Weekend Wheeling: Dennis's Pick for Denver, Colorado

The Pick
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There is one lovely 30-mile loop that I would suggest to anyone — road and mountain biker both — who wants a single top-of-the-world Colorado ride only a beautifully scenic, very long hour's drive from Denver. It's a chance to see and to experience one of the grandest national gems in the country: Rocky Mountain National Park. It's also a chance to freeze to death, if you don't go prepared for snow and cold, and biting winds. It doesn't matter how hot it is in Denver when you take off.

Now, traffic can be tough in the park on summer and early fall weekends, and so I hesitate to suggest an all-day road ride up and back on Trail Ridge Road, the park's premier east-west route over the mountains. My recommendation instead is a loop that offers a dirt-road ascent of 9.4 miles, which you take in the morning before most of the rubberneckers are up and in their cars, followed by a quick drop through the mountains on Trail Ridge Road back to your vehicle. Most visitors don't risk their sedans on the dirt Old Fall River Road; they heed the park's warnings of tight turns and tough conditions, and they don't like the 15-mile-per-hour speed limit, so you'll end up eating little dust. Compared to the paved Trail Ridge, you have little traffic any time of day.

Do yourself a memorable favor and get out of bed at dawn for this one. An early start on this graded, cyclo-cross-perfect dirt road (which can be traveled in only one direction — east to west) allows an even more personal, almost unbothered crank to the top on what the Park Service describes as a"Motor Nature Trail." There's lunch waiting at the visitor services complex at the top, followed by the fast descent. And descending in traffic, at least for me, is always easier than dealing with drivers trying to pass you on a climb. On this drop, in contrast, you'll be going faster than most of the cars. Just don't lose it around one of the hairpins.


Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 9 Nov 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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