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  1. #1
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    Pass-hunting in Colorado

    I Just moved to Denver, and have a few weeks before I start work. I am hoping to do a ~week long tour, and I was looking for some route-planning advice:

    I want to cross as many passes as possible*.
    I prefer a loop-tour.
    Onroad/Offroad doesnt matter, any mixture of both would be great, preferably climbing on paved surfaces though.
    I don't mind driving a little bit to get to the starting point if need be.
    Id rather not camp in the snow if possible, though this May snowstorm is bumming me out a bit

    *passes must be called _________-pass on a map, or have a sign saying "pass".

    can anyone suggest a nice route or at least some starting points around which I can plan a ride?


    Thanks in advance!

  2. #2
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    Start in Georgetown, CO. Cycle over Guanella Pass (11,669) to Grant. Head southwest through Jefferson and on toward Hwy 9. Then take Hwy 9 south through Breckenridge and out over Hoosier Pass (11,541). Continue on through fairplay and take 285 to 24 up to Leadville, the highest city in the U.S. Continue on 24 through Minturn to Vail and then turn east to cycle over Vail Pass (10,554) [there is an awesome dedicated bike path here running all the way to Frisco. The run through the canyon down from Copper Mountain is incredible]. Wind up in Frisco, ride around the lake to Keystone. Ride up through keystone toward Montezuma and (walk/scramble/push/hike/climb/freak-out) over Argentine Pass (13,200) and ride down the other side back to Georgetown. About 80/20 on road/off road I think.

    It isn't the most passes you can cram into a week, but they are some of the prettiest and highest. The view from the top of Guanella is amazing, especially looking east toward the front range and Mount Evans, and the view from the top of Argentine is like being on another planet. The stars come out before the sun sets sometimes up there, and the wide expanse of the Peru Creek drainage is awe inspiring. Watch out though, I know you said paved/unpaved didn't matter, but that's really mountain goat territory.

    Also, check on the status of Guanella Pass. There was some talk about closing it due to a rockfall situation, and I stopped following it a year or so back.

    Someone else may be able to fill you in on the passes in the more southern parts of the state. I haven't ridden them personally, but I have traveled there numerous times, and highly recommend looking into the areas around Durango, Telluride, and Ouray. Monarch Pass and Crested Butte are amazing as well. There's just too much beauty in Colorado to try to narrow it down... it's hard.
    Last edited by sunset1123; 05-13-10 at 10:33 AM.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    Between Raton, NM and Pagoso Springs, there are 3 named passes and 1 with no name. Raton Pass, La Veta Pass, and Wolf Creek Pass. Wolf Creek is a 6% grade from the East and 7% from the West. The problem is any loop route would take longer than a week to complete. You could just do an out and back in about a week.

    This link is to a table of Colorado passes that might help you put a loop together. La Veta is not listed but I know for a fact there is a sign at the top.

    http://cyclepass.com/t_tpa_co_all_alpha.html
    The bicycle is one of the great inventions of mankind. Delights children, challenges young men to feats of daring, and turns old men into boys again.--Me

  4. #4
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    It's a little too early for pass hunting. I'd have tons of suggestions if you were doing this in a month or two.

    Right now... I really don't know what to tell you.

    This book is great:
    http://www.rei.com/product/688722
    ...

  5. #5
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    Thank you guys! THis is awesome! I am so very excited.

    I hope I can figure out a route that isnt too da*n cold, but even if I have to wait to do this in the future, this will be a great resource.

    Any other advice would be greatly appreciated.

  6. #6
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    How has the winter been in Colorado this year? I haven't been back that way in several years.

    Valygrl has a pont...it IS a little early, but if you don't mind a little snow up on top, it is plenty do-able in late May/early June.

    Of course, one time I was coming back from a ride out toward Park County and got blasted with over a foot of snow on June 20th, and they cancelled 4th of July festivites the year before that due to snow, so there are no guarantees. Have seen been caught out in snow in mid August over the high passes before. If surprise snowfall and unseasonable road conditions aren't your cup 'o tea, stay out of the high rockies.

  7. #7
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    web cams, many of which show roads:
    http://www.dickgilbert.com/coloradocams.htm

    DOT
    http://www.cotrip.org/home.htm

    Personally, if I had a week to tour right now, I would go to Moab or Santa Fe, save the high passes for later in the year.
    ...

  8. #8
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    One more thing, for future summer tours, the Bike tour of Colorado lists it's routes for the last many years here: http://www.bicycletourcolorado.com/i...display&pid=33

    Since it's a one-week supported loop trip, these routes lend themselves pretty well to 1-2 week loaded tours.
    ...

  9. #9
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    thanks very much for all the helpful information. Im not averse to suffering in cold and rapidly changing weather, but I will surely plan for that potential... cheers. Moab makes sense...

  10. #10
    Hooked on Touring
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    Sounds like a guy thing.
    And somebody from back East.

    Now is the time to explore the High Desert.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by jamawani View Post
    Sounds like a guy thing.
    And somebody from back East.

    Now is the time to explore the High Desert.
    Grew up in the Desert amigo, my favorite sort of country . Not a guy thing, just excited to do some mountain riding while working towards a goal of 100 mountain passes...

  12. #12
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by positron View Post
    ...while working towards a goal of 100 mountain passes...
    Sounds like a guy thing to me

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
    Sounds like a guy thing to me
    I dunno.... I've crossed all the paved continental divides in CO, and now I'm working on crossing them in the other direction. Not a guy.
    ...

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by valygrl View Post
    I dunno.... I've crossed all the paved continental divides in CO
    In May?

    <<<>>>

    Of course, you do always say things more diplomatically than I.

    <<<>>>

    As for Independence Pass - I don't think they'll get it open before June this year.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by jamawani View Post
    In May?

    ....
    No, of course not! I'm the one saying it's too early. I'm just saying chicks can chase goals too.

    OP, just to re-state the point, and understanding you might know this already - it's one thing to be riding in fairly flat terrain in bad weather, but if you add a long descent to even moderately bad weather (say, 45 and raining) it can go from uncomfortable to dangerous in just a few minutes. If you haven't ridden *down* a big pass in cold rain, just be aware it's a totally different thing. I climbed and descended Vail pass in a July sleet/rainstorm a few years ago, it was fine going up, but by the time I got to Frisco (only about a 6 mile descent) I was literally hypothermic, couldn't move my fingers, could barely control the bike. I was lucky it was just Vail pass, and I could go immediately to a hotel and get warmed up.

    It's just a fact of life, and more so in the mountains, that not all outdoor activities are optimal at all times of year, so to maximize your enjoyment, try to choose the activity that works for the time of year it is.

    I just got back from bike trips to Moab and Arizona. I would have recommended AZ to the OP a few weeks ago, but if I voiced my current feelings about AZ this thread would get moved to P&R. So I recommended NM instead.
    ...

  16. #16
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    Hi Positron,
    As a heads up, I'm 50 miles SW of Denver and it's currently snowing hard for the third day in a row. We awoke to 18 inches of snow on the ground this morning. I'm not sure when you're planning to leave but I certainly wouldn't want to be riding over a Colorado pass any time soon. Even driving to Moab wouldn't be much fun right now.

    If you haven't already, check valygirl's links on post # 7.
    "I heard the music and I wrote to it. Some people beat drums, some people strum guitars. It's all in the music you hear" ~ Hunter S. Thompson

  17. #17
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    just like riding across the USA?

    http://www.centcols.org/regle_du_jeu...f_the_game.htm

    edit: this was in refernce to staeph's "guy thing reference"

    good natured ribbing
    Last edited by positron; 05-14-10 at 08:13 PM. Reason: quote didnt work

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by positron View Post
    Oooooooo I wanna do that!!!!
    ...

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by valygrl View Post
    No, of course not! I'm the one saying it's too early. I'm just saying chicks can chase goals too.

    OP, just to re-state the point, and understanding you might know this already - it's one thing to be riding in fairly flat terrain in bad weather, but if you add a long descent to even moderately bad weather (say, 45 and raining) it can go from uncomfortable to dangerous in just a few minutes. If you haven't ridden *down* a big pass in cold rain, just be aware it's a totally different thing. I climbed and descended Vail pass in a July sleet/rainstorm a few years ago, it was fine going up, but by the time I got to Frisco (only about a 6 mile descent) I was literally hypothermic, couldn't move my fingers, could barely control the bike. I was lucky it was just Vail pass, and I could go immediately to a hotel and get warmed up.

    It's just a fact of life, and more so in the mountains, that not all outdoor activities are optimal at all times of year, so to maximize your enjoyment, try to choose the activity that works for the time of year it is.

    I just got back from bike trips to Moab and Arizona. I would have recommended AZ to the OP a few weeks ago, but if I voiced my current feelings about AZ this thread would get moved to P&R. So I recommended NM instead.
    I really dig it all, I do.

    I grew up in Tucson AZ and I love the desert highs and lows, and (jamawami) I crossed the Wind River range at age 14 from south to north with a backpack and a couple friends in June/July complete with unexpected snow and blizzards... So I'm not totally ignorant of mountain situations. That said, I just moved to CO, and was really really excited to start some big-mountain riding stat. I realize that it is too early for this though, and your advice has been heeded. I will plan for the next couple weeks free time in lower country, and I will make my way upwards on any free weekends i might have. Its just a bummer that I have all this free time now

    Oh, and valygirl, I moved up to Denver a week or so after AZ became nationally known for bigotry and small-mindedness. I wasn't sad to leave right then, and the state will get its comeuppance eventually. But I am terribly sad that my beautiful home state, so naturally diverse and wonderful, can be colored in the minds of so many by the actions of a few. I claim nothing for Phx, but Tucson is warm, open, and diverse. A blue freckle on a big red cheek I guess.

    went up to boulder today for a lecture, and it seemed lovely (before the rain). I'm jealous my work didn't take me there!

    Thanks all please keep any suggestions for pass-riding coming, and when the weather turns this might be a good reference for others...
    Last edited by positron; 05-14-10 at 08:17 PM.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by valygrl View Post
    Oooooooo I wanna do that!!!!

    sweet right? Ive got a few, but I was living in england when i was turned onto this. Try finding a damn hill in england, let alone a pass.

  21. #21
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    You sound like you're going to be an asset to the front range touring community, welcome!

    To get you started, you can get 3 passes in one day on the Copper Triangle route (http://www.coppertriangle.com/course.html)
    Here's (mostly) what I did last summer - 3 weeks: http://tinyurl.com/m9glg9
    Here's my first CO tour - 5 weeks: http://tinyurl.com/2ouoay
    Here's the Grand Loop - 1-4 days: http://tinyurl.com/24t96zc
    ...

  22. #22
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    There is a nice, easy, 300 mile week long loop ride around the Uncompahgre Plateau over here on the Western Slope, but the only climbs are Dallas Divide, Norwood Hill and Unaweep Canyon Divide.

    It looks like the big passes are still snowed out right now.
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