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COLORADO COLS – lizardhead cycling guides

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Colorado Cols

Join us on the finest Colorado bike tour that we offer – the Colorado Cols. This amazing cycling trip spins a stunning route through the picturesque San Juan Mountains which are the youngest and steepest mountain range in the state. The San Juan Mountains are quite possibly Colorado’s most visually amazing with an abundance of waterfalls, mountain vistas and above tree-line terrain.

This exciting Colorado bike tour is a vehicle supported, lodge-to-lodge, road cycling tour through the San Juan Mountains.

You’ll climb the state’s alpine cols (aka passes), sweep across wildflower studded meadows, and descend into valleys each afternoon. Finally, relax in historic accommodations while savouring delicious dining.

Colorado’s high country offers a beautiful short and sweet summer. This tour takes you away from it all, leaving you euphoric for your efforts.

Participants on this tour have described the awestruck feeling of descending into the winding valleys housing the headwaters of the Rio Grande, Gunnison and San Juan Rivers.

Highlights include Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, the Highway, Red, the San Juan Skyway and the historic mining towns of Crested Butte, Creede, Pagosa Springs, Durango, and Ouray.


Day 1: The Grand Mesa Scenic By-Way
50-miles with 38-mile option

Your epic Colorado bike tour starts with a 6,000-ft. climb from the Colorado River to 10,000-foot high Grand Mesa. Descend back to the Gunnison River and the beautiful vineyards and peach groves.

Although Grand Mesa is a long climb, the grade is moderate, the views remarkable, and the descent is smooth and fast. This is considered one of the best climbs in the state and a good opening day ride for a mountainous bike tour…not too hard, not too easy.

The long steady climb has allowed previous cyclists to gain a good rhythm for the rest of the bike trip.

Tonight’s lodging is in the Black Canyon Anglers Lodge on the banks of the Gunnison River. Drawing adventurers from around the world, the lodge is a destination in itself. You’ll enjoy a full course home-cooked meal featuring fine wine from the grapes grown in the lodge’s private vineyard.


Day 2: Crawford, Colorado to Crested Butte, Colorado
96-miles or 66-mile option

Day Two’s “North Rim Ride” is a spectacular ride through a rolling landscape below the West Elk Mountains bordering America’s newest National Park, Black Canyon National Park. On this nearly traffic-free backroad route, you’ll almost feel like you’re pedalling through the Swiss countryside.

Near the end of the ride, you’ll descend the rim of the Black Canyon for jaw dropping views into the abyss. Upon intersecting Highway 50, pedal a relatively flat 25 miles along Blue Mesa Reservoir (Colorado’s largest body of water) through the Gunnison Gorge to town of Gunnison.  Watch out for the strong tailwinds, even if they help you along the route.

From this point, the final 30 miles turn north and ascend a 1% to 2% grade to the alpine paradise of Crested Butte.


Day 3: The Cannibal Classic! Crested Butte, Colorado to Creede, Colorado
132 man-eating-miles with 70-mile option

Crested Butte to Creede (8,500’) is a Crested Butte local’s favourite known as the Cannibal Classic.  It has become a test of manhood/womanhood for Crested Butte’s hard body locals.

The Cannibal Classic is the “Queen Stage” of the Colorado Cols – the part with the most climbing and challenge. It earned its name from the infamous Alfred Packer, a miner who became snowbound on an ill-fated journey into the San Juan Mountains in the late 1800’s. Come spring, Packer was the only remaining miner alive from his party of six, looking pretty healthy. He had literally eaten his compatriots!

The start of the ride in Crested Butte, Colorado (9,000-feet) is surrounded by the scenic Elk Mountains. After a gradual 40-mile descent, you’re tested by a 50-mile section with multiple ups and downs that could drain the strength from your legs.

At approximately mile 90, take on one of the steepest paved mountain passes in Colorado, Slumgullion Pass (elevation 11,530 feet). This monster is a 6-mile climb that ascends nearly 3,000 feet; its average 7% to 9% grades feels particularly brutal coming at mile 90 of the Cannibal Classic.

At the top, you’ll descend 4 miles and then climb another 4 miles at a mere 4% grade to Spring Creek Pass and the Continental Divide. From Spring Creek, it’s just about a 30-mile descent to the Wild West town of Creede.

Having crossed over the Continental Divide today, we’ll slumber next to another great American river, the Rio Grande. At the Antlers Rio Grande Lodge , wind down on your very own porch swing to the mesmerizing rhythms of the watercourse before you.


Day 4: Creede, Colorado to Pagosa Springs, Colorado
64-miles with 44-mile option

Riding south from Creede, you’ll pedal across the remote headwaters of Rio Grande watershed.  The largest wilderness area in Colorado, the Weimuniche Wilderness, borders this lush region. After climbing the impressive Wolf Creek Pass (10,863’) near the end of the day, you’ll have climbed over the Continental Divide for the second time in two days.

Thrill to a 4,000-foot descent from Wolf Creek to Pagosa Springs along the headwaters of the San Juan River.  We’ll be in close proximity to New Mexico and get a whiff of the state’s famous and fragrant green chile. Tonight, we’ll dine on New Mexican home cooking, then enjoy a much-needed and deserved soak in towns hot springs at the renowned Springs Resort & Spa.


Day 5: Layover in Pagosa Springs, Colorado
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On the layover day, you can recuperate some more in the hot springs and lounge along the banks of the San Juan River. Additional activities include hiking, horseback rides, hot air ballooning or even a ride of the border into New Mexico.

Native American tribes knew of the healing powers of Pagosa’s hot mineral waters long before the arrival of the white men. Today, the 23 terraced pools overlooking the San Juan River range in temperature from 83 to 114 degrees F. Enjoy this!  You’ve earned a true “rest day” at The Springs Resort & Spa.

But if you’re looking to cycle, take the twin 10,500-foot passes of Cumbres and La Manga lay just east of Chama, New Mexico.  If there’s enough interest, a shuttle will take you over the state line.

Tonight, you’ll be on your own for dinner to sample one of Pagosa Spring’s many dining establishments.


Day 6: Durango, Colorado to Ouray, Colorado
72-alpine-miles with 52-mile option

Outside Durango, pedal into the high San Juan Mountains on this penultimate leg of the tour.  These peaks are the steepest and highest range in the state with more land mass above 10,000 feet then anywhere south of Alaska.

The route following the San Juan Skyway north presents three major cols; Coal Bank Pass (10,640’), Molas Pass (10,915’), and finally Red Mountain Pass (11,018’). The entire road surface was re-surfaced between the summers of 2009 and 2011 and as a result is in fantastic shape.

If you have your fill of riding by Day 7, ride the Silverton-Durango Narrow Gauge Railroad to meet the group for lunch in the town of Silverton.

After surviving the San Juan Skyway, the tour finishes at the Ouray Hot Springs Pools. Cyclists shower and soak before the return shuttle to Grand Junction

Well Done!


Pagosa Springs, Colorado to Durango, Colorado
65-miles with 39-mile option

After the rest day, you’ll hop back on the bike and ride west through the rolling southern foothills of the San Juan Mountains. The route diverts north at Bayfield for a scenic stretch of road at the base of the Weiminuche Wilderness area. This is a day for the sprinters as there are no big passes to ascend on the route to Durango.

Our second-to-last destination is the bike crazy town of Durango (6,512’).  This historic spot has an amazing variety of food, attractive townsfolk and lively music scene. Tonight’s lodging is at the landmark Strater Hotel on Durango’s main street. Indulge in Victorian opulence. After the epic Colorado bike tour you’ve almost completed, you’re entitled.




COLORADO COLS – lizardhead cycling guides
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COLORADO COLS – lizardhead cycling guides
  • By Ryan Kuwertz
  • Email: ryan@techibods.com


COLORADO COLS – lizardhead cycling guides
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