Get on your bike and ride 

Photos: Chuck Haney

Photos: Chuck Haney

Colorado’s scenic fall trails are paradise for cyclists

By Neill Pieper

Who needs the Tour de France when some of the world’s most scenic and challenging rides are right here in our backyard?

Although summer is waning, many cyclists believe fall is the best time to ride. Colors are changing in the high country, and brisk mornings and evenings help keep you cool while you crush some of Colorado’s steeper roads.

So, what’s holding you back? Here is a list of Colorado favorites perfect for fall riding, arranged from easiest to most challenging. Pedal on! 

Denver Paths

The worst of the summer heat is behind us. It’s time to jump back in the saddle, and for Denverites, it doesn’t get any easier than jumping on the city’s expansive trail system.

One of the more popular paths winds around the metro area along the South Platte, Bear Creek, C-470 and Clear Creek trails. Roughly 55 miles of mostly flat riding connects you with water, scenic golf courses, skyscrapers and Front Range views.

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Summit County

Summit County may be known for its ski areas, but in non-winter months, it’s one of the most bikeable areas of the state. The Summit County Paved Recreational Pathways System connects Frisco, Silverthorne, Breckenridge, Dillon and nearby areas of Keystone, Copper and Vail. Pick a direction, any direction, and you can ride on paved paths for miles. And in the fall, aspen trees are aglow, making the views spectacular. Rides can range from an easy cruise from Frisco to Breckenridge to strenuous challenges longer than 100 miles.

Colorado National Monument

While the Grand Junction area is known for its mountain biking, just a little further west, the Colorado National Monument provides a spectacular 33-mile road ride. With a Moab-esque setting, the monument will make you feel like you’re pedaling Utah or maybe the moon. Arches, sandstone formations and 2-billion-year-old rock layers can be viewed in the park. After a day out on the monument, take a short drive to Palisade and cool off by the Colorado River, or check out Palisade Brewing and Peach Street Distillers, just a short walk from each other.

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Trail Ridge Road

Head over the nation’s highest continuous paved road for a taxing, yet rewarding ride. Trail Ridge Road is on many cycling bucket lists for good reason. The road spans 48 miles and reaches an elevation of 12,183 feet. A grueling ride from Estes Park to the summit puts riders at almost 4,000 feet of elevation gain. After reaching the top you are rewarded with a 15-mile roller coaster of a ride down to Grand Lake. The experience is more enjoyable if a friend shuttles you back to your vehicle. Slow down and watch the out-of-state license plates roll past because the views are most rewarding on two wheels.

McClure & Kebler Pass

Take a long weekend and drive to the Crested Butte, Paonia and Carbondale areas. If you’re fortunate enough to have a gravel bike, definitely bring it for Kebler Pass. Both McClure and Kebler turn bright gold in the fall and sport stunning mountain views. All three adjacent towns showcase the best of Colorado’s small town living, so definitely take some time to tool around these communities. Plan accordingly: Kebler Pass is mostly gravel, while McClure Pass is paved.

Neill Pieper uses his considerable thirst for the craft beer scene to provide editorial, marketing and photography at Thirst Colorado.