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Old 08-10-2010, 07:06 AM   #1
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U.S Route 160, Wolfe Creek Pass, Colorado

I am planning a trip West in September and one of the routes I am considering is U.S. Route 160 from Mesa Verde National Park to Walsenburg, Colorado. I will be pulling a 2007 25' Airstream with a F-150 Ford pickup that has a tow package.

Has anyone out there pulled their airstream over this route with a similar tow vehicle? I am particularly interested in Wolf Creek Pass and any insight into how difficult it was for anyone who has driven it with a trailer.

Being from Maryland I am a greenhorn so if anyone can jot a few lines about your experiences I will thank you mightily. Heavyjumbo
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Old 08-10-2010, 07:45 AM   #2
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Went over the pass yesterday pulling a 75 TW with my 07 Tundra and had no problems. It's a beautiful ride.
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Old 08-10-2010, 07:52 AM   #3
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In my opinion you would be almost under sized on your truck. The western side of the pass is the stepest. I wouldn't even try it without adding an external transmission cooler to keep the trans. cool enough to prevent damage. Keep your RPM up. You will most likely be in first gear going up. Also do not even try it without a good brake controler. It will be a long slow trip over the top and down the eastern side. The western side is a 7% grade the eastern side is 6%.
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Old 08-10-2010, 08:03 AM   #4
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As passes go, not too bad. If I remember right the grade is more constant and the road does not have as many switchbacks as some others.
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Old 08-10-2010, 08:10 AM   #5
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Wolf Creek is one of the five steeper passes in Colorado. Grades up to 8% and turns marked as low as 25 mph.
Tens of thousands of people have safely made it over the pass in rigs similar to yours. Your trailer is within the tow rating of you F-150.
Very heavy over the road trucks occasionally have a problem if they are going too fast and heat up their brakes. You will see Runaway Truck Lanes with heavy gravel or water filled barrels to stop these trucks.
The technique for driving your rig is to slow down and gear down. Take the corners at the recommended speed or slower. Don't ride your brakes. Use them to slow down and then use your engine to hold down your speed.
You will pick up lots of traffic behind you. Don't let them make you go too fast. There are frequent pull outs. Pull over and let the traffic pass. Look at the view, take a picture. You are on vacation.
Check your brakes half way down. You will know if they are too hot as the wheels will be hot to the touch and the brakes will smell. Let them cool down if they get too hot and use your engine more as a brake when you resume.
There is no reason to change your route because of Wolf Creek Pass. But you can take the scenic backroads from Cortez (near Mesa Verde) to I-70 near Grand Junction.
I-70 is designed for heavy truck traffic and has maximum 6% grades and less sharp curves.
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Old 08-10-2010, 09:00 AM   #6
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Beautiful drive - never done it with a trailer. I'm from Mississippi, the grade seemed very high to a flatlander like me. Enjoy it, it's a wonderful road, you will not be the slowest there, be safe and stay off the brakes as much as possible. It's not a race.
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Old 08-10-2010, 09:06 AM   #7
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There are several places to pull off and enjoy the view. Our favorite is a gigantic lot just east of the snow shed.
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Old 08-10-2010, 09:24 AM   #8
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Wolf Creek Pass has a lot of passing lanes so you don't have to worry about taking your time going slower than regular traffic on the upgrades. As other have said, downshift on the downgrades to keep your speed down and feather your brakes. This is a long pass but the road is good. Enjoy the trip and just pull over to enjoy the views. There is also a very nice campground on the base of the west side called West Fork, on the San Juan River.
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Old 08-10-2010, 10:48 AM   #9
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Thanks

Thanks Richard,
We look forward to our trip and as this was the only worrisome (to me) stretch I appreciate your reply.

My friend in Albuqureque, said it will be a beautiful drive also.

Thanks again.
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Old 08-10-2010, 10:56 AM   #10
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Heavyjumbo, you might like to add this book to your rving library: Mountain Directory West, for Truckers, RV, and Motorhome Drivers. It offers maps, locations, and descriptions of over 400 mountain passes and steep grades in eleven western states. Paper back. I paid around sixteen dollars for it several years ago, but highly recommend it as a book to keep in the trailer when on western jaunts. Beautiful country you are going to, happy trails! ~G
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Old 08-10-2010, 10:59 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by maxandgeorgia View Post
Heavyjumbo, you might like to add this book to your rving library: Mountain Directory West, for Truckers, RV, and Motorhome Drivers. It offers maps, locations, and descriptions of over 400 mountain passes and steep grades in eleven western states. Paper back. I paid around sixteen dollars for it several years ago, but highly recommend it as a book to keep in the trailer when on western jaunts. Beautiful country you are going to, happy trails! ~G
Great read, I would not travel the "high hills" without it!
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Old 08-10-2010, 11:27 AM   #12
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The Wolf Creek Pass road was rebuilt several years ago and is a better road than before. It seems to me any modern 1/2 ton full sized pickup with a tow package should be able to drive any of the high passes. I think going downhill is more of a worry than going up—it's harder to stop. With a 6 speed automatic, I find 3rd is the gear I use most going down a long high pass or a steep downgrade—sometimes on less steep parts, 4th, and at very sharp curves and switchbacks, 2nd. I've never had a brake issue, maybe because I downshift. Make sure the trailer brakes are adjusted properly as this is easy to forget.

There is a way around. I think the route goes through Chama, NM, but can't remember offhand what the roads are. Look on a map—it's a loop south around the Pass. People used this route when the interminable rebuild of the Pass road went on for years with numerous and lengthy delays.

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Old 08-10-2010, 11:36 AM   #13
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There is a way around. I think the route goes through Chama, NM
We've pulled both of those passes; incredible in the fall!
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Old 08-10-2010, 03:03 PM   #14
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Just a tip, on the downgrades, if you have to ride the brakes, you are in too high a gear. The engine should hold your speed on downgrades, with only slight braking for any corners.

You should be fine on Wolf Creek Pass; beautiful area. We have driven it in the winter too, as they usually keep it clear for truckers and skiers. We found a great area to boondock a little bit north of the ski area. There is a turnoff for a campground, but a couple of hundred yards off the highway are some beautiful spots in the trees and by a stream. I'll try and get better directions and GPS coordinates and post them later. We stayed there two days and wished later in the vacation we had stayed a whole week!

One caution: If you plan on going north to I-70, the road from Silverton to Ouray is called the "Million Dollar Highway". Beautiful drive, but no guard rails. (They should have spent a few extra dollars to add them.) Northbound is on the inside, but watch for southbound traffic, as they are riding on the edge and will try to use your lane too.
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