Cycling Guide: Breaking down our favorite routes in western Colorado |

Cycling Guide: Breaking down our favorite routes in western Colorado

Surround yourself with heartpounding enjoyment from Aspen to Grand Junction

A cyclist heads towards Sopris Mountain after leaving Carbondale early Thursday morning on day 5 of Ride the Rockies 2019.
Chelsea Self / Glenwood Springs Post Independent

Road biking is one of the most popular summer activities in Colorado for both visitors and locals alike, and the central Rockies are home to some of the best biking routes you’ll find.

From scenic canyons to high river valleys, and from thickly forested roads to rocky top vistas, you’ll encounter world-class scenery wherever you go.

But before you head out into the unknown, you might want to consider both the amount of time you have to ride and the level of riding you’re looking for.

Lucky for you, there are many great choices — from short rides in the range of 25 miles, (1–2 hours) to medium rides of around 50 miles, (2–4 hours) to century rides (4–8 hours), you’ll find them all here.

You’ll also find everything from routes that can be ridden with ease, to some that are much more challenging.

Routes out of Aspen

Short rides

Maroon Creek Road – 22 miles round trip. This is one of the most popular short rides out of Aspen. Its popularity is due not only to its serene ascent through the heavily forested Maroon Creek Valley, but also for its destination — Maroon Lake, the popular viewing spot for the Maroon Bells.

Castle Creek Road – 24 miles round trip. Like Maroon Creek Road, Castle Creek Road winds its way through a gorgeous mountain valley and ends up at a classic Colorado destination – the ghost town of Ashcroft.

Medium rides

Cyclists head over Independence Pass on the longest and steepest elevation gain of the Ride the Rockies route in 2016.
Jordan Curet/Aspen Times file

Independence Pass – 40 mile round trip. This classic Colorado road ride winds its way through thick forests and clings to the side of mountains high above the headwaters of the Roaring Fork River before the final (steep!) push up to the 12,095-foot summit on the Continental Divide.

Rio Grande Trail to Carbondale – 60 miles round trip. This trail is built on the old Rio Grande Railroad route from Aspen to Glenwood Springs, and is relatively flat and well maintained. Head for Carbondale’s downtown to grab a bite before cruising back up the trail.

Century rides

Chapman Lake – 95 miles round trip. For the first 19 miles of this ride, you’ll follow the Rio Grande Trail through Snowmass Canyon. Turn right at Basalt and head up the beautiful Fryingpan Valley where you’ll ascend to Ruedi Reservoir before leveling out around Meredith. 

Hanging Lake – 100 miles round trip. Take the Rio Grande Trail to Glenwood Springs, and then connect to the Glenwood Canyon Trail for the final 10 miles to the Hanging Lake parking lot. If you’re up for it, add the 1-mile hike up to the lake – one of Colorado’s premiere destinations. (A permit is required for the hike.)

Routes out of Carbondale and Glenwood Springs

Short to medium rides

4 Mile Road – 20 miles round trip. The road starts where Glenwood’s Midland Avenue leaves off, and follows Fourmile Creek up a scenic winding valley to Sunlight Mountain Resort. 

Crystal Valley Trail/Prince Creek Road – 20 miles round trip from Carbondale. With a wide-open view of majestic Mount Sopris, this trail is popular both for its scenery and easy riding. Pair it with a 6 mile detour up Prince Creek Road if you want a little bit longer ride.

Missouri Heights loops – 20 to 50 miles. Missouri Heights, just north of Carbondale, includes several scenic, low traffic roads that you can loop in any combination. Head up Catherine Store Road, Cattle Creek Road, Spring Valley Road, or Red Canyon Road, loop back down and use the Rio Grande Trail as a connector. 

Thompson Creek Road and Hardwick Bridge Road – 30 to 40 miles from Carbondale or Glewood Springs. Thompson Creek Road ascends 6 miles to the iconic Thompson Divide area west of Carbondale. Pair it with Hardwick Bridge Road, which traverses the west side of the Roaring Fork Valley, and use the Rio Grande Trail to make a loop.

Glenwood Canyon Trail – 32 miles round trip. This popular ride has some of the best scenery you’ll find anywhere with its vertical canyon walls and view of the Colorado River, and the ride is smooth and easy. 

Century rides

Colorado River Road to McCoy – 104 miles round trip. This ride starts in Glenwood Springs and is a popular extension of the Glenwood Canyon Trail. The Colorado River Road is a beautiful 35-mile ride that follows the Colorado River from Dotsero north to the town of McCoy. 

McClure Pass – 91 miles round trip. Take Highway 133 straight south out of Carbondale and stay on it all the way to the top of the 8,769 foot pass. Stop over at Redstone to fuel up on the way, and at Penny Hot Springs to relieve sore muscles on the return trip.

Mary Lyn Bondlow cycling on McClure Pass, which is along Highway 133 near Redstone.
Anna Stonehouse/ Aspen Times

Routes out of Grand Junction

Short rides

Palisade Wine and Fruit Tour – 23 miles. This scenic loop starts at Palisade’s downtown area and zig-zags its way through some of the agricultural community’s most beautiful rural areas.

Little Park Road/DS Road – 29 or 56 miles. Little Park Road has some spectacular views, but it’s a steep ride up — ascending over 2,500 feet in the first few miles. Return on Monument Road for the short ride, or take the out-and-back DS Road until the pavement ends for the longer ride.

Medium rides

Colorado National Monument Loop – 38 miles. Called the “crown jewel” of road biking in the Grand Valley, the loop starts on Monument Road just west of downtown Grand Junction before heading into the park, (entrance fee required) looping around Rim Rock Drive and returning on the Riverfront bike trail.

Grand Mesa Hill Climb – 63 miles round trip. This might be one of the more difficult, and beautiful, rides you’ll ever take, with over 6,000 feet of climbing. Start at the Highway 65 exit of of I-70 and follow the road along Plateau Creek for 10 miles, then its uphill all the way to the 10,839-foot summit.

Century rides

Unaweep Canyon – 88 miles round trip. This gorgeous out-and-back route through a majestic canyon starts at the Gunnison River of Highway 50 had heads southwest until the turnaround at Gateway on the Dolores River. 

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