Blog Posts

Winter Gravel Routes Near Denver & Boulder

January 16, 2020

Recently, we were asked if there are good winter gravel routes around Denver and Boulder, and the answer is YES!!

Moderately cold temperatures without much snow or ice shouldn’t deter you from getting out on your bike! If you have the appropriate tires and clothing and the roads and trails aren’t too icy, it is totally doable to bike outside when it’s cold (and possibly really enjoyable since trails can be significantly less crowded).

We typically wait 3-5 days after it has snowed several inches. If it has been sunny and “relatively warm” for a few days (as it often is in Colorado), most of the snow and ice will have melted enough to ride (especially if you are riding on a 35 or wider tire). With layered winter cycling clothes, shoe covers or winter cycling shoes, wind-proof winter gloves and hand and foot warmers you can easily brave 35º temperatures.

Be warned- winter cycling, in general, is just messier! If you don’t encounter some slush and ice, there are puddles and mud too.
Fenders are nice to protect your backside and friends behind you. Remember to take a towel with you to clean up or sit on for the car ride home. And we often drive straight to the car wash to clean off the bikes on the way home rather than storing dirty bikes.

SO what are our favorite winter gravel routes in the Denver/Boulder Area?

Here are our top three picks:

Waterton Canyon is a stunningly beautiful canyon south of Denver near Chatfield Reservoir. This 14 mile out-and-back gravel route has an easy and steady climb and no cars.

Why we recommend this route as a winter ride?*
This is a short and sweet winter gravel route. If temps are cool, you won’t be out there forever and the gradual climb will help to keep your body warm.
The “trail” is more of a road and is very smooth, wide and well maintained.

Keep in mind:
Parts of the road are shaded by the canyon walls, so dress extra warm even if the sun is out.
Depending on how long it has been since the last snow, expect to see some snow/ice in shaded areas.
Going up, means you also have to come down, and you’ll inevitably be colder coming down!

One of our site users said on 1/5/20 that “Waterton Canyon was in really good shape up to the fire station (about six miles up the canyon). Thoroughly enjoyable ride with Big Horn Sheep mingling with hikers, runners and cyclists!”

See the original route post

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This is a beautiful 62-mile mixed terrain route from Boulder to Carter Lake. The route is an even mix of half gravel and half pavement. Do this ride if you want the speed, feel and long distance mileage of a road ride, but the quiet roads and low car traffic of a gravel ride.

Why we recommend this route as a winter ride?*
This route is quite beautiful in the winter with a variety of different lakes and mountain views as scenery.
The dirt roads from Boulder to Carter Lake are hard packed, non-technical and in great riding condition so you shouldn’t have to deal with much ice, mud or puddles.

Keep in mind:
This is a 60 mile route. On cold days, that can seem like a lot! In addition, it’s a fairly rural route with few places between where we started and Carter Lake, so be prepared with enough layers to keep you warm.

See the original route post

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The Highline Canal Trail is an awesome place to do a flat and fast, beginner all-gravel bike ride. This 40-mile route is perfect for a “recovery ride” and makes for a fun social-ride with friends.

Why we recommend this route as a winter ride?*
This is a flat, non-technical route and the riding surface is fine crushed gravel which is well maintained.
It is an out and back ride, so if conditions are not exactly what you anticipated, or if you get too cold, you can simply turn around and head back home!

Keep in mind:
Depending on how long it has been since the last snow, expect to see some snow/ice in shaded areas.
This route has several street crossings and pavement can be more slick than dirt, so take extra caution especially if there is still piled snow from plowing.

See the original route post

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*General disclaimer: You are 100% responsible when riding these winter gravel routes and should be prepared for any/all conditions. We advise you upload the route onto your GPS device and save it for offline use! We also advise you do additional day-of research before heading out (checking current weather conditions, etc.) RIDE AT YOUR OWN RISK.

Want to simply embrace winter cycling? Try Fat Biking!
We were recently in Winter Park and went to Devil’s Thumb Ranch’s Nordic Center where you can rent Fat Bikes. (IN 2020 It was $40 for a half or $50 for full day plus a trail pass.) Since it isn’t technically gravel biking we didn’t include it on the site, but you can see our Stava Map and photos here.

All this being said, Winter IS typically cyclist “off season” and is a great time to chill and cross train (which we strongly encourage)!

We are big believers in cross-training. The winter months are a perfect time to be experimental with alternative movement practices, and using your body in different ways can not only feel really great but it can also help prevent injury from repetitive overuse as well. Start going to a new Pilates, Yoga or Strength Training class, go for a swim at the indoor pool, try cross-country skiing or snowshoeing, join a rock climbing gym, etc…

Enjoy your winter!!

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