Rocky Mountain National Park

Biking

Biking in Rocky Mountain National Park is for the serious rider. Riding is on paved road; bouncing downhill over bouldered trail is strictly prohibited. But don't think the challenge is any the less for that. Trail Ridge Road is a four- to six-hour ride. If you can climb the 3,700 feet up from Estes Park, you will find a delightful Alpine ride at 12,000 feet. And of course it's all downhill from there—3,400 feet to Grand Lake!

Get started early on these three rides. You will beat the midday traffic, you'll be breathing clean mountain air, not exhaust, and most importantly, when those afternoon thunderstorms drop their icy load, you'll be pulling into a cozy room for a nice warm drink.

Trailbikes, mopeds, and bicycles are prohibited on established roads in Rocky Mountain National Park. A few roads are closed to vehicles in winter months, but are open to bicycles. Old Fall River, Upper Beaver Meadows, Glacier Basin Campground, and Fern Lake Roads are open to bicycling, hiking, and pets on leashes. Keep to the roads and off the trails.

For off-road adventure, don't overlook the park's neighboring national forests: Roosevelt, Arapaho, and Medicine Bow-Routt offer hundreds of off-road trails for backcountry cycling.

Routes

Bear Lake Road
This route starts off U.S. Highway 36 and climbs 1,500 feet (457 m) in 8 miles (13 km). It ends at scenic Bear Lake, elevation 9,475 ft (2,889 m). Narrow and mostly uphill, the ride takes you through Moraine Park flanked by mountains and moraines. The road follows cascading Glacier Creek through aspen, fir, and lodgepole pine trees.

Moraine Park, Sprague Lake, and Glacier Gorge Junction provide parking, hiking, and picture-taking opportunities.

Round-trip time: two to four hours

Trail Ridge Road
This is a demanding intermediate-to-advanced ride. The road climbs 3,758 ft (1,145 m) in 15 miles (24 km) from Estes Park and about 3,429 ft (1,045 m) in 20.2 miles (32.5 km) from Grand Lake. The reward is 10 miles (16 km) of rolling, alpine highway at about 12,000 ft (3,658 m) above sea level. Expect air temperatures to be 15º  to 20º cooler above treeline. To avoid hypothermia, change to a dry shirt BEFORE you get above treeline and in the wind.

An early start at sunrise will ensure light traffic and decrease the chances of being caught above treeline in a late morning or afternoon thunderstorm. The only protection from lightning is at Fall River Pass. You can find temporary shelter at Alpine Visitor Center and Fall River Store. In emergencies, comfort stations at Rainbow Curve and Rock Cut provide shelter.

Round-trip time: four to six hours

Horseshoe Park/Estes Park Loop
This 16-mile (27 km) loop is best done by going west on U.S. Highway 34 through the Fall River Entrance. At Deer Ridge Junction ride east on Highway 36 through the Beaver Meadows Entrance.

The route exits the National Park and winds up in the Town of Estes Park. The views of the Front Range and Mummy Range are spectacular. Watch for sharp turns when descending from Deer Ridge Junction.

Round-trip time: one to three hours


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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