Berthoud Pass is located west of Denver, and provides a high route between upper Clear Creek Canyon to the upper valley of the Fraser River in Middle Park to the north. The pass traverses the Continental Divide at the Front Range, on the border between Clear Creek County and Grand County.
The pass is named for Edward L. Berthoud, the chief surveyor of the Colorado Central Railroad during the 1870s. Accompanied by Jim Bridger, Berthoud discovered the pass in July 1861 while surveying a possible route for the railroad. Berthoud concluded that the pass was suitable as a wagon road, but not as a railroad, and was then hired by the Central Overland California and Pikes Peak Express Company to survey a route over the pass to Salt Lake.
The pass is one of the most notoriously difficult passes in Colorado for motorists, based on its height as well as the steep grades on both sides (6.3%) and the large number of switchbacks on the southern side of the pass. At least 55 avalanche paths have been mapped on Berthoud Pass; with some of them intersecting U.S. Highway 40,
Once home to the now-defunct Berthoud Pass Ski Area, the pass is a destination for local backcountry skiers, snowboarders, and snowshoers due to its abundance of steep and challenging terrain and plentiful snow averaging 500 inches annually. The twisting road on both sides of the pass also makes “car shuttles” possible, eliminating the need for skiers and snowboarders to hike back to the top of the pass after each run.
A new warming hut was opened at the top of the pass in May 2008, along with an expanded parking area, two scenic viewing areas and a new summit marker sign. The ski lodge and facilities had been in use since the early 1950s and the new warming hut includes modern features such as composting toilets, radiant floor heating and green construction.
Berthoud Ski resort is claimed by some to have been the first resort and lift in Colorado. Some say it was the first resort to openly welcome snowboarders.
The summit of Berthoud Pass is located at approximately.