I'm new to touring, but it seems like a lot of fun!
I live in Boulder, CO and I was wondering if anyone had any recommendations on a 4 or 5 day tour in the area. Or possibly some books or a source that would have that.
any help would be awesome!
One obvious choice from home is the "Grand Loop" - Boulder - Estes Park - Grand Lake/Granby - Idaho Springs - Rollinsville (or Golden) - Boulder. (or in reverse) This can be done with a number of variations on the front range side depending on your preference for suburban riding vs more climbing, and in 2 to 4 days, and can be done as a camping or indoor (hotel/hostel mix) tour. Although the milages for a 4-day loop are moderate (~50/day), if you are carrying gear it's still challenging as there is a lot of climbing. Try to arrange to ride over Trail Ridge Road on a non-weekend / non-holiday.
There are possibilities from Frisco as well- I haven't worked out how a tour of that length can loop out around there, but you could start by looking at the "Copper Triangle" route and add out-and-backs from the "Triple Bypass." Leadville has a great hostel, if you end up there.
If you can extend your time to more like 8-10 days, this loop (Gunnison - Lake City - Creed - Pagosa Springs - Durango - Silverton - Montrose - Gunnison) is fantastic.
This only scratches the surface of bike touring the mountains here. There are a couple of books that you can use to string things together. I like "Cycling Colorado's Mountain Passes" by Kurt Magsamen, and have but don't prefer "Road Biking Colorado - the Statewide Guide" by Michael Seeberg. You are welcome to take a look at my copies of these if you want.
I was definitely more interested in the camping side of it.
The grand loop sounds good for me, I was thinking of possibly doing something like going to Camp Dick near Allenspark, and then A campsite in RMNP, like Moraine Park or something like that.
Do you know of any good places to camp? Also, I'm pretty concerned about traffic. are there any places to avoid or go towards for that?
I camped at an RV park in Estes Park once - yuck. There's a hostel there, and the Colorado Mountain School also has a bunkhouse. Camping in the park should work - I almost did that once but ended up staying at a friend's house, so no firsthand info to give there.
Don't know about Grand Lake / Granby area. There are several forest service campgrounds south of Winter Park - one just south of town, another just north of Empire, I've camped at both of those, they are nice, esp. the Empire one. There's also a YMCA of the Rockies somewhere north of Winter Park, but it might be a way off the main road.
You can get info on camping from the National Park Service (NPS.gov) web site and AAA camp books & maps - very useful together, but the maps are a little hard to use on their own - the camp symbol is at the nearest town, not the actual camp location. You can also get a Colorado Recreation Road Map - try REI or even gas stations - that has locations of BLM & forest service campgrounds. Also check with the ranger station out on Hwy 36 on the northside of Boulder for nearby camp info.
In terms of nicer roads, if you are going counterclockwise, I would got to Estes via the St. Vrain Canyon - Lyons to Allenspark to Estes (nicest climb for the loaded bike, unless you want to do that last mile to Ward on Lefthand Canyon loaded, eek!!). Lots of good ways to get to Lyons - obvious ones are Hwy 36 or 63rd - 75th - Hwy 66.
On the west side of the loop you don't have a choice - use Hwy 40.
From Hwy 40 / I-70, head down the frontage roads to Idaho Springs. There are several choices from there. The flatter but bad-traffic route would be Floyd Hill - Lookout - Golden - Hwy 93 (or Indiana Road) - Boulder. There's a mandatory section of riding on I70, and I haven't found a good way from Golden to Boulder. (bus? friend could get you?)
The better but very hilly way would be to go all the way back up to the Peak to Peak Highway via Central City / Blackhawk (there's some side road variation to get onto the parkway - i got lost there and did a lot of dirt riding and ended up on Oh My God Road / Virginia Canyon - not recommending that - maybe someone else can help with this part). From the P2P, you can descend back to the front range on Boulder Canyon (Hwy 119) - horrible traffic - or go farther to Lefthand Canyon - excellent riding but more climbing, or in between - Sugarloaf road - which is dirt at the top but the dirt part is fine on a road bike. Surgarloaf connects to 119, but you only have to ride 119 for a few miles before you get on the bike path at FourMile.
I'll add doing her "Grand Loop" but going north at Grand Lake over going towards the south. Slightly more remote but just as spectacular...some less traffic too
It is always nice to tour from home, but several triangles further north are also nice, e.g. Grandby - Kremling - Walden or going north from Walden to Saratoga or from Walden over Rabbit Ears Pass to Steamboat Springs...
This year Ride the Rockies is also doing a loop that I'm looking forward to: Glenwood Springs to Gunnison to Salida to Leadville to Aspen and back to Glenwood Springs. In general, there are enough passes to string together quite a few interesting loops.
In addition to mountains, I also have a fondness for some of the plains out east. I've enjoyed loops such as Fort Collins to Sterling and back via Fort Morgan...
Fairly close to home - with less traffic.
(BTW - are you able or willing to do any dirt?)
Head up to Fort Collins and just west to Laporte.
Hwy 14 is a great route into the mountains - gradual ascent.
Traffic is higher on weekends - as with all Colo mountain roads in the summer.
On weekdays it thins out pretty quickly.
Lots of camping options - either developed campgrounds or random.
At Cameron Pass, you can bike in on the irrigation canal to a trailhead
which leads into the Nokhu Crags and Neversummer Mountains.
North Park - just west of Cameron Pass has lots of out-and-back options via Walden.
Great camping - very few people - mostly off the tourist radar.
Returning - head up to Saratoga Hot Springs in Wyoming -
Then take the Snowy Range Road over the Medicine Bow Mountains.
Lake Marie is stunning with 2000 ft cliffs - random camping O.K.
(Snow stays until mid-July)
If you head into Laramie in the afternoon,
you should have 20 mph tailwinds across the Laramie Plains.
Coming back is trickier.
US 287 has a shoulder, but is pretty busy.
Or you can take the Upper Laramie River Road from Woods Landing and backtrack on Hwy 14.
Click on "Legend" to get the map legend, (don't ask me why they put in in a different file),
then click on "State Map" to get the map.
Also, as of last year, Google Streeview has good coverage of the mountains, and when I am considering a new route, I use it to take a look at the roads to see how wide the lanes are, and if there are bike lanes.