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Old 04-15-09, 11:56 AM   #1
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Transam side trips - specifically RMNP

Our transam trip this year will take us from eugene oregon to La junta colorado where we will catch a train to chicago. It is about 2000 miles total, and we have 60 days to do it, leaving Eugene June 1st. I figure we will average about 50 miles/day (maybe more), so that leaves about 20+ days off the bike. Since another of my passions is hiking I figure I will do a fair amount of it on these off days. One idea is to do a side trip to rocky mountain national park if time permits (will judge when arriving in CO).

Does RMNP have hike/bike sites, or will I need to reserve a spot? Which campground would you recommend? I am leaning towards either staying at Timber Creek and just doing day trips from there, or just going all the way to Aspenglen Campground. Coming off the transam in Kremmling, I see it is about 83 miles to Aspenglen. That is a bit much for one day including all of the climbing, so I guess I would have to stay in Timber Creek one night before continuing to Aspenglen. Therefore, that is 4 days of traveling off route, with an extra day or two in the park for day hikes, for 6-7 days total off route. Does this seem reasonable? Can someone that has done this side trip give some suggestions/advise?

Any other suggestions for transam side trips or areas with killer hiking along the route (besides the obvious yellowstone/tetons?
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Old 04-15-09, 12:47 PM   #2
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Assuming that you are talking about the ACA TransAm route, ACA is in the process of rerouting the Colorado portion between Walden and Kremmling to go over Willow Springs Pass into Granby instead of over Muddy Pass. Granby is very near the east entrance to RMNP and it would be an easy detour (much closer than Kremmling). If you want, you can just go into the lower part of the park and camp and hike, or you can make the epic trip all the way up to the Alpine Visitors Center (the highest continuous paved road in the U.S.) This route is covered by the ACA Great Parks South route. I don't have my copy of that segment with me at the moment (it's in the map holder on my bike), so I can't tell you camping specifics.
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Old 04-15-09, 12:53 PM   #3
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So from Walden it would be good to take CO125 instead of the ACA current route?

From google maps it looks like a nice alternative, the street views look more scenic (more wooded and better views of the mountain) than the ACA route as is. How does it compare traffic wise?
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Old 04-15-09, 04:03 PM   #4
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So from Walden it would be good to take CO125 instead of the ACA current route?

From google maps it looks like a nice alternative, the street views look more scenic (more wooded and better views of the mountain) than the ACA route as is. How does it compare traffic wise?
If the ACA current route uses US 40 then I would expect CO125 to be much more pleasant. All the mountain towns in Colorado have grown tremendously since ACA (Bikecentennial back then, I suppose) first laid out the TransAm route, and traffic to and from those towns has grown with it.

The west side of RMNP has good hiking, the East Inlet trail (starts on the east shore of Grand Lake) is very pretty. If you're really up for a challenge, continue past the end of the trail and climb the West Ridge of Isolation Peak (13,118 ft). It's a 22 mile round trip with 5000 ft of elevation gain.

Like John Nelson says, the road to the Alpine Visitor Center (Trail Ridge Road) is spectacular, but be ready for any kind of weather. If you find yourself on the east side of RMNP, you can take Old Fall River Road (steep dirt road) up to where it joins Trail Ridge Road, then take Trail Ridge Road back down.

Cycling south from Kremmling, I would suggest taking Grand County Road #3 from Parschal south over Ute Pass, then joining CO 9 just north of Silverthorne. It's a very well graded dirt road from Parschal (US 40) to the Summit County line, then it's paved.It's much prettier and less traveled than CO 9, and there is at least one USFS campground on the road.

This might help: http://www.nps.gov/romo/
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Old 04-15-09, 04:09 PM   #5
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Our transam trip this year will take us from eugene oregon to La junta colorado where we will catch a train to chicago. It is about 2000 miles total, and we have 60 days to do it, leaving Eugene June 1st. I figure we will average about 50 miles/day (maybe more), so that leaves about 20+ days off the bike. Since another of my passions is hiking I figure I will do a fair amount of it on these off days. One idea is to do a side trip to rocky mountain national park if time permits (will judge when arriving in CO).

Does RMNP have hike/bike sites, or will I need to reserve a spot? Which campground would you recommend? I am leaning towards either staying at Timber Creek and just doing day trips from there, or just going all the way to Aspenglen Campground. Coming off the transam in Kremmling, I see it is about 83 miles to Aspenglen. That is a bit much for one day including all of the climbing, so I guess I would have to stay in Timber Creek one night before continuing to Aspenglen. Therefore, that is 4 days of traveling off route, with an extra day or two in the park for day hikes, for 6-7 days total off route. Does this seem reasonable? Can someone that has done this side trip give some suggestions/advise?

Any other suggestions for transam side trips or areas with killer hiking along the route (besides the obvious yellowstone/tetons?
The climb over Trail Ridge Road is long and very high! Not saying that you shouldn't do it, but just consider that you plan on doing it twice...ouch! Timber Creek Campground is on the less developed side of the park and might be a better place to go hiking anyway. I'd suggest going there and then doing a quick trip to the Alpine Center and back rather than going all the way to Aspen Glenn, unless you want to go off route and head down the Front Range to La Junta. You could do a mountainous route along CO119 through the Evergreen area and down to Fairplay to pick up the TransAm again.

A different side trip to consider would be over to Gould and hike up into the Colorado State Forest and/or Rawah Wilderness area. This area is just to the north of Rocky Mountain and is just as stunning without all the traffic. Visit the Crags and/or Clarks Peak area. And it's less off route.

If you go over to Granby on CO125, you could head back to the inlet of Lake Granby and hike into the Indian Peaks Wilderness area. Access is about 20 miles down a dirt road to the Wilderness area with a very nice Forest Service campground at the inlet. The walk-in sights at Arapahoe Bay are some of the prettiest Colorado have to offer.
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Old 04-16-09, 11:34 AM   #6
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Ok, I see on CDOT's site that the average daily traffic on SH 125 south of walden is 350, which is less than the ADT on SH 14. It definitely makes more sense to take SH 125, as it has less traffic and seems more scenic. Can anyone comment on that?

Cyccocommute, you have a good point about climing trail ridge twice. I could talk my wife into climbing the highest road in the US once, but probably not twice! The campground on the lake looks nice. Do you think it would be worth spending a night there before heading for a night at Timber Lake? I guess it depends on timing for us as well, but they both seem like nice campgrounds with good trails nearby.

On the way back we would probably just head over to Kremmling on 40 from Granby to pick up the route again. Comments? I know it is largely a personal decision based on many factors, including timing, but how many days would you allow for this side trip including a nice day hike or two? I was thinking 4-5 days.
day 1 - Grandby to Timber creek CG
day 2 - hike around timber creek area
day 3 - timber creek to Arapahoe bay
day 4 - hike around indian peaks
day 5 - head back to kremmling to pick up route

Is this Reasonable?

Edit: Oops, forgot to add a day for climbing Trail Ridge road. hmmmm, to hike a day or spend the day climbing unloaded?
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Old 04-16-09, 12:00 PM   #7
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Yes, those are the same reasons ACA is switching their route to highway 125.

And yes, going to Kremmling from Granby on 40 is the same route planned by ACA, and the only one that makes sense.

As stated before, check the conditions at the Alpine Visitors Center before heading up.
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Old 04-16-09, 12:16 PM   #8
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I am confused. Is there a map somewhere that shows the proposed new route that AC is supposed to be going to use?

FWIW: I didn't think any of the roads they used in that area were all that bad.
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Old 04-16-09, 12:30 PM   #9
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No, there is no new ACA map. The information I have is all hearsay.

How bad the road north of Kremmling is depends on the day of the week, the time of the day, and the day of the year. I rode it once on a Sunday and it was a bit too busy for my taste.
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Old 04-16-09, 12:38 PM   #10
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If you just look at terrain maps, satellite, and street view you can see that SH125 looks much nicer, although has more climbing involved. It seems to wind through the forested foothills rather than the scrub lands to the west. Of course, this is just from looking at a map, and that is why I was requesting information from people who know the area. Comparing that and the average daily traffic stats from CDOT, and SH125 seems much more pleasant from a touring standpoint. I will pick up a map of colorado to supplement the ACA route, and will most likely take SH125 to Granby and from there head to RMNP. The excitement is killing me these days. Luckily I have a tour of the north coast of california planned in two weeks to take my mind of the big trip
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Old 04-16-09, 12:39 PM   #11
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It was a Wednesday that we rode from Walden to Kremmling. I remember it being hot and I remember that there was some traffic, but we are probably more tolerant of a bit of traffic than most. I also remember that the first half of the day was beautiful, scenery wise, the second half not so much.

We seemed to be leading a charmed life on the TA always accidentally being the right place at the right time to miss traffic or other poor conditions. Places where logging trucks were supposed to be the worst we hit on a Sunday. Places that had the worst RV traffic (Yellowstone) we hit at the ideal time. It was dumb luck, but I'll take it all the same.

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Old 04-16-09, 12:42 PM   #12
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The route through Granby adds 20 miles, which is probably why it wasn't chosen in the first place.
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Old 04-16-09, 12:55 PM   #13
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An extra 20 miles is a drop in the bucket IMO, especially when you consider better scenery.
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Old 04-16-09, 03:31 PM   #14
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If you just look at terrain maps, satellite, and street view you can see that SH125 looks much nicer, although has more climbing involved. It seems to wind through the forested foothills rather than the scrub lands to the west. Of course, this is just from looking at a map, and that is why I was requesting information from people who know the area. Comparing that and the average daily traffic stats from CDOT, and SH125 seems much more pleasant from a touring standpoint. ...
A bit off topic, I suppose, but it's my understanding that the original BikeCentennial took the Willow Creek route between Kremmling and Walden (Hwy 40/Hwy125, passing close to Granby). Before we rode the TransAm last summer, I did a lot of map research. Up until sometime in the 1990's, the route was over Willow Creek Pass.

Then by 2001, the route was changed to take Muddy Pass (Hwy 40/Hw 14) from Kremmling to Walden. I know this for a fact, since I have the 2001 ACA maps. Why it was changed, I don't know.

But the ACA maps in the past few years have apparently changed back to the Hwy 40/Hwy 125 route. I swear I saw up-to-date maps carried by our riding companions that confirmed this. But the point is moot, everybody we passed on the TransAm in Colorado, coming and going (except for one lone guy...) was on the Willow Creek route.

I'm not sure why this matters.... but there's nothing exotic about the Willow Creek route, and "everybody" is taking it now. It is a bit higher and longer than Muddy Pass, but it's prettier (from what I understand) -- especially Byers Canyon. The road was excellent the entire 80 miles, except for a few miles without shoulders near Kremmling. In July 2008 it looked like this stretch of Hwy 40 had been recently repaved -- great riding.

-- Mark

Edit: My 2001 maps also routed us on Hwy 9 past Green Mountain Reservoir, just south of Kremmling. "Everybody" -- we found out later -- was taking the long road around the west edge of the reservoir, where the ACA maps now guide them. We had harrowing stories of fast traffic on narrow shoulderless roads. They had stories of horrible pavement and hills, plus an extra five miles...... Still, I think I'd take the newer route around the lake.

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Old 04-16-09, 03:51 PM   #15
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I have the '08 map of section 6 and it shows the muddy pass route for sure. I'll have to look and see if it routes you around the west side of the reservoir, but if it doesn't I think I'd take that way, it looks nice.

Thanks for all the info, very helpful!
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Old 04-16-09, 04:08 PM   #16
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Ok, I see on CDOT's site that the average daily traffic on SH 125 south of walden is 350, which is less than the ADT on SH 14. It definitely makes more sense to take SH 125, as it has less traffic and seems more scenic. Can anyone comment on that?

Cyccocommute, you have a good point about climing trail ridge twice. I could talk my wife into climbing the highest road in the US once, but probably not twice! The campground on the lake looks nice. Do you think it would be worth spending a night there before heading for a night at Timber Lake? I guess it depends on timing for us as well, but they both seem like nice campgrounds with good trails nearby.

On the way back we would probably just head over to Kremmling on 40 from Granby to pick up the route again. Comments? I know it is largely a personal decision based on many factors, including timing, but how many days would you allow for this side trip including a nice day hike or two? I was thinking 4-5 days.
day 1 - Grandby to Timber creek CG
day 2 - hike around timber creek area
day 3 - timber creek to Arapahoe bay
day 4 - hike around indian peaks
day 5 - head back to kremmling to pick up route

Is this Reasonable?

Edit: Oops, forgot to add a day for climbing Trail Ridge road. hmmmm, to hike a day or spend the day climbing unloaded?
Arapahoe Bay is 15 miles down a dirt road. It's pretty smooth and relatively flat but it's still dirt. I'd probably pick either Timber Creek or Arapahoe Bay. On the plus side for Arapahoe Bay is it's very low usage because of the dirt road and being out of the way. Not a lot of people hike in that section of the Indian Peaks Wilderness. And there are several really good hikes in the area.

Timber Creek, on the other hand does offer easier access to Trail Ridge Road. If you do Trail Ridge go past the Alpine Center and Iceberg Pass back over to the Rock Cut. If you want a great view of the east side of the park and the Moraine Valley, continue on to Rainbow Curve. I wouldn't go any further down, however because all the hard climbing is back towards the Alpine Center.
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Old 04-16-09, 04:13 PM   #17
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Yes, those are the same reasons ACA is switching their route to highway 125.

And yes, going to Kremmling from Granby on 40 is the same route planned by ACA, and the only one that makes sense.

As stated before, check the conditions at the Alpine Visitors Center before heading up.
US 40 is the only way to get to Kremmling from Granby...other then going all the way back to Walden

When John says to check the conditions at the Alpine Center, zoltani, he should have said to call them. The Alpine Center is at the top of the road...well just a little down from the top
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Old 04-16-09, 04:16 PM   #18
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Meaning to check the weather, in other words, you don't want to ride up if there is a storm with lightning and such?
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Old 04-17-09, 09:44 AM   #19
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OK, I made some mistakes above. The map I have shows the SH125 route through Rand and at the junction with 40 it goes west towards Kremmling. The detail on the ACA website shows the other route, so maybe that was a recent change ('08?). It also takes the route around the west of the reservoir. Sorry for the confusion, as i didn't have my map handy yesterday and was going off of the ACA website.

Again, thanks for your help!
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Old 04-17-09, 10:02 AM   #20
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The map I have shows the SH125 route through Rand and at the junction with 40 it goes west towards Kremmling. The detail on the ACA website shows the other route, so maybe that was a recent change ('08?)....
Maps fascinate me, so I keep checkin' back.

I think the small detail map on ACA for section 6 is just a historical artifact -- I still suspect they changed from that routing (over Muddy Pass) to the "new" (old) route over Willow Pass about 6-7 years ago.

In fact.... check the addendum, (BC-1523 06L) -- which was published in 2006, I believe. This talks about going through Rand, Granby, Hot Sulphur Springs, and Parshall. So indeed, the present route over Willow Creek Pass has been the "new" route for several years (although, as explained above, it's actually the "old" route...... )

-- Mark

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Old 04-17-09, 10:33 AM   #21
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Meaning to check the weather, in other words, you don't want to ride up if there is a storm with lightning and such?
Afternoon thunderstorms and summer snowstorms are the two big hazards. Part of the danger is that you could be riding up one side of the range, a storm could be moving in from the other side, and you wouldn't see it coming.
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Old 04-17-09, 10:34 AM   #22
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Meaning to check the weather, in other words, you don't want to ride up if there is a storm with lightning and such?
Meaning you don't want to ride up there if it's snowing! It might be a nice sunny day without a cloud in the sky at the bottom, and it might be snowing on top with no hint of that at the bottom. You don't really want to go up there if it's raining either.
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Old 04-17-09, 10:41 AM   #23
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Maps fascinate me, so I keep checkin' back.

I think the small detail map on ACA for section 6 is just a historical artifact -- I still suspect they changed from that routing (over Muddy Pass) to the "new" (old) route over Willow Pass about 6-7 years ago.

In fact.... check the addendum, (BC-1523 06L) -- which was published in 2006, I believe. This talks about going through Rand, Granby, Hot Sulphur Springs, and Parshall. So indeed, the present route over Willow Creek Pass has been the "new" route for several years (although, as explained above, it's actually the "old" route...... )

-- Mark
We went the old route in 2007 and were following a new at the time map. I don't recall the addenda say to go the other way and don't think I would have missed that. Also the other riders we met were going the same way we were. I thought the route changed in the past year.
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Old 04-18-09, 07:59 PM   #24
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Maps fascinate me, so I keep checkin' back.

I think the small detail map on ACA for section 6 is just a historical artifact -- I still suspect they changed from that routing (over Muddy Pass) to the "new" (old) route over Willow Pass about 6-7 years ago.

In fact.... check the addendum, (BC-1523 06L) -- which was published in 2006, I believe. This talks about going through Rand, Granby, Hot Sulphur Springs, and Parshall. So indeed, the present route over Willow Creek Pass has been the "new" route for several years (although, as explained above, it's actually the "old" route...... )

-- Mark
The Muddy Pass route from Walden to Kremmling follows US40 for quite a ways but the terrain is mostly open with long sight lines. That's probably the reason it was chosen in the first place. The US40 route from Granby to Kremmling contains a couple of pinch points with lots of traffic and some wind issues. Windy Gap between Granby and Hot Sulphur Springs live up to its name and the canyon between Hot Sulphur Springs and Parshall is rather narrow. I've ridden both sections, and I'd almost prefer then western route.
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Old 04-20-09, 06:31 AM   #25
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I have a different alternative for you. Instead of starting in Eugene Oregon, start just north of Seattle Wa. on the northern tier which takes you directly to Glacier National park, from there it's a short distance south to Missoula and your back on the Transam. The distance is shorter, you get to see the Northern Cascades and you have more time to hike in Glacier. I did the route on my cross country, except in the opposite direction.
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