Santa Fe to Pagosa Springs is relatively flat, with a slight downhill curve section just before you get to Pagosa. No white knuckles there. Leaving Pagosa on highway 160 to go over Wolf Creek Pass isn't particularly difficult, however, it's a long climb up the pass to the Continental Divide. The downhill side requires some attention. You'll encounter a nice 4-lane highway until you get to the top of the pass, then a good 2 and 3 lane road until you get to the tunnel. From there, the road narrows. On your right will be a beautiful stream that follows you downhill. Gear down on the entire downhill section, staying in the same gear you went up Wolf Creek Pass, and you should be fine. There are some narrow passages and a few turns, but nothing major.
The valley opens up eventually, and the road is wide and clear. We drive this road frequently with our Discovery and GMC Acadia in tow. I'm used to white knuckle driving, and it's not an issue, having grown up in the mountains.
Heading up to Leadville, you will stay on highway 160 until you come to Del Norte. Turn left (north) onto highway 112, which joins highway 285, and it will save you a few miles instead of going to Monte Vista and turning left (north) on 285. Eventually, 285 will take you to highway 24 to Leadville. That section is relatively open and flat. From Leadville on to Interstate 70, there will be some twisty turns as you descend - Leadville is at 10,152 feet. Highway 91 will take you to I-70 when leaving Leadville. Good road, with the standard twisty turns of a mountain highway. Again, just remember to gear down and enjoy the ride.
Alternatively, if you want to do Leadville from Denver without this route above, take highway 160 from Pagosa over to Walsenberg - good road minimal curves, 4-lane in places, then take I-25 north to Denver. Easiest, non-white knuckle route. Enjoy!
Hope that helps!
Joe and Debbie, Emma the Aussie Cattle Dog who adopted us
2012 Discovery 36J, Blue Ox and Air Force One, 2010 GMC Acadia Toad
USAF (Ret) WDØM http://wd0m.com