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Looking for help planning a Colorado tour in late July

Old 06-19-14, 02:49 PM
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Looking for help planning a Colorado tour in late July

My wife and I have had this penciled in on the calendar pretty much since we finished up the tour in upstate New York last year (https://www.bikeforums.net/touring/90...dack-park.html) but I have yet to start planning!

We're looking at doing a tour somewhere in Colorado during the last week of July (the week of our anniversary). The guildelines are pretty much the same as for the New York tour thread above:

- Loaded touring, max of 40 miles/day
- Loop starting and ending at a hotel
- Prefer even less elevation gain than our last tour (Proposed Adirondack tour 2013 in Blue Mountain Lake, NY, United States | MapMyRide)
- Prefer remote location but with at least one town a day where we could grab groceries/etc.
- Paved roads/paths only
- Prefer to stay at campsites but could do some hotels or stealth camping if we had to

I'm open to any suggestions, any help would be greatly appreciated!
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Old 06-20-14, 11:27 PM
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Originally Posted by lennon_68
My wife and I have had this penciled in on the calendar pretty much since we finished up the tour in upstate New York last year (https://www.bikeforums.net/touring/90...dack-park.html) but I have yet to start planning!

We're looking at doing a tour somewhere in Colorado during the last week of July (the week of our anniversary). The guildelines are pretty much the same as for the New York tour thread above:

- Loaded touring, max of 40 miles/day
- Loop starting and ending at a hotel
- Prefer even less elevation gain than our last tour (Proposed Adirondack tour 2013 in Blue Mountain Lake, NY, United States | MapMyRide)
- Prefer remote location but with at least one town a day where we could grab groceries/etc.
- Paved roads/paths only
- Prefer to stay at campsites but could do some hotels or stealth camping if we had to

I'm open to any suggestions, any help would be greatly appreciated!
I would have expected some kind of response by now! I was going to post something last night but ran out of time. First, Colorado doesn't have a lot of steep roads like they do in the eastern mountains. We can see where our roads go and no one in their right mind would go straight up some of the things that they do in Appalachia or the Adirondacks.

Most people will suggest something in the central to northern Rockies but I'm going to suggest something different. This map starts in Colorado Springs and heads south to Pueblo over Greenhorn Mountain into Westcliff. The route takes you over the Royal Gorge Bridge through Canon City (the "n" has a ~ over it so it should be pronounced Canyon) then up along Cheyenne Mountain back to Co Springs.

You could also go up US 24 to Woodland Park, then on to Fairplay and to Canon City on CO9 and back on CO115. Distance would be about the same. The only problem is that US24 isn't the best bike road just outside of Manitou Springs. It's also prone to flooding due to some forest fires in the area a couple of years ago. The bad part is only about 5 miles and as long as there's no rain in the area it isn't that much of a problem.

I have other suggestions as well.
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Old 06-21-14, 10:47 AM
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Thanks so much for the route suggestion! I forgot to mention that we'll be driving in from northern MN. I noticed the route there started at an airport but that won't be necessary. Wherever we start we'd like to stay at a hotel the night before so we can do our shopping and prepare though.

That route looks pretty good from a mileage standpoint, it's almost exactly 40 miles between towns which would put us in one each day Are you familiar with the camping options along the route at all? If not I can definitely look it up I just figured it's worth checking

I do have a couple concerns. The 20 mile climb on what would be day 2 would be tough but doable. If we do this route maybe we'll move things around and start in CO city so that's out of the way early. The other concern is that it's a little longer than we want. Is there any easy way to trim 20-30 miles off? It looks like maybe there's a way to trim CO springs off but I don't know what the roads/elevations are like that would cut across there.

Again THANKS for the help. I love doing these tours but planning them is still quite a challenge for me. I just don't know where to start so I REALLY appreciate the input of someone familiar with the area
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Old 06-21-14, 02:00 PM
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Might be worth looking at the North Park area. Walden, Granby, and Steamboat Springs type of thing.
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Old 06-21-14, 02:43 PM
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Of course, Colorado is nice - - but Wyoming is nicer.
Most Wyoming roads have shoulders and light traffic.
Few Colorado roads have shoulders and the traffic - - well.

How 'bout on the border?

Hwy 130 west from Laramie over the Snowy Range is spectacular - -
Because of westerly winds, you'd need to leave early -
Then there's a hefty climb up the mountain range -
But the view of Medicine Bow Peak is breath-taking.

Camping up top - Rental cabins at Ryan Park.
Lodging at Saratoga (hot springs) and Riverside.
Hwy 70 is a lovely ride across the Sierra Madre - very quiet.
Limited services at Baggs.

If you are willing to do a little dirt - from Savery to Steamboat -
Hahn's Peak Road has lovely views, meadows, aspens - then turns to pavement.
Hwy 13 to Craig and US 40 to Steamboat are busier roads.
US 40 is a hefty climb over Rabbit Ears Pass then Hwy 14 to Walden

Of, if you have time, Hwy 131 and Hwy 134 over Gore Pass much quieter -
Then US 40 to Hwy 14 to Walden or US 40 to Granby and Hwy 125 to Walden.
North Park has fabulous 360-degree panoramas with mountains everywhere.

From Walden you can tak Hwy 230 back to Laramie - -
But Hwy 14 thru Poudre River Canyon is jut soooo much nicer.
Problem is how to connect Ft. Collins to Laramie - -
And you do NOT want to ride US 287.
Greyhound has a 1:00 pm nonstop to Laramie.
You could leave your bike at a bike shop and drive back to pick it up.

But a loop westwards from Laramie and eastwards to Fort Collins would be nice.
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Old 06-22-14, 10:27 AM
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Originally Posted by lennon_68
Thanks so much for the route suggestion! I forgot to mention that we'll be driving in from northern MN. I noticed the route there started at an airport but that won't be necessary. Wherever we start we'd like to stay at a hotel the night before so we can do our shopping and prepare though.
I assumed you would be flying so I started it at the Springs airport. You could start it at any local hotel. You might also want to check the Warm Showers for someplace to park a car for several days. The airport might also be a good place to start because it has relatively inexpensive longterm parking. I've parked at airports a couple of times while on a one or two week tour.

Originally Posted by lennon_68
That route looks pretty good from a mileage standpoint, it's almost exactly 40 miles between towns which would put us in one each day Are you familiar with the camping options along the route at all? If not I can definitely look it up I just figured it's worth checking
There are a number of camping options all along the route. Pueblo is the most problematic. You can camp at the KOA about 10 miles north of town or at Pueblo State Park which is about 5 miles west of Pueblo. I'd suggest the latter but it will increase your mileage slightly.

There are lots of other campgrounds along the way from private to National Forest Service campgrounds. If you have smart phone, I would suggest that you get the Allstays Camp and Tent app. I used it to find campgrounds while on tour around Appalachia. It's a great app for finding all kinds of campgrounds and grocery stores.

One note on Colorado campgrounds. They aren't like campgrounds you'll find in Minnesota or much of the rest of the nation. Commercial campgrounds have amenities like showers and flush toilets. Public campgrounds on both a state and federal level don't. Those have water and pit toilets but that's all. They are rustic...sometimes surprisingly so.

Originally Posted by lennon_68
I do have a couple concerns. The 20 mile climb on what would be day 2 would be tough but doable. If we do this route maybe we'll move things around and start in CO city so that's out of the way early. The other concern is that it's a little longer than we want. Is there any easy way to trim 20-30 miles off? It looks like maybe there's a way to trim CO springs off but I don't know what the roads/elevations are like that would cut across there.
You might be able to start in Colorado City but finding someplace to park may be an issue. There is a KOA there that you might be able to park your car at. The owner is very nice and might be willing to let you park there. Offer to pay for the parking spot, of course.

The route is rather constrained by the topography. Most of the roads are the only one available. There is a KOA south of Colorado Springs near Fountain. You might be able to park there as well which would cut off a small amount of mileage but only 5 to 10 miles.

One note on the route. From Colorado Springs to Pueblo, you have only two choices on the route. The one that is shown on the map is on the old Pueblo Road east of Fountain Creek which is half paved and half dirt. The upper half near Fountain is a beautiful ride along Fountain Creek through pretty little farms. The lower half isn't a bad ride but it is on a dirt road which makes the going harder.

The other route is along I-25 that is mostly on frontage roads but, occasionally, on I-25 itself. The sections along I-25 are noisy but the road is very wide with very wide shoulders and the sections are pretty short. That kind of stuff happens all over the West because sometimes the Interstate is the only road available.

Of the two routes, I'd take the Old Pueblo Road for scenery. But I'd also have no problem riding along I-25 for expediency.

Originally Posted by lennon_68
Again THANKS for the help. I love doing these tours but planning them is still quite a challenge for me. I just don't know where to start so I REALLY appreciate the input of someone familiar with the area
Glad to help. Like I said, there are other routes I can suggest if you want.
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Old 07-11-14, 10:17 AM
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I can't believe we're supposed to start driving for this tour a week from today! I still have an embarrassing amount of planning to do. I took some time this morning to re-look through everything and try to come up with a solid plan... That allstays website is priceless! I'm not too worried about the accommodations being too rustic, we'd be happy stealth camping if we knew we wouldn't be bothered by anyone.

You mentioned that there are other routes you could recommend. I'm curious what advantages the proposed route has over the others you might suggest. At this point I'm pretty sure we're going to do that route I'm just curious

From staring at the route and the camping options available I'm focusing on the climb between Colorado City and Westcliffe. I think we can mess with the miles on the other days as long as we get that part "right" since it will be the biggest challenge. I was initially focusing on the campgrounds near Lake Isabel at the top and the other one by the switchback a little further north but I couldn't find a way to make that work at all. Then I spotted one just east of Westcliffe and everything sort of fell into place:

Starting point: Colorado City KOA - hopefully park car here. Probably drive here from a hotel in Colorado Springs
Night 1: Cross D Bar Trout Ranch - approximately 40 miles, all uphill lol. Likely 2 miles of gravel to get to the campground...
Night 2: Canon City KOA (or Starlite Classic or Echo Canyon) - approximately 48 miles, all downhill...
Night 3: Mountaindale Campground - approximately 38 miles. Likely gravel to get to the campground
Night 4: Pueblo KOA - miles ?? (need clarification on how to get through CO Springs and re-do the map)


I have a couple questions I was hoping you or someone else could help with:

1. The KOA I'm familiar with (sioux falls, sd) looks like an overfilled, loud, not all that great place to be. I'm optimistic that the experience in your neck of the woods will be in stark contrast to that. How are they out there?

2. Are you at all familiar with the roads to get to Cross D Bar Trout Ranch or Mountaindale Campground? It seems safe to assume they'll be gravel but it would be cool if they're not.

3. In MN there are state forests that allow dispersed camping wherever you want (you're supposed to do the whole "leave no trace" thing though), is there anything similar to that in CO?

4. For these campgrounds along the way will we need to make reservations or will they be able to find a place for us? In Oregon many of the campgrounds had hiker/biker camp sites but they don't have that sort of thing here and I don't think they did in NY.

5. Assuming we aren't parking our car in CO Springs what's the best way to get through there? We're probably going to spend 2 nights there before the tour so it won't be necessary to "see the sights"

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Old 07-14-14, 06:43 PM
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Any help would be greatly appreciated
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Old 07-15-14, 10:56 PM
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Regarding #3 , dispersed camping is usually allowed in national forests. Pike and San Isabel National Forests Cimarron and Comanche National Grasslands - Camping & Cabinsispersed Camping
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Old 07-16-14, 11:02 AM
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Originally Posted by mje
Thanks mje! So national forests is OK. I'm guessing the forest that Greenhorn Mountain is in west of Colorado City) isn't one of those though and I'm also guessing that dispersed camping in "wilderness preserves" isn't allowed.

As the big day approaches I think the most important thing I need to get figured out is question #5 . I messed around with mapping it on google maps and mapmyride. Google seems to think that if I'm on a bike I need to go all the way up to S Academy Ave which didn't look reasonable. When I looked closer I noticed that there appears to be some sort of military base of some kind there... I'm guessing that the reason it has me going up that far north is that all those roads that cut across are closed to the public?
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Old 07-16-14, 11:08 AM
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Greenhorn Mountain is in San Isabel NF, San Carlos ranger district. Dispersed camping in wilderness is certainly allowed, but bicycles are not.
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Old 07-16-14, 11:41 AM
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Ah cool. I tried to look that up but couldn't find anything saying why that area was green lol (I even looked up a bunch of the mountains in the area on wikipedia/google hoping something would say "located in <whatever that green blob is>").

We'll hopefully be keeping to our planned route, staying at commercial campgrounds along the way but it's good to know what options are available should our plans change.

I've updated the route with the starting location moved and added the little offshoots to the campgrounds:
Viewing Proposed CO tour 1 | MapMyRide
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Old 07-17-14, 06:20 AM
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Originally Posted by lennon_68
I can't believe we're supposed to start driving for this tour a week from today! I still have an embarrassing amount of planning to do. I took some time this morning to re-look through everything and try to come up with a solid plan... That allstays website is priceless! I'm not too worried about the accommodations being too rustic, we'd be happy stealth camping if we knew we wouldn't be bothered by anyone.

You mentioned that there are other routes you could recommend. I'm curious what advantages the proposed route has over the others you might suggest. At this point I'm pretty sure we're going to do that route I'm just curious

From staring at the route and the camping options available I'm focusing on the climb between Colorado City and Westcliffe. I think we can mess with the miles on the other days as long as we get that part "right" since it will be the biggest challenge. I was initially focusing on the campgrounds near Lake Isabel at the top and the other one by the switchback a little further north but I couldn't find a way to make that work at all. Then I spotted one just east of Westcliffe and everything sort of fell into place:

Starting point: Colorado City KOA - hopefully park car here. Probably drive here from a hotel in Colorado Springs
Night 1: Cross D Bar Trout Ranch - approximately 40 miles, all uphill lol. Likely 2 miles of gravel to get to the campground...
Night 2: Canon City KOA (or Starlite Classic or Echo Canyon) - approximately 48 miles, all downhill...
Night 3: Mountaindale Campground - approximately 38 miles. Likely gravel to get to the campground
Night 4: Pueblo KOA - miles ?? (need clarification on how to get through CO Springs and re-do the map)


I have a couple questions I was hoping you or someone else could help with:

1. The KOA I'm familiar with (sioux falls, sd) looks like an overfilled, loud, not all that great place to be. I'm optimistic that the experience in your neck of the woods will be in stark contrast to that. How are they out there?

2. Are you at all familiar with the roads to get to Cross D Bar Trout Ranch or Mountaindale Campground? It seems safe to assume they'll be gravel but it would be cool if they're not.

3. In MN there are state forests that allow dispersed camping wherever you want (you're supposed to do the whole "leave no trace" thing though), is there anything similar to that in CO?

4. For these campgrounds along the way will we need to make reservations or will they be able to find a place for us? In Oregon many of the campgrounds had hiker/biker camp sites but they don't have that sort of thing here and I don't think they did in NY.

5. Assuming we aren't parking our car in CO Springs what's the best way to get through there? We're probably going to spend 2 nights there before the tour so it won't be necessary to "see the sights"
Sorry. I've been out of town for a couple of weeks. Your route looks pretty good.

The KOA at Colorado City is a small operation that was very quite the time I used it (about this time of year).

I'm not personally familiar with the road to your campgrounds but they are likely graded dirt roads. Graded roads can be nice to ride on but it will be a softer surface than pavement. It will be rougher than pavement but not a rough as a dirt road. Watch out for "washboards" in the corners.

You are allowed to do dispersed camping on USFS land in Colorado but keep the impact low.

Campgrounds can be hit or miss on how many people are in them. There are a number of campgrounds along your route as well as some USFS campgrounds and dispersed camping. This isn't a holiday season so I wouldn't worry too much about the availability of camping.

You'll have to go around Ft Carson to get to Fountain. I'd go past Academy Blvd (very busy) to Cheyenne Meadows Rd (next intersection) and take it over to Venetucci Road then south towards Fountain. You can pick up a bike path (gravel) south through Security and Fountain for about 5 miles.

The Pueblo KOA is on the west side of the I-25 about 30 miles south. You can stay on the frontage roads and a little bit of shoulder riding to take the most direct route or you can ride on the Old Pueblo Road to Pace Rd and then only have to ride on I-25 corridor for about 2 miles. The Old Pueblo Road is a graded dirt road for most of the route but it's rideable.

Hope this helps.
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Gold Fever Three days of dirt in Colorado
Pokin' around the Poconos A cold ride around Lake Erie
Dinosaurs in Colorado A mountain bike guide to the Purgatory Canyon dinosaur trackway
Solo Without Pie. The search for pie in the Midwest.
Picking the Scablands. Washington and Oregon, 2005. Pie and spiders on the Columbia River!



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Old 07-21-14, 11:13 AM
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We made the y rip to Colorado safe and sound and already conquered the first major challenge of our tour... forgetting our panniers!! Thanks to a very friendly and generous bicyclist in Colorado Springs we have a set of loaners for the week though. Thanks david!! We drove down to Colorado city today and are almost done loading up. We should be on the road within the next couple minutes.
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