This route is brought to you by Stacia Carola, one of our 2022 Route Ambassadors and gravel enthusiast from Mancos, CO
Photo Credits: Stacia Carola
You start at the bottom of the Mancos Valley, and the gravel road leads you up in elevation through junipers, to scrub oaks, past big stands of old-growth ponderosa pines, and up to the highest point in beautiful aspen groves.
The turning point on the route has stellar views of the West Mancos Canyon and the La Plata Mountains.
You can ride this loop either direction. I prefer to grind the gravel clockwise from town, as the return downhill is all pavement which lets you go really fast if that’s your groove! If you decide to ride clockwise, the downhill on pavement through the National Forest gives you some of the best mountain views and views of the Mancos Valley, Mesa Verde, and Mt. Sleeping Ute.
This ride is great through the seasons as soon as the snow melts at higher elevations. From alpine flowers to changing aspens, and a chance to get away from the hot valley floor in the summer.
A low is that there are are no services on the route so you will need to be prepared and bring all your own water and snacks, as well as repair kits. You'll find some creeks up there, but it is also cattle country so it’s better to be safe than sorry and bring adequate hydration for yourself. This ride is quite remote and has very low traffic on the gravel side as you get higher in elevation. It is traveled by campers and side-by-sides during the summers, but plan to be completely self-sufficient.
You only get rewarded with views when you get out of the ponderosa forest, which is a way up the mountainside. The first half is all an uphill grind for the first 13/15 miles or so.
Do this ride if you enjoy a route with some climbing and elevation gains, great mixed terrain, stellar views of the West Mancos Canyon and the La Plata Mountains, and the opportunity to check out great food and drinks in the town of Mancos, CO.
There are also two very chunky rocky sections where the road is steep and washed out. They’re short though, and only take a few minutes to walk if you’d rather not hammer out a climbing grind.
I’ve ridden this solo only once, so if you’re new to riding or riding alone, or not used to the higher elevations, I suggest riding with a friend in case any issues arise.
The turning point on the route brings you past Transfer Campground where there should be pit toilets available during open camping season.
Also, watch out for cattle on the roads in the aspen country!
Chunkier tires on gravel bikes would be wise if you’re not used to riding rocky 4wd gravel roads, or if you don’t have mtn biking experience. I ride 44s but other folks have ridden it with skinnier tires as well.
Always bring a windbreaker/rain jacket during monsoon season.
Be aware of your elevation gain in Spring and know that snow might linger well after it melts at lower elevations!
I suggest parking on Main Street in Mancos by Absolute Bakery. Street parking is not an issue in Mancos, as it is a small agrarian town. Alternately, Boyle Park is nearby and has a parking lot and public bathrooms or port-a-pottie.
Mancos has many great stops for before or after ride drinks and food. Check out my favorites: Fenceline Cider, Mancos Brewery, Absolute Bakery, and Zuma Foods!
Stacia is a resident of Southwest Colorado who finds adventure on two wheels in the desert and mountains. Finding her love of cycling through being a dedicated cycling commuter during her years living in Durango, she has also found her flow riding trails when she isn’t busy landscaping or farming. Stacia coaches kids on mountain bikes through the organization Every Pedal in Durango, Colorado, and she hosts inclusive gravel rides between Mancos, Durango, and Cortez through her group C.C. Riders. She is excited to share some of her favorite local rides in the Four Corners region.