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  1. #1
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    Colorado route help

    I'm busy plotting an initial course for this summer's Western U.S. tour. I'm gathering info for parts of the route where I've never been. I have some experience in CO, (Lizard Head Pass, Dallas Divide, Cottonwood Pass, Monarch Pass, Trout Creek Pass, Wilkerson Pass, etc.--Cottonwood Pass is awesome!), and I know that some areas of this beautiful state have too much traffic and little-to-no shoulder--not to mention the front range. It's nice to avoid those areas, when possible, and that's what I'd like to do this summer. Here's the deal: I'll be entering CO from the southwest corner near Cortez and heading east on 160 thru Durango and Pagosa Springs, over Wolf Creek Pass to South Fork, and turning north on 149, climbing Spring Creek Pass and Slumgullion Pass, eventually joining US 50 at Blue Mesa Reservoir near Gunnison. OK, hold that thought...

    The other area that I want to ask about is further north, after I come down from Trail Ridge Rd. in the RMNP and go west on 40 to Kremmling, I then want to turn west on 134 which takes me over Gore Pass and eventually up to Steamboat Springs. From there I'll head west on 40 to Dinosaur Nat. Mon., pass thru a corner of Utah and go north thru Flaming Gorge in Wyoming, and so on. I was wanting to do this section a few years ago but had a family emergency and was unable to go on tour.

    OK, I know this has been a bit of a ramble, but if anyone has any experience in either of these areas, I'd really appreciate it. I'm looking for info on traffic/road conditions, scenery, what are the mtn. passes like (I love to climb), camping options in the portion from Steamboat Springs west on 40, and anything else that you think might be useful. Thanks in advance. HERE'S a map of the portions of the route in question.
    Ted
    Veg Cyclist

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    Hey, VeloVeg,
    (I know I replied to another post of yours, but can't remember the details & too busy to search)

    Here's a link to the route I took on my 2005 summer tour. http://tinyurl.com/2ouoay

    I rode the Durango - Salida part of your trip, using the same roads, in the other direction. I would say you will LOVE it. things are busy right around Durango, but the rest of the route is gorgeous, hilly (duh!) and fairly safe. I really really loved that whole area from Pagosa to Gunnison. They recently re-paved Wolf Creek Pass, and it's pretty good, although you might find it somewhat narrow at the very bottom of the east side. The passes are generally long and moderate, usually not over 9% but often 6-8% for many many miles. You will want to try to be off the tops of the passes by around 1 - 2 pm, because there are afternoon thunderstorms (lightning, hail) pretty regularly. I didn't have any trouble with that, though - usually I got an hour of rain around 3-5 pm, when I was already in my tent or at least off the pass.

    If you like being in the mountains, I'm not sure why you are dropping out of them at Salida and coming up the east side of the front range. (maybe you said, visiting?) I would go Salida - Buena Vista - Leadville - Breckenridge - ***Georgetown - Idaho Springs - Central City (Casino-land, so this is REALLY crap riding for about 10 miles, but worth it) to the Peak to Peak Highway - Nederland - Estes Park and there you are ready to climb trail ridge.

    Or, starting at ***Georgetown, avoiding the mess around Central City, go up 40 to Berthoud pass, cross Trail Ridge west to east, drop in to Loveland, go to Ft. Collins, Climb back over Poudre Canyon to Walden, they you're back on your route.

    I used this book, I found it very helpful
    http://www.rei.com/product/688722

    Hope this helps.
    ...

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    Quote Originally Posted by valygrl View Post
    Hey, VeloVeg,
    If you like being in the mountains, I'm not sure why you are dropping out of them at Salida and coming up the east side of the front range. (maybe you said, visiting?)
    Valygrl,

    Thanks for the great information. Your 2005 tour looks fantastic. Yes, we have chatted a bit in the month or so. If I remember, you said you were doing Southern Utah in the Spring, Colorado in July, then WY, MT after that.

    You guessed it--I'll be cutting across the front range to visit family in the metro area, then heading north again to the RMNP and continuing from there. If I could I'd take your suggested route. But family is everything!

    The ride from Pagosa Springs to Gunnison I believe will be inspiring, from what you've said. Can't wait.

    I know about the afternoon precipitation at the passes. As I gained elevation climbing Cottonwood Pass I ran into rain, which turned into sleet, and finally snow squalls. I was shivering non-stop on the descent to Buena Vista. It was an awesome climb though. If you haven't done Cottonwood (12,126'), put it on your list. You'll love it. Oh, and do it from west to east.

    BTW, thanks for the heads-up on the book. I just ordered it from REI.

    All the best,
    Ted
    Veg Cyclist

  4. #4
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by VeloVeg View Post
    I'm busy plotting an initial course for this summer's Western U.S. tour. I'm gathering info for parts of the route where I've never been. I have some experience in CO, (Lizard Head Pass, Dallas Divide, Cottonwood Pass, Monarch Pass, Trout Creek Pass, Wilkerson Pass, etc.--Cottonwood Pass is awesome!), and I know that some areas of this beautiful state have too much traffic and little-to-no shoulder--not to mention the front range. It's nice to avoid those areas, when possible, and that's what I'd like to do this summer. Here's the deal: I'll be entering CO from the southwest corner near Cortez and heading east on 160 thru Durango and Pagosa Springs, over Wolf Creek Pass to South Fork, and turning north on 149, climbing Spring Creek Pass and Slumgullion Pass, eventually joining US 50 at Blue Mesa Reservoir near Gunnison. OK, hold that thought...
    I haven't ridden the route (Colorado is my backyard and I'd rather see new places) but I have a daughter going to college in Durango so I've driven most of it recently up to South Fork. US160 for about the first 10 miles out of Durango to Florida is okay. Traffic is fast but it's a wide road with pretty good shoulders. The problem starts at La Plata Couty 123. The road narrows and the people get stupid. You might be better off taking a side road (CO151) to Ignacio then to Arboles and up to Chimney Rock (Stop there to see the ruins no matter which route you take). This takes you out of your way but US160 isn't bike friendly at all. Be very careful from Chimney Rock to Pagosa Springs. After that, every thing is gravy. You might have some delay on the east side of Wolf Creek if they are doing construction in the Narrows but the cars won't be moving either.

    Quote Originally Posted by VeloVeg View Post
    The other area that I want to ask about is further north, after I come down from Trail Ridge Rd. in the RMNP and go west on 40 to Kremmling, I then want to turn west on 134 which takes me over Gore Pass and eventually up to Steamboat Springs. From there I'll head west on 40 to Dinosaur Nat. Mon., pass thru a corner of Utah and go north thru Flaming Gorge in Wyoming, and so on. I was wanting to do this section a few years ago but had a family emergency and was unable to go on tour.
    It's been a few years since I've done Gore Pass but it was a good road when I did it. Good shoulders and not too much traffic. I've ridden from Craig to Steamboat on US40 and it wasn't too bad either. I'm not sure about traffic speeds now, however, since I haven't been up there in a while.

    Quote Originally Posted by VeloVeg View Post
    OK, I know this has been a bit of a ramble, but if anyone has any experience in either of these areas, I'd really appreciate it. I'm looking for info on traffic/road conditions, scenery, what are the mtn. passes like (I love to climb), camping options in the portion from Steamboat Springs west on 40, and anything else that you think might be useful. Thanks in advance. HERE'S a map of the portions of the route in question.

    I can't help you with the camping. Sorry. I haven't camped in either of those areas in too long a time.
    Stuart Black
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  5. #5
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    Colorado route help

    I live in Denver and have toured through most of the routes you are considering. I agree with Valygrl and Cyccommute. Here are some additional thoughts:

    Highway 160 from Durango to Pagosa Springs is beautiful but narrow and exasperatingly busy. I can see why you want to go over Wolf Creek and Slumgullion, (Slumgullion especially is a great ride), but Lizard Head/Dallas Divide, as you know, is stunning, and Highway 550 over Coal Bank, Molas, Red Mountain Passes is the finest alpine road ride in the state.

    All three routes put you through Gunnison and Monarch Pass, which you have done. If you would like a different route than Monarch try North Pass (Highway 114), which puts you into the north end of the San Luis Valley and then you can go over Poncha Pass to Salida.

    Your route through Westcliff is interesting but unless you are avid for the megopolis from Colorado Spings, through Denver and Boulder to Loveland, I would avoid it. (I can’t – I live here.) If the object is to go through Rocky Mountain National Park and Trail Ridge Road you can shorten the urban riding, but lengthen the mountain riding, with two choices.

    From Salida take US 50 to Buena Vista and US 285 to Denver. It is fairly busy but the drivers are courteous and I have ridden it many times without any trouble. The ride across South Park from Trout Creek Pass to Kenosha Pass is especially enjoyable. From Conifer to Denver is now four lanes with wide shoulders. Then you are lined up with the bike paths through the city.

    A more remote route, but one with suble charms and very little traffic is to take Colorado 67 starting either in Canon City or Woodland Park, ending at Pine Junction then down 285 to Denver.

    I agree with Valygrl that the Peak-to-Peak (Highways 72 and 7) is the best way to get to Estes Park and the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park. There are several ways to access it, proably the best is to take Highway 74 from Conifer through Evergreen then down to Idaho Springs.

    Your route from Kremmling to Steamboat is very nice, but for some reason I find Gore Pass to be a killer – don’t know why – it isn’t very high or steep. Highway 40 from Steamboat west is busy but pleasant.

    Finally, your route through Flaming Gorge country is beautiful but remote – watch the logistics.

    Hope this long exposition helps. Have a great ride.

  6. #6
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by marco polo View Post
    I live in Denver and have toured through most of the routes you are considering. I agree with Valygrl and Cyccommute. Here are some additional thoughts:

    Highway 160 from Durango to Pagosa Springs is beautiful but narrow and exasperatingly busy. I can see why you want to go over Wolf Creek and Slumgullion, (Slumgullion especially is a great ride), but Lizard Head/Dallas Divide, as you know, is stunning, and Highway 550 over Coal Bank, Molas, Red Mountain Passes is the finest alpine road ride in the state.
    I've never been over Slumgullion but I'll agree that Red Mountain is stunning. It is a little narrow going down into Ouray but since you'll be going downhill and it's scary for the drivers, you'll probably be able to go faster than they will.

    Quote Originally Posted by marco polo View Post
    All three routes put you through Gunnison and Monarch Pass, which you have done. If you would like a different route than Monarch try North Pass (Highway 114), which puts you into the north end of the San Luis Valley and then you can go over Poncha Pass to Salida.
    Poncha Pass is kind of boring. But that may because I've been over it about a gazillion times in a car.

    Quote Originally Posted by marco polo View Post
    Your route through Westcliff is interesting but unless you are avid for the megopolis from Colorado Spings, through Denver and Boulder to Loveland, I would avoid it. (I canít Ė I live here.) If the object is to go through Rocky Mountain National Park and Trail Ridge Road you can shorten the urban riding, but lengthen the mountain riding, with two choices.

    From Salida take US 50 to Buena Vista and US 285 to Denver. It is fairly busy but the drivers are courteous and I have ridden it many times without any trouble. The ride across South Park from Trout Creek Pass to Kenosha Pass is especially enjoyable. From Conifer to Denver is now four lanes with wide shoulders. Then you are lined up with the bike paths through the city.√

    A more remote route, but one with suble charms and very little traffic is to take Colorado 67 starting either in Canon City or Woodland Park, ending at Pine Junction then down 285 to Denver.
    If you wanted to avoid Denver (It's not that bad), I'd suggest going north out of Buena Vista to Twin Lakes and over Independence Pass. Then come out of Glenwood to Vail Pass and over to Peak-to-Peak through Central City.
    Stuart Black
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  7. #7
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    cycco-
    1. I agree that Poncha Pass is boring but the transit across the north end of the San Luis Valley, especially from high up on North Pass is worth it for the great views of the Sangre de Cristo mountains. Also, the views of the Saguache range from the top of Poncha are outstanding.
    2. My favorite part of Red Mountain Pass is above Ouray, south-bound, when you can look down at the pedal and see the river about 200 feet below. Passing cars on the descent is also cool - fully loaded, not so much.
    3. Regarding riding in Denver, I do it all the time. The bike paths are a treasure, but the OP is thinking of riding all the way from Colorado Springs to Loveland.
    4. I like your suggestion for the Peak-to-Peak via Glenwood.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by marco polo View Post
    Your route through Westcliff is interesting but unless you are avid for the megopolis from Colorado Spings, through Denver and Boulder to Loveland, I would avoid it. (I canít Ė I live here.) If the object is to go through Rocky Mountain National Park and Trail Ridge Road you can shorten the urban riding, but lengthen the mountain riding, with two choices.

    From Salida take US 50 to Buena Vista and US 285 to Denver. . .

    I agree with Valygrl that the Peak-to-Peak (Highways 72 and 7) is the best way to get to Estes Park and the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park. There are several ways to access it, proably the best is to take Highway 74 from Conifer through Evergreen then down to Idaho Springs.

    Your route from Kremmling to Steamboat is very nice, but for some reason I find Gore Pass to be a killer Ė donít know why Ė it isnít very high or steep. Highway 40 from Steamboat west is busy but pleasant.

    Finally, your route through Flaming Gorge country is beautiful but remote Ė watch the logistics.

    Hope this long exposition helps. Have a great ride.
    Thanks Marco Polo and Cyccommute for the great input. As I shared with Valygrl, I have family in Denver metro, both near Castle Rock (in the south) and Lyon on the way up to the NP. That is why the route thru the suburbs. Believe me, if it wasn't for wanting to visit my sister and my daughter, I'd have chosen a much different route than that.

    I understand the construction over Wolf Creek Pass is completed and is quite nice now. I'd really rather go over Slumgullion on 149 than 550 up thru Silverton, Red Mountain, Ouray. I've driven it a couple of times and although it is undoubtedly spectacular in its beauty, the road is narrow and both times was quite heavily traveled by tourists wrapped in 4000 lbs of steel. I'm hoping 149 from South Fork up to Gunnison will be more remote. Of course, I realize that the 160 east out of Durango will be busy for awhile, but if the shoulder is adequate, then I'll deal with that transitional portion of the route.

    As for Estes Park and the NP: since my daughter lives in Lyons I guess I could take the Peak-to-Peak to 7, then down to Lyons. I had already planned to take 7 up to Estes Park from Lyons. So, when I leave my daughter's home I could double back on 7 up to Estes. Yes, that'll work.

    I'm really looking forward to the challenge and beauty of Flaming Gorge, too. I hear there is some good climbing, plus, I like remote. I've thought about taking 318 from Maybell thru Brown's Park and up to Flaming Gorge. I've heard that's a beautiful route too. Isn't it great to have so many options? I love touring in the west.

    One more question: Is Hwy 40 west from Craig out to Utah the kind of area that is very conducive to stealth or open camping? It seems that stretch is pretty remote as well.

    Thanks again,
    Ted
    Veg Cyclist

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    Colorado route help

    US 40 west of Craig is mostly BLM land. Just ride a dirt road off the highway a ways, camp away from the farmsteads and no stealth is required.

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    Colorado route help

    I haven't been up that way for several years, but the area northwest of Maybell was mostly dirt roads, probably still is, particularly as you go toward Wyoming. Brown's Hole is glorious, best in spring. Really, really remote.

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    Quote Originally Posted by marco polo View Post
    US 40 west of Craig is mostly BLM land. Just ride a dirt road off the highway a ways, camp away from the farmsteads and no stealth is required.
    BLM land! That's fantastic. I didn't realize that. Thanks, that's a big help!

    Past Brown's Park is still dirt once you hit Utah, as I understand it. I don't mind a little dirt if it isn't just loose gravel. I haven't decided yet whether I'll go that way or go up thru Vernal, UT and around the west side of Flaming Gorge. I understand Dinosaur Nat. Mon. is really nice too. Either way, it's going to be another great tour.
    Ted
    Veg Cyclist

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    Colorado route help

    Veloveg-
    I probably won't be loose gravel, just dirt. Fine if it doesn't rain - then its mud. The distances can be vast. Have fun out there but be careful.

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