Cycling is a great way to savor the beauty of western Colorado. Take advantage of the great weather and hop on your road or mountain bike for one of these rides, which have been suggested by three local residents.
Jim Leser, an avid cyclist from Cedaredge, used the Pioneer Town parking lot just south of Main Street as a starting point for these rides. "There are no level rides in our area," he says. "They're all up and down with some challenging hills."
Ride 1. Go south on Hwy. 65 to Eckert where you turn right on North Road. Continue west for 1 mile to Running Deer Road and turn left. Follow Running Deer Road for 2.5 miles to Hwy. 65. Turn right and take your first left at Vista Grande Road (0.2 miles). After 1 mile, take 2100 Road (Austin cutoff) left back to Hwy. 65. Turn right and return to Eckert. Left on North Road for 0.2 mile and turn right on to Happy Hollow Road (2nd road on right). Follow this road all the way to SW 11th (3.8 miles). SW 11th will take you back to Hwy. 65. Turn left and return to the Pioneer Town parking lot. Total miles: 18. This route can be done in reverse for a change.
Ride 2. Go north on Hwy. 65 to the visitors' center on Grand Mesa. There will be an elevation gain of about 4,000 feet. There are drinks and water at the center. Return to Cedaredge. Going up is a slow slog but coming down is a fast hoot. Watch for deer and make sure you have good brakes. Total miles: 34.
Ride 3. Same as Ride 2 but continue across and down Grand Mesa from the visitors center to the little town of Mesa at about 41 miles. There is a small store there for drinks and snacks. Return to Cedaredge. Round trip: 82 miles. This is not a ride for those unprepared for a long day in the saddle. Ride time will vary from 6.5 to 10 hours depending upon skill and fitness level.
The next two rides are short rides for the time challenged. Time, about one hour plus or minus depending upon fitness and hill climbing ability.
Ride 4. Go north on Hwy. 65, past Aspen Trails to Ute Trail Road (first road on right and about 4 miles out from the Pioneer Town parking lot.) Turn right on Ute Trail Road and follow east until it runs into Surface Creek Road. Bear right on Surface Creek Road and continue across Surface Creek and down to where it intersects with Main Street at the foot of Cedar Mesa. Turn right and continue to the light. Turn left onto Hwy. 65 and return to the parking lot. Total miles: 11. This route can be done in reverse for a change.
Ride 5. Go north on Hwy. 65 to the Main Street light. Turn right and go to Surface Creek Road and turn left. Travel up Surface Creek Road until you see Shady Oak Avenue on your left. Turn left and go west across Surface Creek and take your first right on 2375 Road. Continue until intersection with Ute Trail Road. Turn left and continue to Hwy. 65. Turn left again and ride a short distance to Aspen Trails where you will turn right and then left again on 2325 Road. Continue down to Sage Road and then turn right. Sage will turn into Happy Hollow Road with a right angle curve. Continue through the first stop sign. At the second stop sign, turn left onto R Street (Main Street) and return to Cedaredge. Turn right on SW 2nd Street before the light. Continue through the stop sign to the Pioneer Town parking lot. Total miles: 12. This route can be done in reverse for a change.
John York, a resident of Delta and co-owner of Cascade Bicycles in Montrose, shares these rides:
"My favorite mountain bike ride is Sidewinder Trail because it is challenging in parts and easy in parts and so long that you make a day of it. Leave from the new trailhead facility at the foot of Smith Mountain off H75 road.It can easily be accessed from Montrose, Olathe or Delta as it follows along the side of the Gunnison Gorge.
"My other favorite, once the snow clears, is the Flowing Park trail on the Grand Mesa. The views are spectacular, the trial is mainly cross-country, not too technical and about 15 miles long. You reach it from Highway 65 to FS 100, take a quick left on Flowing Park Road and go about 1.5 miles to a gate where the trail starts.
For road bikers, York has two suggestions:
Ride 1. From Bill Heddles Recreation Center, head north to Hwy. 50. Make a right onto H38 Road and a left onto 1600 Road. In about a half mile, make a right onto I Road, which will turn into Trap Club Road. The road will take you through the 'dobies to North Road. Turn right and ride a short distance to Ward Creek Road. Go north up Ward all the way to R Street where you turn right. This goes through downtown Cedaredge, but keep on it going east to climb Cedar Mesa. At the junction just out of town turn right on Cedar Mesa Road. After gaining the top, stay on Cedar Mesa as it turns first right and then left. Then turn right on 2600 Road and head DOWNHILL towards Fruitgrowers Reservoir. To get to Fruitgrowers take a right at the intersection of 2600 (changes names) and North Road. Take North Road back west to Hwy. 65, then back to Delta on any number of optional routes including back through the 'dobies. Total miles: 39 if you return on Hwy. 65.
Ride 2. From the rec center take Main Street south to 1600 Road. At the "Y" before 1600 heads uphill, bear left onto D-25 Road, which will lead into Ash Mesa Road. Take Ash Mesa to B Road then left onto 1600 Road, which becomes 5500 Road in Montrose County. Take 5500 all the way to Highway 348 where you turn right. Stay on 348 for just over two miles, until it curves to the right and heads down a short hill. At the bottom (1/4 mile) is Cedar Road. Turn left to take this scenic loop west of Pea Green. Take Cedar to Banner, then right on Banner past 348 all the way to 5400 Road (it becomes 1500 Road in Delta County). Take 1500 to D Road and take a right. Almost immediately, make a left onto Old Wagon Road, which will wind its way to Hwy. 348. Turn right onto 348 and it will lead you back to downtown Delta. Total miles: 27 with 607 feet of climbing.
Make friends with "Delta Road Bikers" to receive updates on group rides.
Sydney Shaw Nichols of Crawford maps weekly rides for Women on the Move. She says the best mountain biking in the North Fork, hands down, is the Jumbo Mountain Trail System on BLM land just outside Paonia. It's mostly packed-dirt rolling singletrack routes range from those suitable for children to advanced terrain such as the "Ridge of Doom." The system trailhead begins at the top of Apple Valley Hill. From town, take Rio Grande Avenue, which leads into Pan American Avenue, which ends at the trailhead. There is limited parking at the trailhead so the best option is to park in Apple Valley and ride up. For detailed information and trail maps, contact Galaxy Bike and Sport, 334 Grand Avenue. For trail conditions and possible group rides, check out the Paonia Singletrack Society on Facebook.
The north rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison is another incredibly scenic mountain bike or hybrid bike option. Unlike Jumbo, the route isn't technical but rather a well-maintained dirt and gravel road. Ride out and back from the national park ranger station to see magnificent overlooks along the canyon rim such as Island Peaks and Kneeling Camel. It's just over 8 miles round trip with about 450 feet of climbing.
For a longer adventure, ride the 12 miles up Black Canyon Road to the ranger station from the Crawford Reservoir on Hwy. 92 just south of Crawford. The road is paved for the first 5.7 miles from the intersection with 92 (3 miles south of town), then switches to hard-packed dirt, climbing steadily for the first 8 miles, then heading slightly downhill. Control your speed on the fast downhill return! 1,400 feet total climbing.
Needle Rock Loop is one of the best-loved road bike routes in the North Fork. It starts in downtown Paonia and heads over to Crawford for a spin near the iconic volcanic formation that gives the route its name. From Paonia, follow 1st Street onto Mathews Lane and out of town. In about 2 miles, make a left onto Crawford Road, gradually ascending on rolling hills across farmlands and 'dobies all the way to Hwy. 92. Make a left turn onto 92 and ride into Crawford. Just before the post office, make a left turn onto Dogwood Avenue which will lead seamlessly into Needle Rock Road and then 4200 Road. The road ends at a "T" with Cottonwood Creek Road. Make a left and start a 4-mile scenic downhill run back to the intersection with Crawford Road. At the "Y" intersection, bear right and retrace the route back to Paonia. Total: 32 miles and about 1,900 feet of climbing.
Around the Block, another top ride among locals, starts from Hotchkiss City Market. Take Bridge Street (Hwy. 92) toward town and make a right onto Cedar Drive to travel across lovely Barrow Mesa. At the top of the Cedar Drive hill, make a left onto Maple Drive, then right onto Barrow Mesa Road, which leads smoothly left into L50 Road and left again onto 3300 Road for a swoop down to Leroux Creek and back up. At Hwy. 92, take a right and go half a mile on the narrow shoulder, then turn right onto 3250 Road for a mile and left onto L Road. In another 1.5 miles, make a right onto 3100 Road and follow it just over 2 miles to North Road. Make a left onto North, climb the hill and you're officially on Redlands Mesa, ready to ride around the "block" that transcribes its borders. Make a right onto 2900 Road and then a left onto Redlands Mesa Road, which continues 5 miles, eventually curving back down to North Road. Make a left onto North and follow it across the south side of the mesa (watch for the buffalo farm on the right) and down the hill to 3100 Road. It's mostly downhill from here! Make a right onto 3100 Road, keep descending, cross Hwy. 92 and a mile later make a left onto J Road. As J Road curves north along Rogers Mesa, look right for a special view of Scenic Mesa to the south and the North Fork of the Gunnison River below. Three miles from the turn onto J, make a right at the "Y" onto J-80 Road, which will lead down the steep "cemetery hill," into Riverside Drive and back into town. 33 miles; 1,950 feet of climbing.
For a simpler but less varied route, start by going up cemetery hill to Redlands Mesa via J Road and 3100 Road. And for a shorter ride – 20.5 miles, with 1,200 feet of climbing – start at the Rogers Mesa Community House at the corner of 3100 Road & Hwy. 92. Bike north up 3100 Road to North Road to pick up the route.
On Grand Mesa
Lake of the Woods Trail — An 11.5-mile round trip that begins at the end of Forest Service Road 250. The trail is rated moderate.
Scales Lake Road — Six miles round trip, rated easy to moderate. The route begins just off Forest Service Road 118, in the Lands End area.
There are also a number of single-track backcountry trails. Just stick to the numbered roads and trails; bike riding is prohibited in wilderness areas and other trails as posted.
Maps and recreational information can be obtained at the
Delta office of the U.S. Forest Service, 2250 S. Highway 50,
(970) 874-6600, or online at www.fs.fed.us/r2/gmug.blog comments powered by Disqus