Roaring Fork Valley a great place for road biking
There’s a reason why world-class professional cyclists like Lance Armstrong and Tejay van Garderen make their homes in the Roaring Fork Valley — Garfield, Eagle and Pitkin counties provide some of the best road cycling anywhere in the world.
But you don’t have to be like Lance to enjoy yourself. Whether you’re looking to hammer some hard climbs, cruise through a pretty place, or something in between, you’ll find it all right here.
The Rio Grande Trail is a bike path built upon the former rail corridor of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad. It gradually ascends more than 2,200 feet over its 42 miles from Glenwood Springs to Aspen, but it feels more like an easy, paved ride through a beautiful mountain valley.
The Glenwood Canyon Trail follows the Colorado River through the world-famous beauty of Glenwood Canyon. It covers the 16 miles from Glenwood Springs to Dotsero over mostly flat terrain with several rest stops along the way.
The Crystal Valley Trail follows Highway 133 from Carbondale to the KOA campground 6 miles south of town. A good portion of the trail runs adjacent to the sparkling Crystal River, with majestic Mt. Sopris looming over the entire valley.
If you’re looking for an actual road to ride your road bike on, you’ll find several outstanding options in the region.
Missouri Heights has several good traffic-free roads that provide expansive views of Mt. Sopris and the Roaring Fork Valley below. Head up Spring Valley Road, Cattle Creek Road or Catherine Store Road to find Red Canyon Road, then head back down and use the Rio Grande Trail to create loops. Be sure to bring a map or GPS your first time up, as it’s easy to get lost among the hills and valleys.
Two of the more popular rides in the Aspen area are Maroon Creek Road to the Maroon Bells, and Castle Creek Road to Ashcroft. Both are out and back routes with a good amount of climbing through scenic valleys of aspen and spruce to destinations with breathtaking views.
One of the most popular rides among veteran cyclists is Frying Pan Road, which starts in Basalt and climbs more than 1,100 feet over 14 miles along the Fryingpan River to the Ruedi Reservoir dam. A bit of climbing is required to get around the reservoir, and there is a fair amount of traffic to and from the lake. But once you’re clear of it, you can continue on another 15 miles up the beautiful and remote Fryingpan Valley.
Perhaps the ultimate cycling challenge in the valley is the 20 mile ride from Aspen to the top of Independence Pass. The road is narrow and steep in parts, and the final push up to the Continental Divide is as epic as any stretch of road in Colorado.
Some other great regional rides include Four Mile Road, Hardwick Bridge Road, Thompson Creek Road, South Canyon Road and anywhere in the Harvey Gap/Rifle Falls area.
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