Summer is officially here. Time to ride bikes and run up things! To kick off my favorite season of the year, I decided to go on a Tour of the Front Range of Colorado. I planned to leave from my front door and go on an adventure. Simple as that! I wanted to explore my backyard via biking and running to more intimately learn the place I call home. I’m barely even scratching the surface with this trip, but it outings like this that prepare you for even longer journeys. My goal for the trip was to link up as much dirt as possible on the bike and tag two new (to me) 14,000ft peaks. Below is a recap of my 3 day Tour de Front Range.
Day 1: Boulder to Crags Trailhead via the Colorado Trail-Indian Creek Trail-Rampart Range Road-Woodland Park
I pedaled away from my front door at 4:45 am, the air was crisp, and the sky was beginning to illuminate. The early miles to Golden, Colorado was peaceful and quiet, always a treat to ride highway 93 without traffic. My initial thoughts of the morning were that my rigged up Salsa Cutthroat was riding magnificently. So stable and comfy! It is almost like this bike was designed for bike touring! A pesky layer of clouds on the horizon prevented any sort of spectacular sunrise, but my excitement fueled my energy, and the miles flew by quick. Part of my enthusiam for this trip was exploring parts of the state that I’ve never seen before. Everything from Heritage Road just outside of Golden and on would be new for me. From Heritage Rd, I connected Hog back road down to Morrison and then the C-470 bike path over to Highway 121 which put be down into the town Waterton. After a quick stop up the hill for supplies, I road back down to the Northern terminus of the Colorado Trail; Waterton Canyon.
The miles up Waterton Canyon were lovely. A slight tailwind and perfect dirt conditions led me to one of the highlights of today’s route. The beginning of the CT is marked by a perfectly buffed out winding climb through the forest. This section of the trail felt totally reasonable on a loaded rigid rig. I eventually found my way to the Indian Creek Junction and left the Colorado Trail. I’m excited and looking forward to riding more of the CT later in the year. The Indian Creek trail started with a very steep climb (good bit of HAB) before turning into lush, damp, and flow singletrack. I felt like I was on a different planet, so beautiful! The end of the Indian Creek trail coudnt’t of linked more perfectly into Rampart Range road, the next section of my route to the Crags trailhead.
Rampart Range road was a real treat and up there in my top 5 all-time favorite dirt roads. A beautiful gem just tucked up above the suburbs and cities of the Front Range. RRR is very popular with ATV/Moto crowd. There are dozens of trailheads and trails right next to the road itself. I could see this zone being pretty annoying and hectic during the weekend and holidays, fortunately for me, things were pretty quiet (maybe saw 5-7 cars). RRR winds its way steadily up with lots of little rollers to keep the body engaged. The stretch pictured below was particularly memorable; it is at this point that I got my first sight of Pikes Peak. What an epic view! The western slopes of Pikes would be my resting point for the day. Still some pedaling to do!
It started raining pretty good the final few miles of Rampart Range Road. Perfect, I get to test out whether my bike bags and systems keep my belongings dry. Verdict…success! I had made really good time on RRR and rolled down into Woodland Park around 3 pm. I found the mural below on the entrance into town and took the time to learn about the history of this part of the state. Below is a depiction of the Ute Indians or the “Tabeguache”. These native people called Pikes Peak “Sun Mountain”. In the early nineteenth century, the Arapaho people began visiting the Pikes peak area calling the mountain “Heeyotoyo” or “Long Mountain”. The Ute and Arapaho people developed a vicious rivalry in the zone around Pikes Peak. In 1858, the discovery of gold in Denver increased the population of white people in Woodland Park and surrounding cities. Of course, in typical U.S fashion, the government promised the native people food rations and supplies in exchange for land. These rations were almost always delayed, and the indigenous people left the region after the Treaty of Fort Wise. Today, less than 1% of the population in Teller Country (Woodland Park, Victor, Cripple Creek) is Native American. I feel incredibily privileged and grateful that I have the opportunity to explore my backyard. I try always to remember this and think about the people that have touched this earth before me. Be respectful of the land, people, and cultures of this earth.
After charging up my phone and watch at a coffee shop in town, I grabbed some dinner at a sub-par pizza joint, polishing off a full large pizza and beer. Conveniently located next door was a City Market grocery store where I filled up all my water bottles, packed a cold brew in my frame bag and dialed in things for tomorrow morning. The Crags Trailhead was 14 miles away from Woodland Park, and I wanted to be there before dark so that I could find a cozy bivy spot. The miles to Crags were hard. My bike and legs felt heavy. The traffic after turning south on 67 at Divide, CO was stressful and slightly annoying. The dirt turnoff to Crags TH was a relief, but the next uphill miles to the campground were laborious. I finally reached the campground around 7 pm with an ample amount of time to find a bivy in the woods. I eventually settled down underneath a grove of pine trees and a cushiony carpet of pine needles. I put on my puffy and got into bed. Time to catch some shut-eye, another big day tomorrow!
Day 2: Pikes Peak to Guanella Pass via the South Platte (Niinéniiniicíihéhe)
I was up at 4:30am, light was just beginning to gleam through the trees. I had slept really well, the temperature never got too cold and my sleep system worked liked a charm. I was happy that I packed the puffy jacket though, that thing always comes in handy! I wasn’t too sleepy when I woke up, but I was still happy to have packed a cold brew and breakfast snack to help get things going in the morning. I packed up the bike while getting caffeinated and was headed up the trail by 5:30am. Legs were sluggish on the climb up to treeline, but was able to get the legs to run a bit despite the steep trail. Conditions on the peak were excellent, calm and warm! I was on the summit around 7:45am and shared the summit with some construction workers (no donuts an coffee though…too early!) Below is a shot just above treeline with the morning light and shadow of Pikes Peak extending west over to the Pikes and San Isabel National Forest.
The huck down the hill was glorious! It felt so good to have the aid of gravity on my side. The legs felt great and agile as I bombed down through the trees and back to my bike. Back at my rig, I switched out of my La Sportiva Uraganos and into my bike shoes. Part 1 of day 2 had been completed and I was looking forward to getting some real breakfast in Divide, 14 miles away all mostly downhill! I absolutely raged that segment into Divide, the new Raconteurs album blasting in my headphones. I felt like a hero! In Divide, I stopped at a pretty primo grocery store right at the junction of highway 67 and 24. Breakfast burrito, pastries, and a fruit smoothie helped set me straight and reenergize the body for the long stretch of riding over to Bailey, CO (60 miles away!). Outside of Divide and Ute Pass, it is all downhill to the turnoff to Tarryall. This stretch of road was busy with cars, but luckily there was a real shoulder which helped ease the stress of riding in traffic.
From the turnoff to Tarryall, it was a couple more road miles till the begging of dirt at Matukat road. From here, one begins to enter the gateway into the South Platte. It would be 45 miles from here till Bailey, the next fuel supply stop. I had loaded the bike up with water and food, ready to tackle anything that came my way. This stretch through the South Platte was absolutely amazing. Crazy view of the gigantic rock formations ,winding dirt roads, and big open skies. The riding out here felt truly remote and wild. Below is a picture near the beginning of the South Platte, with Pikes Peak standing tall in the background. The initial miles of dirt were a bit hectic. Very dark and ominous clouds began to swirl above me. Surely, at any moment, the skies would open up, and I would be drenched! Fortunately, the clouds seemed to avoid me and I only ended up getting a little wet. I was definitely on edge for a bit there though. Felt pretty exposed out there and wasn’t psyched on all the thunder and lighting bouncing around.
The views along this section were stunning, but physically, the riding was BRUTAL. The terrain through here was unforgiving —so many rollers! You never seemed to catch a break. The descents were short-lived, and the climbs seemed endless. For some random reason, I thought that the climbing ended after the climb up around Sugarloaf Peak. False. I was very wrong about this and had to dig very deep mentally to stay in it. The stretch around Wellington Lake was beautiful, I forced myself to look up and enjoy the scenery. I kept finding myself staring at my stem and the ground, just trying to grind it out. The final miles into Bailey were hateful. I also made the mistake of thinking that once the road turned to pavement that surely…surely the climbing was done. Not! After some pretty terrible washboard, the road turned to pavement and kicked way up. Some of the steepest bits came from the final few climbs. Eventually, I crested the final climb and coasted down into Bailey. I immediately went to the Gas Station there and chugged some soda. I eventually found myself revived enough to head down to the Cutthroat Cafe for a meal.
The Cutty Cafe came in clutch. The food was somewhat decent, and I had a table right next to a power outlet. After a burger, root beer, and apple pie, I was ready to get back on the bike. I planned to ride as far up Guanella Pass till either it got dark or my legs gave up. The miles along 285 were very stressful and busy. There is NO shoulder on 285, and it was right at sunset. The light was glaring really bad onto the cars heading west. I figured cars behind me wouldn’t be able to see me, so I found myself practically riding in the dirt next to the shoulder out of fear of being side swiped. I ended up biking a little over 16 miles from Bailey and up Guanella Pass before pulling the bike over for another bivy in the woods. I was very happy and content to find another perfect little nook in the woods. Equipped with a back rest rock that I could use as a chair to sit up in my sleeping bag and do some writing in my journal before passing out.
Day 3: Bierstadt to Boulder via Guanella Pass-Lookout Mtn-Clear Creek & 36 bike path
I tried to let my body sleep in, but was still up with the sun around 5 am. I lingered over another can of cold brew in my bivy before making the brutal trek out of my sleeping bag, and up into the cold air. Temps had dropped significantly last night. It ended up getting quite chilly by the time I woke up. I was cold, but knew the remaining miles up Guanella Pass would get the body plenty warm. Legs felt good on the bike and got an extra boost of energy when I crested the top of the pass and was deposited out into the sunshine. From here, my plan was to summit Bierstadt and check off a new to me 14,000ft peak. I locked the bike up in the parking lot, switched to running shoes, and began running down the trail. I probably passed 40+ hikers while out, Bierstadt is a very popular 14er. It is only 5 miles round trip and isn’t technical. I have to imagine it is one of the easier 14,000ft peaks to tag in Colorado. I found myself standing on top of the summit in a little under 90 minuets and was back down at the bike in around 2 hours round-trip. The views on top of Bierstadt were particularly satisfying as I could see Pikes Peak way off in the distance and also see Longs Peak way to the north!
The plunge down to Georgetown (town picture above to the left) was fantastic and a descent highlight of the trip! Buttery smooth pavement and 0 traffic. As I carved my way down the road, I reflected back on the trip and the highlights. Trying to capture the feeling and rewards of exploring the landscape under your own power. In Georgetown, I enjoyed a terrific late breakfast a the Blue Sky cafe (after being turned away at the whistle stop despite their open sign…). I enjoyed a Southwest Scramble, toast n jam, and coffee. I then hopped on the roller coaster that is the I-70 frontage road/sidewalk system and plunged my way back down towards home. With one minor interruption (uphill) on Floyd Hill, the riding all the way back to Golden (pictured on Lookout Mtn to the right) is pretty much downhill. The descent down lookout was a roaster, felt like I was entering an oven. The heat and 4th of July traffic made me rethink riding back on Highway 93 to Boulder, plus I wanted to reach the 100 mile mark for each day! After fueling up at Higher Ground (cold brew n cookie) I decided to link back home via the Clear Creek path and highway 36 bike path. I absolutely raged these miles and felt so good. Getting out of the saddle with the loaded rig and pushing up all the little rollers. The descent down into Boulder was so satisfying. I was grinning ear-to-ear. I love moving my body outside, pushing its limits and finding that edge of what is possible.
This was my first legit bikepacking trip. The first time loading up my bike, testing out my sleep system in the elements, and spending all day with one singular focus. I have been dreaming about doing a trip like this and I’m super excited it went so well. I know I’m barley just scratching the surface with this kind of stuff and I’m so psyched to do more of it. It is crazy what the body can do! Using the bike as a tool to link different features makes so much sense to me. I feel so grateful that I can do this. I’m even more inspired and blown away by what people have done with their bikes and feet (I’m looking at you Joe, Tony, and Justin…)
Wake up, pedal, run up the hill, pedal, eat, pedal, sleep.
Honestly, it is just so much fun. I have a smile on may face just thinking about it.
Trip Totals: 3 days - 318 miles - 32,000ft of climbing
Bike: Salsa Cutthroat
Oveja Negra Front End Loader and Top tube bag.
Salsa full frame bag
Apidura saddle bag
Yanco Custom top tube bag & Fanny pack
Shimano Cycling shoes
Black Diamond Distance 4L vest…out spring 2020!
Buff, Goal Zero Power Banks (30 & 20), Cables, Spot Tracker, Pen & Journal, Toothbrush + Paste, Emergency kit (blanket, lighter, tape, etc.)
3 bottles= 2.5 liters