While in the area, we decided to ride Medano Pass Primitive Road. This road is passable only in the warmer months with a high clearance 4X4 vehicle, crosses areas of deep sand and traverses Medano Creek nine times. We rode it on our mountain bikes and it was awesome. Our out and back was 23.4 miles with 2596′ of climbing to the highpoint of 10,200′.
As Lewis and Clark’s expedition was returning east, U.S. Army Lt. Pike was commissioned to explore as far west as the Arkansas and Red Rivers. By the end of November 1806, Pike and his men had reached the site of today’s Pueblo, Colorado. Still pushing southwest, and confused about the location of the Arkansas River, Pike crossed the Sangre de Cristo Mountains just above the Great Sand Dunes.
Medano Pass is one of only a handful of primitive roads that cross the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. We waited to ride this after a night of rain because it is EXTREMELY sandy in sections. Good decision on our part because it was perfect for our mountain bikes. The ride starts inside Great Sand Dunes National Park on a sandy road that skirts the dunes and then heads up into the backcountry. Bikes are definitely faster than anything on this road because of the tight rocky steep sections. We easily passed a few jeeps on our way out to the pass.
Water crossings! There are 9 numbered water crossings and they were deep enough that we carried our bikes across most of them to save our chains from the repeated water then sand combinations. Signs warn drivers to drive through them slowly to keep from drowning vehicle engines.
At the top of the pass we took a break and then headed back. Obviously riding back was way faster because it is mostly downhill. Again, we easily flew by about 5 jeeps working their way through the rocky sections. It’s a narrow path and at one point we came upon a jeep coming one way and a truck coming the other and an extensive maneuvering was underway for them to get by each other. No problem for us, we blasted right by on the side and left them to figure it out.
The ride is drop dead gorgeous and incredibly different from beginning to end. There aren’t many places we’ve visited with quite this diversity in such a small area.