Desert cycling in Colorado (Colorado.com)
Advice Words : Insider Secrets | 20 January

Rocky Mountain high: Colorado’s 7 best cycle routes

Colorado is a cyclist’s dream destination. From mountain climbs and scenic byways, to vineyard trails for casual pedallers, Colorado’s cycle routes provide a stunning backdrop for all abilities

1: Colorado National Monument

Cycling Rim Rock Drive in Colorado National Park (Dreamstime)

Cycling Rim Rock Drive in Colorado National Park (Dreamstime)

A popular yet challenging route, the 37km Rim Rock Drive through Colorado National Monument features spectacular views of red rock canyons and towering monoliths, with the chance to watch desert big horn sheep and elusive collared lizards.

A longer loop of 53km, which connects with roads outside the Monument, has an aggregate climb of 700 vertical metres.

2: Independence Pass

High pass cycling (Marc Piscotti/Colorado.com)

High pass cycling (Marc Piscotti/Colorado.com)

Independence Pass spans 60km between Aspen and Twin Lakes, rising to its summit at 3,700 metres. Along the road, cyclists can see forests of aspens and evergreens, and the jagged silhouettes of the surrounding mountains.

Open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, the ideal time to ride this route is just ahead of its autumn closure to witness the aspens change from green to a shimmering gold. The ride takes 3.5 hours for proficient cyclists.

3: Scenic and Historic Byways

Cycling near Rio Grande (At Your Pace/Colorado.com)

Cycling near Rio Grande (At Your Pace/Colorado.com)

Colorado’s Scenic and Historic Byways meander through breath-taking scenery – and they're particularly spectacular in autumn. Cache La takes in the aspen and pine forests of North Fork from Fort Collins. Peak to Peak near Rocky Mountain National Park is a popular route for triathlon celebrities, with stunning views of rocky canyon walls and the Flatirons.

Top of the Rockies is elevated at over 2,700 metres, crossing the Continental Divide as well as passing through Copper Mountain, Leadville and Aspen. The San Juan Skyway is particularly popular, leading cyclists through historic mining towns and over high mountain passes.

As the byways are open to cars, these routes are recommended for proficient cyclists.

4: Wine Country

Couple cycling through Colorado vineyards (Colorado.com)

Couple cycling through Colorado vineyards (Colorado.com)

Spanning Grand Junction to Palisade, a Colorado Wine Country self-guided bike tour offers a blend of leisurely loops and jaw-dropping scenery from April to October. Cyclists can spend crisp mornings pedalling on quiet country roads, then enjoy afternoons tasting award-winning wines and seeing the sun set over vineyards.

A 40km event, Tour de Vineyards, takes place annually on 17 September giving cyclists an opportunity to pass through Colorado Wine Country on paved roads with a few hills – all the better to build up a taste for a glass of local wine at the finish line.

5: Steamboat Springs

Road cycling in Colorado (At Your Pace/Colorado.com)

Road cycling in Colorado (At Your Pace/Colorado.com)

With an area as beautiful and expansive as Steamboat, the best way to take in the views is by bike. There are lots of cycling trails on the mountain, through pine and aspen forests and over rickety wooden bridges. Proficient mountain bikers will love the trails that go deep into Routt National Forest.

6: Crested Butte and the Gunnison Valley

Cycling through the mountains (At Your Pace/Colorado.com)

Cycling through the mountains (At Your Pace/Colorado.com)

This area has the longest mountain bike trail system in the world and some of the best desert trails in Colorado, with more than 1,200km of mountain bike trails in the valley – including the famous 401 with beautiful steep grades and outstanding high-alpine views.

Doctor Park is a local favourite, with a steep ascent up Spring Creek and fun speedy descent featuring rocky and technical components juxtaposed with long sections of smooth riding. 

7: Fruita

High desert cycling near Fruita (Matt Inden/Colorado.com)

High desert cycling near Fruita (Matt Inden/Colorado.com)

Located close to the Utah border, Fruita is one of the best biking areas in the USA. Though famous for its high-desert mountain biking terrain, Fruita’s trails suit everyone from beginner to expert cyclists – and many of them wind up to enormous flat-top mesas that reveal views of valleys and rocky red vistas. There are also adventurous dirt trails and a 2.4-acre bike park with jumps.

For more information about Colorado and its cycling routes, visit www.colorado.com