Rocky Mountain Loop Road Bike Tour
Have Bob Roll, Phil Liggett, and Paul Sherwin inspired you to climb high mountain passes and rip down incredible descents like a "grand prix motor car"?
There is no need to travel to Europe for such a road biking experience. Right here in the Rocky Mountains we have spectacular passes surrounded by snow capped peaks and lush wildflowers. Are you ready for the challenge of five days of mountain passes through the heart of the Colorado Rockies?
This road bike tour promises a serious challenge, but with the full support of a Western Spirit team and comfortable places to stay each night, you're going to love it. Our most advanced road tour incorporates several of Colorado's most scenic and historic byways.
We start by riding up and over Grand Mesa, east of Grand Junction, Colorado. From here we head to the West Elk Scenic Loop and on to the North Rim of Colorado's newest national park, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Then it's up and over Cottonwood Pass to Buena Vista and the famous Independence Pass into Aspen.
Finally we spin out of Carbondale over McClure Pass to complete the circle. For those ready for a serious effort towards a higher plane of being, this route offers a truly transcendent experience. Up for the challenge? Call us at 800-845-2453. Let us give you the inside scoop.
Colorado is known for its high mountain passes and breathtaking vistas, so on this trip we don’t waste any time delivering the goods. After a short shuttle from Grand Junction we start our week by climbing the scenic and historic Grand Mesa Byway. The byway starts climbing through the picturesque canyon of Plateau Creek to cool evergreen forests 11,000 feet above sea level. The mesa is home to all kinds of wildlife and more than 300 stream fed lakes, so as we climb up to our highpoint we will have beauty all around us to ease the suffering. After topping out and a nice picnic lunch, we begin our descent into the fruit growing town of Cedaredge. From here we bear east and do a bit more climbing through some classic farm land which eventually leads us right to our evening destination.Tomorrow we head to Gunnison. TOTAL MILEAGE: 64 miles. ELEVATION GAIN: 6,950. ELEVATION LOSS: 5,200. RIDE HIGH POINT: 10,800 feet on Grand Mesa.
After a hearty breakfast we begin our journey south towards Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. On scenic Route 92 we wind our way up and down, then in and out through this backcountry byway that seems built for road biking. Very little traffic, a challenging route and fantastic scenery make this day one to look forward to. There is no huge mountain pass today, but the cumulative elevation gain will surely make for some tired legs and hungry bellies. Once we pop out at the Gunnison River, we make our way along Blue Mesa Reservoir and the Curecanti National Recreation Area. We wind through the Gunnison Gorge and with the Elk Mountains to the north, finally roll into the beautiful Gunnison Valley. With a big ranching heritage, and a down home feel, Gunnison will give us a chance to kick back, have a big ol’ cowboy dinner, watch the sun set over the Elks and dream about the high mountain passes of days to come. TOTAL MILEAGE: 85 miles. ELEVATION GAIN: 5,800. ELEVATION LOSS: 2,800. RIDE HIGH POINT: 8,600 feet on Scenic Route 92.
If you like climbing and don’t mind an extra challenge along the way, today’s your day. We’ll start riding a bit earlier since afternoon thunderstorms are not uncommon during Colorado summers. Today’s challenge is the famous climb up to Cottonwood Pass. This pass sits at a whopping 12,126 feet and usually does not even open until Memorial Day, when the road is finally snow free. From Gunnison the climb represents a 4,500 foot vertical gain and if that’s not enough, the final 16 miles of climbing are actually on a compacted dirt surface. With the local road department’s annual mag-chloride treatment, the surface is fine for road bikes and provides just a little extra challenge for our ascent. The paved downhill to our night’s destination in Buena Vista is pure reward for a big day in the saddle. Our lodging is nestled right in the Arkansas River Valley with the mighty Sawatch Range providing the backdrop. TOTAL MILEAGE: 69 miles. ELEVATION GAIN: 4,500. ELEVATION LOSS: 4,200. RIDE HIGH POINT: 12,126 feet on Cottonwood Pass.
If yesterday’s climb was the “Mont Ventoux” of the Tour de France, then today is the “Alpe d’Huez.” Yes another day of climbing through the legendary Colorado Rockies and yes, another 12,000 foot pass. This time it’s all paved, but not necessarily any easier. Our route takes us up the Arkansas Valley, until we turn west and head up toward Twin Lakes. From here the road twists and turns as it steadily climbs toward the sky. We pass in the shadow of Mt. Elbert (at 14,433 feet it’s Colorado’s tallest peak) and test our legs on the big climb up Independence Pass. Just a few feet lower than Cottonwood Pass, this one will take most of the morning to tackle and most of the evening to talk about. From the top it’s practically all downhill into Colorado’s tinsel town, also known as the town of Aspen. It is nestled right in the heart of Colorado and the perfect place to spend our last night in the Rocky Mountains. TOTAL MILEAGE: 60 miles. ELEVATION GAIN: 4,100. ELEVATION LOSS: 4,200. RIDE HIGH POINT: 12,095 feet on Independence Pass.
Our final day brings us down valley from Aspen and past the twin summits of Mount Sopris which is the northwestern edge of the West Elk Loop. This magnificent landscape has been home to generations of Native Americans, most recently the Utes. We ride past the earthen coke ovens at Redstone which bear witness to the toil that built the communities of today. White settlers originally came in search of minerals and stayed to farm and ranch. The raging waters of the Crystal River remind us of where all that snow goes in the summer. Today’s final climb over 8,755 foot McClure Pass will give us one final challenge before coming back towards the farmland of Paonia. The riding on this day will feel a bit easier since our elevation stays lower overall, but we still do a good 50 miles before lunch. The trip ends with a picnic lunch at one of our favorite area fruit stands before shuttling back to Grand Junction in the afternoon. TOTAL MILEAGE: 54 miles. ELEVATION GAIN: 1,800. ELEVATION LOSS: 3,000. RIDE HIGH POINT: 8,755 feet on McClure Pass.
This tour contains some very challenging riding on narrow, steep mountain passes. A high level of fitness is required to enjoyably complete the route. A support van will be there so you can “control” your challenge, but only you can turn your pedals. If you do not consider yourself to be an expert rider and doubt your ability to complete this tour, please call us and we can help you determine whether this trip is appropriate for you. Itineraries are subject to change due to weather, road conditions, rider safety, and other factors which may affect the logistics of the trip.
To fully enjoy Colorado’s amazing riding, training is required. Working up to these mileages over several months will help you enjoy the tour that much more once the big week finally comes. Having good low gears on your bike that you can spin as much as possible will also help ease the challenge of multiple days of climbing.
Overall Rating: Advanced
Physical Difficulty: Very difficult. High elevations, steep climbs, long miles.
Altitude: 4,000 - 12,000 feet
For travel logistics and a packing list, please download the complete trip itinerary.