The views of the Collegiate Peaks from the Four Mile Recreation Area are truly breathtaking. At nearly every corner you round and every hill that you crest there is a jaw-dropping snow-capped mountain view! It never got old, we were continually in awe, and couldn't stop taking pictures.
Some of the roads have fun, roller-coaster like humps that are pure joy to fly up and over. They aren't technical so you can really enjoy the momentum. (There is a mountain bike trail nearby called the Bacon Strip and we loved that imagery. The roads on this route could also easily go by the same name.)
This route is full of adventure! It is quite challenging, but the sense of accomplishing all the feats of this route only add to the joy. There are four manageable river crossings, 2,000 ft of elevation in the first ten miles, sand that you can slide sideways through, punchy inclines and screaming fast downhills.
Sand is almost never fun on a gravel bike. On this route, there is a lot of energy-sucking sand in the first ten miles and all along 376. It was all doable on our 38mm tires but it would have been a much sweeter ride on a mountain bike. The roads are narrow and some had a significant slope to them. Add sand to that, and you have to be very careful about the line you take to avoid sliding out!
The downhill section of 376 (mile 12-14ish) is just as slow as the uphill. There was a huge rock garden at approximately mile 13. Maybe this two mile stretch would be entirely bikeable for advanced cyclists, or if you had wider tires, but we found ourselves getting on and off the bike a few times.
There are some short yet super steep pitches that we had to walk up. They were only a few hundred feet long, but with the road conditions and the steep grade, we didn't always make it all the way up. Maybe next time!
Do this ride if your visiting Buena Vista and you want a challenging adventure with epic views of the 14,000 ft peaks surrounding you. This advanced ride is well worth all the sweat and thigh burn!
Public parking and bathrooms are available at the Buena Vista Whitewater Park/ Barbara Whipple Trail trailhead.
There is a vault toilet at a trailhead parking lot near the turn off of N.Colorado Ave/371 and 375 (at approximately mile 3 at the beginning and 26.8 on the way back). There is another vault toilet less than a mile from there at the campgrounds on 375. Other than that, there are no other bathrooms on the route.
The route is in a very remote high desert area without places to refuel. In the spring there is water that could be filtered from the creeks, but plan to take enough water and nutrition for 3-4 hours of intense effort on the bike.
This is a high-altitude route, which means you should come well prepared for rapid weather changes. Check the forecast prior to riding so you know what to expect, when to time your ride, and what to pack.
We would recommend tires that are at least 38mm or wider tires for this ride because of the terrain which is at times sandy and rocky. Low tire pressure no higher than 35 psi is also advisable.
We did this route in the spring when we presume runoff and water levels are near their highest. For us, all four of the water crossings were passable, at least to wade across. We imagine, as the summer goes on and the water levels lower, some of them might be rideable.
The famous Buena Vista Midland Tunnels can be seen just beyond the turn off to 375. If you haven't viewed them before, it is worth the detour to bike though and/or to take a few photos of the beautiful historical landmark.
There are a fair amount of dirt bikes and off-road vehicles on this route. Roads are narrow so keep your eyes and ears open for approaching vehicles and pull over as necessary.
The town of Buena Vista has plenty of great places to enjoy before and after you ride. We recommend:
House Rock Kitchen for great food. They have open air/outdoor dinning space on a large patio.
Buena Vista Roastery for good local coffee.
Eddyline Brewery for excellent craft beer.
Louie's Ice Cream Shop for delicious house-made ice cream.