The beauty of Colorado is abundant and dynamic as we play witness to the majesty of the Rocky Mountains and are reminded daily why the state moniker is “Colorful Colorado.”
Here’s how your training rides can double as a scenic tour of this amazing specimen of a state.
Lake Dillon is a shining jewel in the middle of Summit County that’s popular with campers, fishermen, boaters and kayakers. While the lake has a variety of recreation options, it never feels too overrun, even during the high season. The trail around Lake Dillon is both challenging and scenic: an overall 1,100-foot gain in the 18-mile loop, with one significant climb over Swan Mountain on the south side of the lake. Mark your calendar for the 106˚ West Triathlon, which begins at the Lake Dillon Marina and claims to be the highest triathlon in the world at an elevation of 10,291 feet.
The Maroon Bells are considered the most photographed spot in Colorado, and for good reason. Separated by about one third of a mile, these two iconic peaks in the Elk Mountains, Maroon Peak (14,156 feet) and North Maroon Peak (14,014 feet), make for a dramatic and picturesque scene. If you want to see them for yourself via your bike, take a 32-mile out-and-back ride from downtown Aspen to Maroon Creek Road. The ride features a moderate yet steady climb for eight miles, and at the end you’ll be rewarded with a gorgeous view of the Maroon Bells — perfect for a photo opp with friends or a selfie with a background that will impress! It’s also a pleasant way to train for the Gran Fondo Aspen, a 54.9-mile bike race with steep climbs and rolling hills.
Looking to build your mountain-climbing stamina? Riders in the know seek out the the Rist Canyon Loop just outside of Fort Collins, where you have the choice of climbing up Rist Canyon and then coming back down through Buckhorn Canyon, or the reverse. Both routes of this 45-mile loop are equally difficult, but if you choose to take Rist Canyon up, the views coming down through Buckhorn Canyon are prettier and the steep descent is not quite as twisty. Nevertheless, both descents are fast and therefore dangerous, so make sure your bike is in top condition before taking this adrenaline-fueled ride. The McKee Classic Bike Tour, the first tour of the Colorado season, has four different routes that also offer views of Horsetooth Reservoir or nearby Carter Lake and Boyd Lake.
The amazing scenery of historic North Cheyenne Cañon Park has a way of making you feel like you’ve traveled far from the city, even though you’re mere minutes from downtown Colorado Springs. There are several options for bikers, but Captain Jack’s, a 5.4-mile singletrack loop, offers stunning views of North Cheyenne Cañon and Colorado Springs. Park staff recommend the Chutes trail for bicycles only, as it has a windy and fast descent. At just 1.1 miles, the trail is quite short, but there are several trails to take through the Stratton Open Space from here. Use these rides to get fit for the annual Elephant Rock Cycling Festival in Castle Rock. The popular race’s variety of course options and camaraderie among cyclists draws thousands of participants each year.
The whitewater of the Arkansas River might be what draws most visitors to Buena Vista, but the charm of this small town and its abundance of outdoor offerings keeps them coming back. Much of the biking around Buena Vista is focused on mountain bike and singletrack trails, but there are two training rides that road cyclists will love. The Buena Vista – Mount Princeton-Nathrop Loop is 22 miles roundtrip and afterward you’ll be able to enjoy the Mount Princeton Hot Springs and tremendous views of the Arkansas River Valley. For cyclists in top condition, Cottonwood Pass offers an intense climb of more than 4,200 feet with a peak elevation of 12,126 feet; be forewarned, only cyclists who have acclimated to high altitude should attempt this 42-mile ride. In June, the town hosts the Buena Vista Bike Fest, which offers three different courses and distances. Among the sights for riders to savor are the sparkling waters of Turquoise Lake and Twin Lakes Reservoir and the historic mining town of Leadville. With some serious high-altitude training under your belt, consider taking on the Leadville Stage Race or the Silver Rush 50 — both held in July in Leadville.