This loop is a version of the route used for the Roll Massif Wild Horse Gravel Race. (The 2021 event on May 15th is sold out.)
Our route is their 45 mile route that we started in the town of De Beque (rather than the High Lonesome Ranch) and rode in the reverse direction to their course.
As they say on their website, "The High Lonesome Ranch and its surrounding area isn’t open to riding year-round", so be aware that some of the roads might be seasonally closed. When we rode it the last week of April, we found all the roads were public and open to ride on.
This route is uniquely beautiful with colorful mountains, mesas, canyons and funky rock formations called hoodoos. We particularly loved seeing the rock formations known as the "goblins" (which you can't miss around mile 23 or 24).
You get to experience a full gamut of terrain on this route: beautifully smooth hero dirt, rugged chunky gravel, rutted double-track, a bit of sand, steep uphills and speedy downhills.
The remoteness of the area on this loop is striking. The town of De Beque only has a population of about 500 and we encountered just a handful of sightseers in cars while biking.
The long 10-mile downhill from the top of the climb to the High Lonesome Ranch is a perfect gradual grade that you'll be able to really let loose and fly down. Some of it is rutted in to double-track but as long as you stay up out of the ruts, it is fun and easy coasting.
Most of the climbing comes in the first half, and the final, big climb of the day is quite steep! (It occurs around mile 22.) We had to swallow our pride and walk up the final few feet.
Even on an early spring day, it was hot and bright on the long stretches of exposed road.
Do this ride if you want an "off the beaten path" gravel ride that showcases the unique high desertscape of the Western Slope.
There are public restrooms near the Wild Horse Monument on Minter between 3rd and 4th St.
We easily found street parking on 4th St. across from a little local coffee shop called Creations and Coffee (which we were pleasantly surprised to see is listed as "LGBTQ friendly" on google maps).
De Beque is known as "Gateway To Wild Horse Country" and you can, in fact, have the chance to see wild horses on this route!
After you depart the small town of De Beque, there are no services, no bathrooms and no place to restock on food or water.
Make sure you pack enough water and food to keep you going for the whole 45 mile ride. We'd recommend taking more water and calories that you think you will need because the route has some really tough climbs and is hot and exposed on a sunny day. (Don't forget your sunglasses, sunscreen and lip protection too!)
Laura Karpinski and Rose Barcklow are the creators of Gravel Bike Adventures. Click on the About page to learn more about them.