4 great bike rides to see the colors of fall in Colorado
We all love stumbling across Colorado, that wonderful four week window where aspens showcase their best display. And one of the best ways to see all those sunny yellows, soft oranges, and bold reds is on two wheels. Here are the trails recommended by Centennial State experts for a leaf-watching adventure on all types of biking, from road to mountain, as well as places to eat and stay afterward.
On a road bike
Road: Maroon Bells Trailhead Trailhead Via Maroon Creek Road
Best observation period: Third week from September to mid-October
Aspen’s iconic Maroon Bells are two of North America’s most photographed mountains, and there’s no better time to wow your Instagram followers than in the fall, when the golden-hued hills of the region are at their peak. This 20 mile road trip (round trip) has a reasonable elevation gain of 1,700 feet. “These are full height aspen forests,” says Anthony Sears, assistant manager of Basalt Bike and Ski’s Aspen. “It’s absolutely spectacular.
Itinerary search: Saddle up and head east out of Aspen along West Hopkins Street to Seventh Street. Go left and drive briefly on Seventh until you see the bike path on your right, just before Saw Mill Ct. Take the path northeast towards the Holden Marolt Mining & Ranching Museum. Take the first right, then left before entering Highway 82. This road winds east toward Maroon Creek Road. Turn left onto the road and settle in for your ascent to the Maroon Bells trailhead.
Continue on Maroon Creek Road and watch for barren areas on the surrounding hills, which are the scars left by the unprecedented avalanche activity of three years ago. At the top, lock your bikes up and cycle the 500ft to Maroon Lake for that perfect shot. You deserved it.
To eat: Enjoy lunch at the rustic chic bistro in the French Alps. We love their Bœuf Bourguignon and their Kaiser-Schnitzel, but of course you can never go wrong with the cheese fondue.
To stay: Save no expense with a night at the Jérôme hotel.
By mountain bike
Road: Loop to Dyke Trail
Site: Crested mound
Best observation period: From the third week of September to the first week of October
When it comes to taking a peek aboard your full suspension mountain bike, there is only one option to consider: “The Dyke Trail is the epitome of aspen trekking.” says Lisa Cramton, secretary of the Crested Butte Mountain Bike Association and co-owner of Chopwood. Mercantile. The route takes intermediate cyclists over the Kebler Pass to one of the world’s largest living organisms: an aspen forest. (However, the exact aspen grove that claims the title is up for debate.) If you make the trail a loop, you’ll be about 11 miles and over 2,000 feet of elevation gain, but watching your tires crackle on the les. fallen leaves and feeling the freshness of autumn make that painful pedaling worth it.
Itinerary search: If you’re feeling fit, go ahead and ride CR 12 from town. Otherwise, park at the junction between CR 12 and Forest Service Road 826 / Lake Irwin Road. Head to the Irwin Lake Campground and keep turning left until you see the sign for the Dyke Trail. You will start in the aspens, cross a few streams, and tackle a few technical areas. Keep an eye out for ancient bark engravings made over 100 years ago by Basque shepherds. Then it’s time to climb as the trail climbs up and overlooks the dike. Don’t worry: the breathtaking ascent is worth the golden views of the Upper Dyke and Ruby Range, not to mention the heart-wrenching descent under an aspen canopy. You can then follow Horse Ranch Park to CR 12, which will bring you back to your car.
To eat: Dip into a hand-made patty and beer fries from Slap Burger.
To stay: Check into the historic Elk Mountain Lodge for the night. Owners Mike and Amy Nolan are both avid bikers who will be happy to share their favorite spots, if you’re ready for the second race.
On a gravel bike
Road: Boulder to Fourmile Canyon to Gold Hill and down Sunshine Canyon
Site: Rock area
Best observation period: From the last week of September to the first week of October
Finding a good gravel loop often requires serious mapping skills mixed with a small dose of creativity. Fortunately, the gravel god and Dutch resident Nicholas Legan, author of Gravel Cycling: The Complete Guide to Gravel Racing and Adventure Cycling, put us in touch with one of his favorite fall routes. Just be sure to give your legs a pep talk for the elevation gain of around 3,000 feet on that 20 mile drive (depending on where you start and end in Boulder).
Itinerary search: Start by going up the gentle incline along the Boulder Canyon Trail until you turn north on Fourmile Canyon Drive. You will pedal down the sidewalk until you reach the ancient mining town of Salina, where you will turn right onto the gravel at Gold Run Road. “It’s really pretty there, but you deserve it,” said Legan. Ride hard (and uphill) for four miles until you reach the original town of Gold Hill. Reward yourself with a quiche or pastry from the Gold Hill store, but don’t overdo it. There is more escalation.
Head northeast towards Sunshine Canyon to Horsfall Street, which turns into Sunshine Canyon Drive. Climb to approximately 8,400 feet, then enjoy a well-earned descent. “It’s worth stopping on the descent as the views of Boulder and the valley are incredible,” says Legan. “Just be careful because you are going down on dirt and gravel.”
To eat: Back in Boulder, try potstickers or vegan dumplings at Zoe Ma Ma, and grab a goji berry and grape rice cake for the road.
To stay: If you opt for one of the 201 recently renovated guest rooms at the St. Julien, you’ll be steps from the pedestrian-only Pearl Street Mall in Boulder.
On an electric bike
Road: Tenmile Recpath and Ten Mile Canyon National Recreation Trail to Vail Pass
Site: Frisco to Vail
Best observation period: Third and fourth weeks of September
E-bikes even make the sometimes steep, paved path to Vail Pass accessible to cyclists of all skill levels. “Be careful with this battery at first and watch out for how quickly it runs out,” says Bob Hufnagel, director of Rebel Sports on the main street in Frisco, which offers electric bike rentals. You’ll be pedaling nearly 12 miles with almost 1,500 feet of elevation gain, but the last 1.5 miles to the top are the steepest (read: Don’t waste the e-bike juice on the more relaxed climbs at the start ).
Itinerary search: Exit I-70 at Exit 203 and leave your car at the Kayak overnight parking lot. Take the connector path to Tenmile Recpath, where you will start on a gentle incline as you cycle through the stunning spectacle of fall. Just over three miles, just past the stone bathroom, take the service road under the freeway to Officers Gulch. This is a great place to take a photo of your e-bike with the shifting trees and the Officers Gulch pond in the background. Return to Recpath and continue south to the junction of the trail; Head west where you will stop at the traffic light, cross Hwy 91 and take Copper Road towards Copper Mountain Ski Resort. Just before the Copper Mountain Chapel, take the Ten Mile Canyon National Recreation Trail and walk through Copper Village. After crossing Copper Road, take a look at the power level of your e-bike and get ready for a serious climb.
From there the trail roughly follows I-70 for about five miles to the top of Vail Pass. With the hues of the sunset over the tall grass and aspens, you will hardly notice it. Use your electrical impulse when you need it (and you will for brief sections of the 10% note), but then savor your accomplishment – and the incredible view of the valley – once you’ve reached the top of the pass. de Vail before your descent.
To eat: Tater tots with truffles, warm beet salad and wood-grilled lamb chops, oh my god! After this stroll, it’s time to devour the best of Tavern West.
To stay: Settle into the Frisco Inn on Galena, a boutique bed and breakfast just off Main Street offering comfortable rooms and a free gourmet breakfast.