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  1. #1
    Marcus cardifflodge's Avatar
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    Biking Denver to Aspen in July

    I'm looking forward to a cycling trip from Denver to Aspen in July (7/12 - 7/15).

    I've gotten two options, one through Independence Pass http://www.mapmyride.com/s/routes/vi...enver/12745484 and the other through Kenosha Pass http://www.rmccrides.com/denver_aspen.pdf

    I'm concerned about finding accommodations along the way, with the idea of stopping around mile 70 on each day and arriving in Aspen on day 3.

    Also hoping to find places to eat and purchase Gatorade along the way, if possible.

    I've heard that Kenosha pass is gentler on the cyclist, but has fewer accommodations, so I'm tempted to do the Independence Pass route.

    If anyone has recommendations for motels along the way, I'm very much obliged.
    Thanks,
    Marcus

  2. #2
    mje
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    You first link doesn't work for me. The route on your second link goes over both Kenosha and Independence passes. You can certainly find lodging in Fairplay and Buena Vista. There might be rental cabins available in Twin Lakes. There are convenience stores where you can buy food and drink, probably even gatorade, relatively frequently from Conifer to Bailey. From there services are limited to possibly Grant, then Jefferson, Fairplay, Johnson Village (just a big truck stop), BV, and Twin Lakes. Kenosha pass is much gentler and 2,000 feet lower than Independence.

    The mountain roads are busy with RV traffic on weekends in the summer.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mje View Post
    You first link doesn't work for me.
    Try http://www.mapmyride.com/routes/view/12745484

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    Yeah, so both of those do go over independance pass, between Twin Lakes and Aspen. I've ridden all these roads (though not all on the same trip).

    On the first one "Independance Pass"
    - you go over Squaw/Juniper pass at mile 34 - elevation 11,000' You can avoid this by riding frontage roads near I-70, if you want to ease the route. Personally I like what you chose.
    - you go over Loveland Pas at mile 75 (12,000')
    - you go over Fremont Pass at mile 105 (11,000')
    - Independance pass is between Twin Lakes and Aspen.
    - there is accommodation at (at least) Idaho Springs, Georgetown, Keystone-Dillon, Leadville (great hostel), possibly Twin Lakes
    - plenty of services for water/food

    This is basically the Triple Bypass route, until you get to Copper Mountain. MOst of the roads have reasonable traffic volume and/or decent shoulders, though the I-70 corridor is generally busy, your roads are not too bad. The passes are long and high, the scenery is good, plenty of services. The terrain is "in the mountains, riding up and down passes." WHile there can always be wind, you spend a lot of time in valleys and protected by high mountains on either side of you, so the time spent in areas I would consider "windy" is pretty small, while the time spent climbing & descendig passes is large.

    The second route "Kenosha Pass"
    - Kenosha/Red Mountain Passes are low (10,000 i think) and not steep.
    - Hwy 285 carries a lot of traffic with no to very little shoulder, it's not particularly safe until after Bailey.
    - There are food/water services at Baily and Jefferson (i think)
    - I think the first accommodation after you get past Conifer is Fairplay (check Baily though if it's not too soon), though there might be some camping cabins at Jefferson - I did it in 2005 so my memory is a little fuzzy
    - there's full accommodations and services in Buena Vista
    - Once past Kenosha pass, and all the way through Fairplay to Twin Lakes, you are in more of a "high plains" terrain rather than on mountain passes.

    This route takes you up gradually to South Park, a wide open valley. the terrain and riding style are "in the open valleys between mountains, along river grades and in grasslands". This route can be strongly wind-affected - wind is often west and south, so lots of side and some tail wind. There are fewer services, but there are enough (I rode from Conifer to Fairplay on a fully loaded bike in one day - I started in Conifer not Denver, that would make a big difference, there's a lot of climbing on your route to Conifer.).

    In both routes, the high passes can be affected by afternoon thunderstorms, which may include hail and strong wind as well as electrical activity. Try to be off the tops of passes before 2 pm. Storms usually last just a couple of hours and then the weather is great again. July is peak T-storm time of year but still a good time to do this trip. I have done all these passes in July and chances of a t-storm are pretty good, but don't let that deter you. Just do be prepared with a real rain jacket and warm gloves (minimum) and don't be out in the open/on top of a pass in a t-storm, bail as needed (hitchhiking works).

    I like the first route better, though the other might be easier, depending on your tolerance for traffic and wind.
    ...

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    X2 on the responses so far.
    I did want to reinforce a couple of points made so far.
    I dirve the 285/Kenosha Pass route several times a month, more often than not the wind is blowing fairly hard from Kenosha Pass to Trout Creek Pass. you'll be riding into it to Fairplay, and then it might be at your right side from Fairplay south to Trout Creek Pass.
    Also, as stated earlier, 285 is a main route up into and through the mountains and can be very busy at times.

    For the Loveland Pass route, I'm not sure of the exact details of the route, but from Dillon you can avoid I-70 by taking the "Dam" road, (if its open) to Frisco, and then the bike path thru Ten Mile Canyon to Copper Mt. Although, maybe that is your plan.

    Have fun, and be safe.

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    mje
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    Adding to Valygrl's excellent (as usual) information on the first route:

    There is also plenty of lodging in Frisco and Copper Mountain.

    There's no shoulder for the first few miles of Hwy 91 out of Copper Mountain where the road has only one uphill lane. After a couple miles, the shoulder widens (appears) and a second uphill lane is added, so it isn't nearly so tight. I suggest planning to ride that part early in the morning, especially since your schedule would have you there on Friday or Saturday.

  7. #7
    old and in the way grueling's Avatar
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    with your plan to stop at 70 miles each day, the first route puts you in Twin Lakes for the second night. Lodging in Twin Lakes is very limited in the summer. Make sure to book early, or plan to stay in Leadville. As others have noted, the Fairplay/Buena Vista route will put you out in big cross winds on narrow 2 lane road with limited shoulders. Personally, I would chose the Silverthorn route. I will second the comment on Hwy 91 out of Copper toward Leadville. The first 5 miles or so can be very busy and the road is narrow and bumpy. I would try to avoid in the afternoon.

  8. #8
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    The South Park route is much more rural but there are places to stay along the way. There's the Glen-Isle Lodge just outside of Bailey and there's the Como Depot in Como. Both are quite historic but call ahead to make sure they are open. There are few places to get food once you get past Conifer, however. Once you hit Buena Vista, it's much more civilized.

    There is no problem with finding accommodations along the other route. You could easily stay in Keystone then Leadville then Aspen.

    A note on traffic: The 'Independence Pass' route through the I-70 corridor has less conflict with traffic because people drive I-70. It's a little loud with the traffic but basically better because of lower traffic volume on the side roads.

    The route through South Park isn't nearly as pleasant. It's okay from Denver up to Bailey...with one exception. However past Bailey, the road narrows and carries a lot of traffic. You'll have to deal with that traffic from Bailey to Buena Vista which is a long day or more. The one exception from Denver to Bailey is Turkey Creek Canyon. It's a very short section but it's steep, narrow and used by people who are on the far side of crazy. I'd suggest going through Evergreen to avoid it.

    Overall, the route over Loveland Pass (the Independence Pass route) would be more nicer and easier for logistics.
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  9. #9
    Marcus cardifflodge's Avatar
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    Thanks guys. Great advice. I'll be with a couple of cousins, so it will be a 3 or 4-man bike caravan along this trip. We're all much obliged for the thoughtful responses!
    Best regards,
    Marcus

  10. #10
    Zen Master Miles2go's Avatar
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    Given the timing, I would consider taking advantage of the route that keeps you off of the main roads for much of the way.

    GOOGLE MAPS ROUTE LINK

    With the exception of Loveland Pass, this option would keep you on pretty well established bike routes and paths. The one question being whether or not they'll have the Glenwood Canyon bike path open at that time, and that's a big question. Everyone should ride through Glenwood Canyon at least once.

    For any riding in Colorado's mountains it would be wise to show up pretty well trained. Even more so given that you'll be on a time driven schedule looking to cover 70 miles a day, rain or shine.

    Tailwinds.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Miles2go View Post
    Given the timing, I would consider taking advantage of the route that keeps you off of the main roads for much of the way.

    GOOGLE MAPS ROUTE LINK

    With the exception of Loveland Pass, this option would keep you on pretty well established bike routes and paths. The one question being whether or not they'll have the Glenwood Canyon bike path open at that time, and that's a big question. Everyone should ride through Glenwood Canyon at least once.

    For any riding in Colorado's mountains it would be wise to show up pretty well trained. Even more so given that you'll be on a time driven schedule looking to cover 70 miles a day, rain or shine.

    Tailwinds.
    Ironic to sign "tailwinds" on this suggestion, as that route heading west from the top of Vail Pass all the way through Glenwood is an afternoon-headwind guarantee.
    ...

  12. #12
    Zen Master Miles2go's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by valygrl View Post
    Ironic to sign "tailwinds" on this suggestion, as that route heading west from the top of Vail Pass all the way through Glenwood is an afternoon-headwind guarantee.


    Guarantee is probably a little strong. I live right along this part of the route. On most days yes, heading west you'll have a tailwind in the am and a headwind in the pm. How much varies of course and it's not guaranteed. I'd say good luck with the wind anywhere in Colorado, eespekally on a summer afternoon.

    Tailwinds.
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  13. #13
    Zen Master Miles2go's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Miles2go View Post

    GOOGLE MAPS ROUTE LINK

    With the exception of Loveland Pass, this option would keep you on pretty well established bike routes and paths. The one question being whether or not they'll have the Glenwood Canyon bike path open at that time, and that's a big question. Everyone should ride through Glenwood Canyon at least once.
    One more thing regarding this route for the OP: If the bike path through Glenwood Canyon isn't open in July, you can still ride this route with the Cottonwood Pass Option, as long as you don't mind covering some ground on an improved dirt road, one that many local roadies take often.

    THIS is a site you should check before your trip and you can contact them regarding the status of the Glenwood Canyon bike path if you decided to go that way.

    Like others here I've also toured most of the lumpy parts of Colorado. 285 and many of the other routes up into the mountains on a summer weekend ain't my idea of fun riding. Get as far up as you can on Thursday and take side roads where it makes sense.

    Tailwinds.
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  14. #14
    cycling for 50 plus yrs colorado dale's Avatar
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    After major repairs, The Glenwood Canyon Trail has reopened so unless the spring floods again cause major damage its an option http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_20...e-path-reopens

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    Quote Originally Posted by mje View Post
    Adding to Valygrl's excellent (as usual) information on the first route:

    There is also plenty of lodging in Frisco and Copper Mountain.

    There's no shoulder for the first few miles of Hwy 91 out of Copper Mountain where the road has only one uphill lane. After a couple miles, the shoulder widens (appears) and a second uphill lane is added, so it isn't nearly so tight. I suggest planning to ride that part early in the morning, especially since your schedule would have you there on Friday or Saturday.
    CO 91 from Copper Mountain to Leadville was rebuilt last summer, there is now a shoulder on the southbound side from Copper to Leadville and the road is much smoother. On the debit side, the molybdenum mine at the top of Fremont Pass is back in operation, so expect more traffic between the top of the pass and Leadville. Early morning would be a good time to ride from Copper to Leadville. Lots of early morning cyclists are starting to use blinkie lights to ride the stretch from Copper to the top of the pass, that canyon doesn't get much light until mid morning, and a lot of tourists who drive that road aren't used to seeing cyclists on the road.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by colorado dale View Post
    After major repairs, The Glenwood Canyon Trail has reopened so unless the spring floods again cause major damage its an option http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_20...e-path-reopens

    not likely to close this year given the lack of snow/rain we've had thus far...

    if you did this route, there is a bike path from glenwood to aspen on old railroad grading. generally a tailwind heading up to aspen in the afternoon, and very scenic, especially above carbondale.

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    You could also do an even more southern attack: Monarch Pass-Gunnison-Crested Butte-Kebler Pass-McClure Pass-Carbondale-Aspen. The Kebler Pass section is dirt road, generally tame and pretty low at 10,000 feet. I've never ridden it but I plan on doing it at some point.

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