotels at Winter Park and Granby, which are ideal hubs to explore the Berthoud Pass.

If you'd like to learn more about how to drive through Berthoud Pass in the safest way possible, click here for our guide.

Driving from Empire to Granby via Berthoud Pass

To begin your drive across the Berthoud Pass, leave I-70 near Lawson and join US-40 towards Empire, CO. Around 7 miles along the highway, you'll meet Berthoud Falls and navigate a sharp hairpin turn, which marks the start of a very windy section of the road.

13 miles from Empire is Berthoud Pass Summit, which sits 11,307 feet above sea level. There's ample parking here and you'll notice the signs as you approach.

After Berthoud Pass Summit, continue on US-40 towards Winter Park and then Granby to complete your drive.

Where is Berthoud Pass located?

As you've already learned, Berthoud Pass runs through the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. When you drive the route, you'll follow US Highway 40, also known as Berthoud Pass Scenic Byway.

You can join the highway at Empire and then follow it through the unforgettable mountain landscape to Granby. The route's high point is Berthoud Pass Summit, which you'll reach 13 miles after setting out from Empire.

Aerial view of the pass, green hills and blue skies with clouds
Berthoud Pass, located high up in the Rocky Mountains, is a beautiful drive that goes back to the 19th century.

Berthoud Pass has a rich history dating back to the mid-19th century when Swiss-American engineer Edward L. Berthoud surveyed the pass, hoping to find a way through the Rocky Mountains.

The route he discovered was named after him and became an important transportation route during the Gold Rush of the 1850s.

The original road across Berthoud Pass used by miners, settlers, and stagecoaches was rough. However, as time went on, the modern highway was developed, driven by the popularity of winter sports and tourism. US-40 now offers more convenient and safer travel along paved roads.

travel times and distances to Berthoud Pass summit from major cities
FromDistanceDriving Time
Denver55 miles1 hour
Boulder65 miles1 hour 20 minutes
Colorado Springs120 miles12 hours
Cheyenne150 miles2 hours 30 minutes
Albuquerque410 miles7 hours 20 minutes
Salt Lake City500 miles7 hours 40 minutes
Las Vegas720 miles10 hours 20 minutes
Phoenix800 miles12 hours 20 minutes

Things to know that can impact your driving time

Although Berthoud Pass is a relatively short drive, there are a few things that could affect how long you spend on the road.

Leave yourself some time to stop at Berthoud Pass Summit, where you can pull up and admire the view from this lofty vantage point. A 30-minute stop here will extend your driving time on Berthoud Pass to 1 hour 30 minutes.

The summit is also the best place to access the Berthoud Pass Trailhead. This is a challenging, 3-hour 30-minute hike which is likely to be a highlight for some travelers. If you're stopping to complete the hike, allow at least 4 hours and 30 minutes between departing from Empire and arriving in Granby.

Snow covered highway lined with trees
Snow and ice might cause delays on your drive through Berthoud Pass.
Arina P Habich/

Even up here in the mountains, traffic can impact on your driving time. Traffic, including roadside hikers, can add around 20 minutes to the journey.

This is a popular route for skiers traveling to Berthoud Pass so the roads can get busy in winter, especially in peak ski season from December to February. This is compounded by drivers slowing down for potentially icy road conditions.

Road closures or event avalanches have the most significant impact on driving time. Although these are not everyday occurrences, always check ahead and be sure that road conditions are safe before you set out.

Speed limits are also important to bear in mind. Most of this route is capped at 45 MPH. However, the speed limit can drop as low as 15 MPH around switchbacks.

Please note that our routes and time estimates consider these speed limits, but any closures, roadworks, weather conditions or diversions may impact these. Be sure to check local advisories before you travel and, on these steep and twisty roads, don't be tempted to rush, even if you're trying to make up time.

Tips to drive Berthoud Pass in the shortest possible time

The Berthoud Pass is a spectacular route through the Rocky Mountains, so you'll want to spend your driving time enjoying the ride rather than stopping for unnecessary distractions.

Here are our top tips to drive the route in the shortest possible time:

  • It is a good idea to have two drivers available so you can alternate behind the wheel do not overexert yourself.
  • Opt for a fuel-efficient vehicle instead of one with high fuel consumption to reduce the frequency of needing to refuel.
  • If you can, avoid holidays and weekends, when there's likely to be more traffic.
  • To avoid traffic and make the most of daylight hours, start early in the morning.
  • Stock up on snacks before you leave so that you don't have to backtrack for a picnic.
  • Check the road conditions before the drive. Use the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) website or mobile app to get real-time updates on road closures, traffic, and weather alerts.
  • Berthoud Pass includes passing lanes allowing you to overtake slower vehicles. Use these lanes when it is safe to do so.

During the winter months, Colorado law may require vehicles to have appropriate tires or chains. Before you set out, make sure your vehicle has the necessary equipment ready to use as needed.

Traffic driving up twist of the pass on a dark winter day
Starting your drive through Berthoud Pass in the morning will allow you to avoid the traffic.
Brian Wolski/

Best time to drive through Berthoud Pass

Berthoud Pass is open all year, so if you're seeking out winter sports or views of the snow-capped Rocky Mountains, this is the perfect time to travel.

However, dangerous road conditions can lead to temporary closures in winter. Closures occur in the most extreme cases of heavy snowfall for safety reasons.

Milder conditions from May to September mean snow and ice are less likely, so the drive will be safer and more straightforward in spring, summer and fall.

You'll have better visibility when you stop to admire the view across the Rockies, and outside major holidays and weekends, the road is relatively quiet even in the summer.