coloradobikemaps

Maps + routes for the Colorado cyclist

Flagstaff-Gross Reservoir Climb

If you lived in Boulder, this would be your daily short climb, your testing ground, your climb against which to measure your fitness from month to month and year to year. Robert Hurst, in Road Biking Colorado’s Front Range, calls it Boulder’s little Alpe d-Huez. He’s exactly right. Every town has one. In Golden, it’s Lookout Mountain. In Fort Collins, it’s Rist Canyon, in Aspen it is Maroon Bells, in Colorado Springs it’s probably North Cheyenne Canyon. If you live in one of those towns, I always wonder if you ever go anywhere else. I mean, why would you, when you have [fill in the blank] in your backyard. It is like having a condo in Vail, Aspen, or Frisco. Inertia sets in. Why would you ever go anywhere else? But for the rest of us in the altitude deprived plains, we have no choice but to pack up and make a pilgrimage (or multiple ones) to the shrines and mythical places we only hear about in whispered (well, sometimes bragging) tones around the odd beer or espresso. I’m pretty sure we all believe that our local climb (or our last steep climb) is as hard as anything else out there. But wherever you live and whatever your ego, put it all aside and get up to Boulder sometime before the snow flies and ride on out to Gross Reservoir

and back. You won’t regret it.

For out-of-towners, there’s usually good parking at Chautauqua Park, but if that fails, you are far enough west to park in the neighborhood without running afoul of Boulder’s sometimes draconian parking regulations. If you go past the Gregory Canyon trailhead, you’ll be inside the park system and be required to pay a fee (unless you have local plates). Saddle up. Start climbing. Once you pass the Gregory Canyon trailhead, hard climbing starts immediately with a short stretch averaging 10%. If you want lots of detailed climbing information beyond what’s provided above and below, check out Russell Harding’s blog, The Road to Cat 1, or the 303cycling.com website. But if you want to preserve some mystery, just know that it starts out hard, eases up, then finishes, after the turnoff to the Amphitheater, with a stretch of ridiculously hard climbing.  The pain is blessedly short. And if you want to see how you measure up against the best, time yourself from the stone bridge at Gregory Canyon to the Amphitheater Rd turnoff (11:59, Scot Eliot), or to the mailboxes near Bison Dr (22:10, Tom Danielson).

If you are new to Boulder or foothills riding in general, know that the views are amazing (if you can look up long enough to enjoy them) and there are several easy pullouts along the way where you can stop, catch your breath and admire the view. You should also detour at least once out along Amphitheater Rd. Many turn around here and avoid the final climb. Finally, recognize that you’re not likely to be alone on this stretch of road and check your ego accordingly. You’ll share it with cars, motorcycles, hikers, boulderers, wildlife, and other cyclists. The shoulder comes and goes and where it exists, it is biased in favor of uphill traffic, a striping scheme that makes sense when you think about it.

After you pass Bison Road, keep going and you’ll have most of the road to yourself. You’ll level out briefly as you pass Kossler Lake,

but then the road plunges sharply down for two miles into an area partially burned by the Walker Ranch/Eldorado fire of 2000.

One more short (steep!) climb will bring you to a picnic area overlooking the reservoir that provides a convenient place to water up and eat a snack. After what you’ve been through, the climb back up to Kossler Lake is pretty straightforward.

SIf you are still hankering for adventure, check out Robert Hurst’s book. He’s got a challenging, 33 mile loop sketched out that takes you over dirt to Coal Creek Canyon and then loops around back to Boulder on 93. It is definitely not for the timid or those challenged by dirt roads.

PDF Link

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October 12, 2011 Posted by | Boulder | , , , , | Leave a comment

Rist Canyon Loop


Rist Canyon Loop easily makes my top 10 list of favorite loop rides along the Front Range. It is a perfect distance (42 miles), has a slew of both steep and interesting climbing, is surprisingly remote for being so close to Fort Collins, and the bulk of the route wanders through the Roosevelt National Forest or alongside (and looking down on) Horsetooth Reservoir. Were it closer to Denver and Boulder, it’d be overrun with cyclists, sort of like Deer Creek Canyon and Lookout Mountain are. As it is, during the week you’ll be pretty much on your own, with the FC crowd showing up on the weekends. The stretch along Horsetooth Reservoir makes a convenient loop for FC regulars and there’s an annualFort Collins Cycling Festival that usually includes some version of Rist Canyon in its line-up, as a long road race or as a shorter, hill climb.

There are multiple places you could start this loop along Horsetooth Reservoir or in Fort Collins (from where a convenient bike path winds it way along the Poudre River), but I’m a confirmed espresso junky so the hamlet of Bellvue is the only way to go. As you come in from I-25, Fort Collins, and Laporte, look for the Trout Rearing Hatchery sign and dirt parking lot just before Bellvue at the junction of Rist Canyon Rd and Route 23. Park there, suit up, and pedal 50 yards to the Bellvue Bean for a quick espresso jolt or a muffin and you’ll be set to go.

Head west through rolling farm land and just keep going. Soon the farm land disappears and you’ll be climbing through a tight canyon with evergreens pressing in on both sides. Periodically the trees peel back to reveal an old homestead, a dilapidated hay rake, or a small ranch nestled into the hillside. Views of the distant Mummy Range flit in and out of your vision. The climbing is pretty steady, with short breaks where the road levels off for a respite. After five miles or so the canyon walls fall back, and give you a better picture of where you are. The higher you go, the steeper it gets. Pause for a snack and a drink, and enjoy the view at the top.

Drop steeply to Stove Prairie Road. Go left, southeast to Masonville. The road falls out from underneath you for most of this stretch–sometimes steeply, sometimes gradually. The closer you get to Masonville (really not much more than a junction in the road) the less remote the ride feels. Press on. There’s still great riding ahead. Traffic will increase slightly here, bearing tourists and their toys to the reservoir. If you need water or a pit stop, look for the Larimer County Open Space Trailhead on your left, just after topping out of the climb from Masonville. There’s also a liquor store just past Shoreline Dr if you need something stronger. And even though you left Rist Canyon some 20 miles back, there’s still some climbing to do. The road tilts up in short, sharp, shocks three more times before you get back to Bellvue. None of these is very long, but they are steep, mostly in the 8% to 12% range and can be demoralizing if you’ve started to bonk.

The views east across Fort Collins and west across the reservoir more than make up for the minor pain you’ll feel. At the north end of the reservoir the road plunges down once more into the alfalfa fields south of Bellvue. Look for the historic grange as you pull back into town.

Rist Canyon Loop PDF

September 25, 2011 Posted by | Fort Collins, Race Courses | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Le Tour des Trois Cols


A friend  told me about a route in Deer Creek that Jonathan Vaughters had named. I knew the route, but didn’t know Vaughters had beaten me to the punch. Vaughters is a Colorado wunderkind who raced with US Postal and Credit Agricole. He now manages Garmin-Cervelo. Among his many local credits are as the three-time champion of the Bob Cook Memorial Hill Climb. The dude was seriously fast back in the day. So I tracked the route down in an old 5280 post online from 2002, when Vaughters was back in Colorado pretending to be a regular human being. He calls it an “all-time leg breaker,” but I don’t know. Maybe if you start in Denver as he suggests, adding 40 miles along the Platte River and C-470 Trail. Either way, the loop is a good one, longer and more intense than the City View Loop, shorter and less painful than the Black Mountain Loop. With the Tour De France about to start, I thought a french titled route would be good. If you want to impress your friends on the next group ride, just say something in Gallic tones about La Grande Boucle and shrug expressively. If you stub out your Gitane and then dust them going up the first col, even better.

If you are merely mortal, start at the usual place, Platte Canyon Rd and Deer Creek Canyon Rd. Head uphill, ignoring the Siren Song of High Grade Road at Phillipsburg. Climb the first col (9 miles) then ride down to the junction of North and South Turkey Creek roads, passing turn-off to City View, but maybe stopping at the Inter-Canyon Fire Department station for a re-group (at the junction of South Deer Creek Canyon Road and South Turkey Creek Road). I know the names are confusing, but on the ground it becomes much clearer. There’s a burger and pizza place at the Turkey Creek roads junction near US 285, so look for it. Go left under US 285 and begin an easy climb up N. Turkey Creek Rd. Go right on High Drive, a little more than a mile past US 285. The steep climbing starts here and continues for 3+ miles to the second col. Drop down into Evergreen where you’ll find plenty of convenience stores at which to refuel and empty your tank. Cruise down Highway 74 to to the sleepier and funkier burg of Kittredge, famous (in my mind at least) as the long-time home of the Senator who would have been king but for some monkey business in 1988. Sic transit gloria.

Just east of town proper, turn south on Meyers Gulch Road. Start climbing the third col, definitely the shortest of the three. Cruise down Parmalee Gulch Road to US 285. Follow the signs (left) to Bailey, not Denver. Here you have a small dilemma: ride 1/3 mile on the shoulder of 285 then exit to S Turkey Creek Rd by crossing the highway, or stay on the shoulder for two miles back to the N Turkey Creek exit. If you cross 285 to regain S Turkey Creek Rd, you have the pleasure of riding through Tiny Town, which in my mind is always more interesting than flinching at traffic on 285. Both options lead you back to the fire station at the base of col one. Go left up S Deer Creek Canyon Rd. Climb the half mile back to the top, preferably in your big chain ring if you want to be taken seriously. Enjoy the long descent back down to your starting place.

PDF Link.

June 22, 2011 Posted by | Deer Creek Canyon Area | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Black Mountain Loop


The only wrong with this ride is that it is not closer to my house. I don’t know if I have enough superlatives in my vocabulary for this loop. The climbing is exceptionally varied. There are long, sustained climbs from Chatfield Reservoir, up Deer Creek Canyon or High Grade Road. There are ridiculously steep stretches (most mercifully short) along High Drive and Little Cub Drive that will make you check to see if you’re in your largest cog. And there is the climb for which the route is named, an 8.5 mile heart-breaker that gets steeper the higher you go. That’s only the climbing. You’ll pass through or nearby more than eight local and regional parks and one small section of the Arapahoe National Forest. Even outside these protected areas, you will mostly be traveling through forested areas. The views from High Drive, Black Mountain Drive, and High Grade Road are spectacular. The traffic is generally light. And there are places to refuel along the way, everything from the prosaic convenience store at US 285 and Highway 73 to the Evergreen Mountain Market and the Pleasant Park Grange. If you don’t pay too much attention to the names of the roads, the route-finding is straightforward. Confusingly, the same stretch of road bears three different names: Little Cub Drive, Stanley Park Road, and High Drive, for example. Or Brook Forest Rd, Black Mountain Drive, and Shadow Mountain Drive. Just stay on and follow the main roads, however, and you’ll do fine. Or ask one of the many cyclists you’ll encounter for help.

The logical place to start this ride from is the intersection of Platte Canyon Rd and Deer Creek Canyon Rd. There’s lots of room on both sides of the road, but no amenities. Or slightly further west, there’s a small lot at South Valley Park. Or you could shorten the loop slightly by driving up US 285 aways and starting near the North Turkey Creek/South Turkey Creek junction. To really enjoy the Black Mountain climb, ride counterclockwise. On the way up from Chatfield, you’ll pass the hamlet of Phillipsburg. Named for a late 19th century developer who hoped to profit from gold and mineral prospectors in the region, the town prospered briefly then completely faded away by 1930. Colorado’s most famous cannibal, Alferd Packer, lived and died here after his release from prison in 1905. A nine mile climb and a short descent brings you to South Turkey Creek Road. A fire station there makes a convenient regrouping place. Continue north to North Turkey Creek Rd. Reach it by passing under US 285 and then climb a short distance to High Drive. The steep climbing starts here and continues for four miles. Descend to Evergreen. The intersection with Highway 74 is sketchy. If you are going slow enough on the descent, you can avoid it with a sharp left near the bottom onto Camel Heights Road. Look for the Evergreen Mountain Market here to refuel and use a bathroom. Head up Highway 73 briefly, then go right on Brook Forest Road. If you can ignore the pain, this is a beautiful stretch of road that gets better the farther you ride. You’ll pass the historic Brook Forest Inn five miles after turning off Highway 73.

The climb finally tops out at 8,900 feet and there’s a fine descent back down to Highway 73. Go south on 73 and then east on Pleasant Park Road to complete your loop, climbing steeply one last time from 285. Stop at the Pleasant Park Grange for a Gatorade and a snack. There’s also a porta-potty. Proceeds benefit the historic grange.


When you’re ready for the 14 mile descent, head on down, back to Phillipsburg. From time to time, a Jefferson County Deputy parks at the intersection there, so look twice before you blow through the Stop Sign.

PDF Link.

June 18, 2011 Posted by | Deer Creek Canyon Area | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Grapevine Loop

The next time you find yourself bored with whatever your standard route is around the Lookout Mountain area, check out the Grapevine Loop. It’s got great aesthetics, challenging hills, serious remoteness for being so close to I-70, and bomber descents. Many variations are possible. I’ve shown it here the way I discovered it, as a counterclockwise loop from Golden. I have a slight preference for counterclockwise because it means you are descending Highway 74 and the Genesee roads (Trail and Ridge)–and I like that better than having cars whizzing by me while I’m plugging along at 10 mph uphill. But you’ll see lots of cyclists coming up 74 from Morrison en route to Kittredge and Evergreen, so it is not all bad to go clockwise. If you are in a hurry, skip Mt Vernon Rd and drop directly down to I-70 from Lookout Mountain Road via Charros or Paradise roads. Both will put you near Exit 256 and the beginning of Grapevine Rd. Another challenging option is to ride down to 74 then turn around and ride back up. There are definitely some steep spots, and the dirt road can be tricky, but there’s rarely much traffic and you can use the whole road if you need to. Finally, you can also skip the Shingle Creek and Lininger Loop section, especially if short, super-steep hills intimidate you.

Start this one in or near Golden. You can ride in from the east or drive out and find ample parking at Ulysses Park, Beverly Heights Park, or almost anywhere along Illinois St. On the weekends there’s also easy parking in and around the Jefferson County Justice Center Complex. Make your way up Lookout Mountain. For extra climbing points, take the optional detour up to the Nature Center before dropping back down to Lookout Mtn Rd. Ride along to Mt Vernon Rd, climbing steeply but briefly to the high point of the ride at 7,837 feet. The red barn is the conic marker here. Cross I-70 at Exit 254 and head down the frontage road, stopping if you’re inclined or in need at the espresso shop or bike store conveniently located here. It is around four miles to Grapevine Road, all of downhill save a short stretch linking Genesee Trail and Genesee Ridge roads. At the stop sign near exit 256 ride east. Grapevine Rd begins here. A swooping right turn brings you to Shingle Creek Rd. Go right for some extra climbing, go straight to stay with Grapevine. If you head up the Lininger Loop, know that clockwise is steeper than counter-clockwise. This is a pretty remote part of the development, so respect the residents’ privacy by neither clustering loudly at the top of the Loop nor leaving your trash behind. Return to Grapevine Rd and climb south.

Shortly after the Shingle Creek junction, Grapevine’s pavement begins to deteriorate and eventually turns into a full on dirt road. After the high point you’ll encounter a cattle guard, some interesting dirt switchbacks, and yet another cattle guard. Whatever else you might do on a cattle guard, don’t stop and try to put your foot down. Just keep going. And keep going straight! Admire the views in all directions. Two-thirds of the way down, the road becomes paved again. Follow it to Highway 74. Ride down to Morrison, about 3.5 miles. Look for Red Rocks entrance #3 just outside Morrison. Turn left. Climb sharply up to the south parking area of the amphitheater along Ship Rock Road. Jog around the amphitheater to Trading Post Road, then exit the park at Highway 93, crossing over to Alameda Parkway to climb up and over the car-free Dinosaur Ridge. After where you’ve been, this short climb is a piece of cake. Find Rooney Road on the east side of Dinosaur Ridge and head north, crossing I-70 (under it) and US 40 (at the traffic light), and locate  the bicycle trail that sits in the shadow of C-470 just after the junction of Rooney Rd and US 40. From the light look for the sidewalk on the north side of US 40. Cross 6th Avenue to reach Johnson Rd and make your way back to your parking place. With FasTracks construction in full bloom, the Golden Bike Trial between Johnson Rd and Jefferson County Parkway has been disrupted. Use the west sidewalk along Johnson Rd or ride directly on Johnson Rd.

PDF Link.

June 18, 2011 Posted by | Genesee + Golden + Golden Gate | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

St Mary’s Climb

There’s just no two ways about it: this is a pure, unadulterated climb. You start in Idaho Springs or at the foot of Fall River Rd and you climb for 10 miles until you reach the top and you turn around and come home. At the top there are no commercial attractions. No convenience stores. No espresso. Nada. But its a good climb, 10 or 12 miles and 2,700 feet, but even those stats don’t tell the whole truth, since like all good climbs St Mary’s starts off gently and builds to a couple of steep crescendos, where the slope jumps up into the high double digits.

Start in Idaho Springs, at the parking lot just beyond the Clear Creek Ranger Station on Chicago Creek Rd, or just off the Interstate in a small lot near exit 238. There’s water and restrooms at the Ranger Station, but they don’t want you to park long term there. Use the lot on the left just up the road to Mt. Evans. If you start in Idaho Springs, you’re required to ride on the Interstate shoulder for 2 miles and some find this objectionable. And don’t get fooled by the sweet looking frontage road on the south side of Clear Creek. The Stanley Rd looks like it should take you up river to Exit 238 but there’s no place to cross back over to the north bank until you get up into the Dumont area. If you’ve time at the end of your ride, however, cross over and ride a short ways up to admire the Stanley Mine, itself.

Fall River Rd is in pretty good shape and the views are fabulous. As you approach the top, you’ll be more or less surrounded by Alice, an unincorporated development of few homes but great hopes with a rich history of mining and skiing. St Mary’s Glacier Resort, whose remnants are still visible to your left as you top out, was an active ski area from the mid-30s to 1986. A recent dream to reopen it as a family-friendly area was dashed in 2010 when the Clear Creek Commissioners voted against it. On a busy weekend, you are likely to come across a number of people hiking into the glacier for some late- or early-season turns. At the end of the road is a small lake (Silver Lake), an even smaller condominium development, scattered houses, and still more tremendous views

to the north and west. It is a good spot for a bar and some water, before heading back down to Idaho Springs. Look to the Squaw Pass Loop description if you need some ideas on where to get a bite to eat in Idaho Springs.

Link to PDF.

May 17, 2011 Posted by | I-70 Corridor | , , , , | Leave a comment

Giro di Genesee

Once you’ve mastered Lookout Mountain, conquered the Nature Center and Mt Vernon Country Club, and overcome the final 1/2 mile dirt climb up Genesee Mountain, you’ll be ready for the Giro di Genesee, a 36 mile rollicking, frolicking, tour of the best that the Genesee area has to offer. The GG differs from the Genesee Mountain Loop in two important particulars. It adds a tremendous set of steep rollers in the quiet, far south of the development, along Foothills and Montane Drives, and for the climber within, it offers one of the best short steep climbs in the Front Range, the Lininger Loop.

Start somewhere in Golden, along Illinois St, at Ulysses Park, or even at Lookout Mountain itself. The possibilities and permutations of this ride are endless. Ride up Lookout, pass by the Nature Center, wave to the tennis players at Mt Vernon Country Club, and snort at the bison in Genesee Mountain Park as you climb to the top and enjoy the views to the west of Mt Evans.  From here, make a long descent along the Genesee Trail Rd and climb briefly to a high point on Genesee Vista Rd. If you’ve got mechanical troubles or just need a pick-me-up, drop into Foothills Ski & Bike or the Buffalo Moon Coffee Shop, both just up the hill from Exit 254 near the Chart House. Within the Genesee development, the route finding can be tricky, but only because the names are so similar: Genesee Trail Rd to Genesee Vista Rd to Foothills Dr N and S, to Montane Dr W and E and finally back to Genesee Ridge Rd. The trickiest turn for me in my earliest ventures here was from Genesee Vista Rd to Foothills Dr N–it comes up on you quickly on a fast, sweeping descent. If your spirits or your energy flag en route, there are a couple of shortcuts to relief: from G Trail Rd to G Ridge Rd (shown in red); from G Vista Rd to G Ridge Rd; and from Foothills Dr N back to G Vista Rd. The Foothills Dr and Montane Dr sections of the Giro face south and look down into the Bear Creek watershed–the views are spectacular.

A fast descent brings you to I-70 and exit 256. From here, choose to return to the Lookout Mountain area and Golden by riding up Paradise Rd (a better way than the traditional Paradise to Charros that all the cars take) or head out to the little-known Lininger Loop, best ridden clockwise to get the most out of the steep climbing found there. From the stop sign at exit 256 follow Grapevine Rd to Shingle Creek Rd, then Lininger Dr up and around to Winston and Hagler drives.

Link to PDF.

May 10, 2011 Posted by | Genesee + Golden + Golden Gate | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

City View Loop

I’m not sure that there’s a better short climbing loop in metro region than the City View Loop, especially if you ride it counterclockwise. The standard High Grade route is to start at Platte Canyon and Deer Creek Canyon Rd, then climb up to the Pleasant Park Grange and return. There’s nothing wrong with that route:  slightly more than 13 miles each way, 2,900 vertical feet, with a sustained climb (no rollers) of more than 11 miles. Plus, the Grange stocks an honor bar of Gatorade and similar drinks. You leave a buck or two in the box; clean up after yourself, and the funds go to the preservation of the historic (1907) grange. There’s also a handy porta-potty: and there’s not many of those around these parts.

When you’re ready for something more, make the full loop. Clockwise is harder on the initial climb (to the Grange), but easier through the City View section. Counterclockwise is easier on the initial climb (shorter, less steep) but extravagantly steep through the City View section. None of the steep sections last all that long (easy to say from here) and the views are fabulous and the residents friendly. Route finding is easier than it looks from the map through City View. Stay on the main road and you’ll be fine. Most of the other possibilities are obvious spurs, and you’ll be able to tell from the color, condition, or surface composition. If you need it, I’ve shown the road sequence (counterclockwise) on the map.

There can be heavy traffic on some stretches and in the past there’s been tensions between cyclists and motorists. Nonetheless, with the blessing of the Jefferson County Commissioners, the area hosted the first Deer Creek Challenge in 2010, a century with more than 12,000 vertical feet of climbing, the last of which was through City View. It’ll be back again, this year on August 21, 2011. Do your part to keep things calm. Ride single file when cars are approaching from behind. Stop at the Stop signs. Carry out any trash that does not make it into a trash can. Oh, and a word to the wise: there’s often a Deputy Sheriff parked near the side of the road near the abandoned hamlet of Phillipsburg, waiting for errant cyclists to ignore the stop sign at the junction.

Other useful details. Exit southbound from C-470 at Wadsworth Blvd to reach the starting point. Park at Chatfield Reservoir (if you have a pass) or on either side of Deer Creek Canyon Rd near the intersection with Platte Canyon. There’s lots of room here and a carnival-like scene prevails on nice days. Use caution as you exit your car (so you don’t door an on-coming cyclist) and watch out on your descent for cars making ill-timed U-turns without necessarily thinking through all of the consequences. Aside from the Grange, there are few opportunities for food and water along the way. In a pinch, you can continue past Oehlmann Rd (on Pleasant Park Rd) or past S Turkey Creek Rd (on S Deer Creek Canyon Rd) and you’ll reach US 285, a convenience store, or The Ranch Grill.

Link to PDF

April 20, 2011 Posted by | Deer Creek Canyon Area | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Crawford Gulch Loop & Mountain Base Loop

Between highway 93 in Golden and Colorado 119 (Peak to Peak Highway) lies some of the best hill riding Colorado has to offer. The standard route in most guidebooks is a simple out and back from Golden, or more specifically from the intersection of highway 93 and Golden Gate Canyon Rd. And its a good route, with 3 long climbs of 6.7, 3.6, and 5 miles. The second climb, though the shortest, steepens to almost 14% as it nears the top. This also marks the line between Jefferson and Gilpin counties. The return is mostly a long descent, with two short but steep climbs to slow you down. Traffic intensity can be high on Golden Gate Rd and CO 46. The road traverses eastern Gilpin and western Jefferson counties and is a major east-wet connector as well as the primary access to Golden Gate Canyon State Park. On a busy weekend, make it a point to get out early to avoid the crush. If you don’t start in town, park on Golden Gate Rd just west of the Highway 93 junction. If you need quick refueling, there’s a 7-11 at 93 and Washington St, just before the turn off to park.

My favorite alternative to the standard out and back is the Crawford Gulch Loop, with or without an additional 14 miles along the Mountain Base Loop. As an aside, this chunk of road between Golden Gate Canyon Rd and the Park Visitor Center is sometimes also known as Drew Hill Road or Ralston Creek Rd. Crawford Gulch Rd, which spurs off at mile 4, takes you away from the traffic on Golden Gate Rd in favor of superb views to the east and north, and includes a 4 mile jaunt along the remote, southeast edge of the Golden Gate State Park. The steeps are significant: the maximum ascent logs in at 12% and there is a challenging descent on dirt at 19%.

Climb gently and then sharply for 9 miles along Golden Gate Rd and Crawford Gulch Rd, which breaks away to the north at mile 4. A short, steep descent at mile 6 provides some relief. At mile 8, pavement yields to macadam and dirt, but it should present no great trouble to the careful rider. Descend 1.5 miles on dirt to enter Golden Gate State Park, where the pavement resumes. This is the most technically difficult stretch, at an average of 9%, with many portions approaching 20% slope. Shift your hips well back, ride slowly, and use your front brake at least as much as your back brake to take you safely to the wooded road along Ralston Creek. Begin a moderate, 4 mile climb mostly through the park. Look left through the willows, just before rejoining Golden Gate Rd for the Golden Gate State Park Visitor Center, open 8-5, where you will find shelter, water, bathrooms, and pay parking for your car. This is a good place to park if you want to avoid the crush of traffic sometimes found on Golden Gate Rd, if you want to ride the Mountain Base Loop, through the park, or to access the Peak to Peak Highway. Unless you are headed further west or retracing your path along Drew Hill Road, head east along Golden Gate Rd to return home. Two significant but relatively short climbs await you. The first is 1.5 miles long and saves it steepest sections (12.5%) for the last 200 yards. After a blazing 4 mile descent, you’ll climb again, 1 mile, up a winding canyon wall. A final 7 mile descent will bring you back to the parking area at CO 93 and Golden Gate Rd.

The recommended direction on the Crawford Gulch Loop is counterclockwise: the 1.5 mile ascent out of Ralston Creek on a steep dirt road has bruised many a fragile cycling ego. It is remote back there–carry adequate tubes, air, water, and food.

Mountain Base Loop

Not for the faint of heart, this route begins from the Golden Gate State Park visitor center and can be ridden as a short loop or as a challenging addition to Crawford Gulch or Central City loops. Ride it counterclockwise if you really love steep climbs, clockwise if you want your elevation gain spaced out over a longer distance. Start either way from the Golden Gate State Park Visitor Center, open 8-5, near the intersection of CO 46 and Crawford Gulch Rd. Be sure to call ahead early season if you’re hoping to ride Mountain Base: sometimes it does not open until mid-April or later. There’s pay parking here and restrooms if you need them, but nothing in the way of food or refreshments. You’ll have a short warm-up from the visitor center to the turnoff to Mountain Base Rd. As you approach, ominous signs will warn you of the folly of your task. “Beware,” they say, “19% grade ahead.” Press on. A couple of big rollers will help you warm up further before the main event: .8 miles averaging 11% with a maximum that comes close to 20%. The good news is that the views west and east will distract you and there’s not a lot of traffic to contend with on this narrow road. At Gap Rd go left and ride for 1 mile on good, firm dirt to CO 119, a/k/a the Peak-to-Peak Highway. It will loop you back around to CO 46 and has a good shoulder the whole way. The descent back to the visitor center is fast and curvy.

 

Crawford Gulch Loop

April 5, 2011 Posted by | Genesee + Golden + Golden Gate | , , , , , , | 3 Comments