Survey Says: These are Colorado’s best bike rides
Each month, we’re asking our members for feedback and suggestions to help guide, inform and inspire our work. Last week, we asked a fun question to help kick off the riding season: “What is a must-do ride (either road or mountain) in Colorado that you would recommend to a friend?”
Here are some of the most popular answers, plus resources so you can saddle up and do these, yourself. Happy riding!
MUST-DO COLORADO ROAD RIDES
Trail Ridge Road (Estes Park)
Trail Ridge Road is the highest continuous paved road in the U.S. It’s also the main road through Rocky Mountain National Park, which is currently open to bicycles but closed to cars through sometime in May. Trail Ridge Road is one of 10 America’s Byways in Colorado and a nationally designated All American Road.
The full route takes you from Estes Park to Grand Lake (48 miles one way), reaching an elevation of more than 12,000 feet. There is no loop; this is an out and back effort. Eleven miles of the road are above treeline, and the grades never exceed seven percent.
A word of caution: weather can be tricky this time of year. Check with the park before attempting this ride to learn about road conditions. As we’re writing this, the top of the road still needs to be plowed, even though it’s technically open to bicycles.
Mt. Evans (Idaho Springs area)
If Trail Ridge Road sounded too tame for you, consider pedaling up Mt. Evans–the highest paved road in North America. If you start in Idaho Springs, you’ll climb from 8,700 feet to 14,240 feet over 49 miles.
This is perhaps the best place in Colorado to catch a glimpse of the stately bighorn sheep. But never forget that the weather is volatile; be prepared for wind, rain, lightning, snow and hail any day of the year.
You can’t do this ride just yet, so put it on your to-do list. The road is typically open the Friday of Memorial Day weekend (May 26 this year) through the first weekend in October. The entire road will be closed on Saturday, July 15 until 2 p.m.for the Bob Cook Memorial Hill Climb bicycle race.
Lookout Mountain (Golden)
The actual ride up Lookout Mountain itself is only a 5-mile climb from downtown Golden to Buffalo Bill’s gravesite at just over 7,000 feet. Though short, Lookout Mountain is famous for road cycling (you will probably see more bikes than cars on weekends) and is often tacked onto other rides west of Denver.
From the top, you can extend your route by riding through the quiet neighborhoods to CO 40, which gives you access to Evergreen, Morrison and the Red Rocks area. Or descend Grapevine Road south of I-70 for a few miles of gravel before arriving in Idledale.
The view from Windy Saddle on Lookout Mountain. Photo: Katherine Fuller
Turquoise Lake (Leadville)
Turquoise Lake is 780-acre lake near Leadville that sits around 10,000 feet. The loop ride around the lake itself is a 15-mile loop with 1,300 feet of climbing on quiet roads. There are multiple parking options at picnic areas and campgrounds or start from downtown Leadville for a roughly 22-mile ride. The prime season for the ride is between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
Colorado National Monument (Fruita/Grand Junction)
Colorado National Monument encompasses a stunning, high-desert canyon landscape between Fruita and Grand Junction. The main road through the park is Rim Rock Drive, 23 miles in length and with a speed limit of just 25 mph. A popular route is to start and finish in Grand Junction via a 40-mile loop, but there are multiple ways to roll through this beautiful park.
You can also experience this ride Sept. 30, during the Tour of the Moon, a proud event supporter of Bicycle Colorado.
Colorado National Monument. Photo: Katherine Fuller
Copper Triangle (Summit County)
The “Copper Triangle” is actually an organized ride, taking place this year on August 5. The 78-mile loop takes riders over three Colorado Mountain passes: Fremont Pass (11,318 feet), Tennessee Pass (10,424 feet) and Vail Pass (10,666 feet) for a total elevation gain of 6,000 feet.
Riders start at Copper Mountain, head south to Leadville, then back north through Vail before completing the loop. Enjoy the organized ride with stocked aid stations (it raises money for a foundation) or head out on your own any time this summer!
MUST-DO COLORADO MOUNTAIN BIKE RIDES
We didn’t get nearly as many responses on mountain bike rides, but the ones that were mentioned are definitely worthy of checking out.
Monarch Crest (Salida)
Monarch Crest is an IMBA Epic–a route designated as an extra-special mountain bike ride in the U.S. by the International Mountain Bicycling Association. Beginning at Monarch Pass, the route travels 35 miles to its end point in Poncha Springs. Ridden this way, you’ll gain 2,281 feet and lose 6,100 feet (so, definitely do it this way and get a shuttle home!) on 85 percent singletrack, reaching a high of 11,900 feet shortly after beginning the ride.
The official Epic combines three trails: Monarch Crest Trail (14 miles), which follows a portion of the Continental Divide Trail; Silver Creek Trail (4.5 miles); and Rainbow Trail (10 miles). The full route includes five miles on pavement into Poncha Springs.
Monarch Crest. Photo: Leslie Kehmeier via MTBProject.com
Buffalo Creek (Pine)
The Buffalo Creek trail system, located about an hour southwest of Denver, was built and is maintained largely by and for mountain bikers on U.S. Forest Service land. There are so many trails to choose from, it’s difficult to determine the exact number of miles you could ride in the system.
One of the best-known rides is the Buffalo Creek Big Loop, and IMBA Epic. This route is 24 miles with 2,700 feet of climbing and a high elevation of 8,000 feet. It’s mostly smooth singletrack with several lengthy climbs and descents plus a mix of pine forests and wide-open, scenic mountain views through forest fire burn areas.
The Buffalo Creek area features everything from smooth dirt roads to intermediate trails with multiple optional lines to double-black diamond trails littered with bike-specific technical features.
Buffalo Creek. Photo: rodeo-labs.com
The 401 Trail (Crested Butte)
The 401 Trail in Crested Butte is only 8.6 miles one way, but don’t let that fool you. Whichever way you’re traveling, there’s plenty of steepness (max grade 30 percent). But the effort is worth it on this classic, alpine singletrack ride well-known for its stunning views and high point of 11,300 feet. Add on Gothic Road to create a 13.7-mile loop ride.
401 Trail. Photo: Steve Mokan, Chasing Epic via MTBProject.com