This route starts in the Garden of The Gods. It is a FREE park with stunning views of spectacular rock formations. Even though this section is paved (first 2.5 miles) and the park is often busy (especially on the weekends), there is a nice bike lane and the scenery just can't be beat!
The climb up Rampart Range Road out of Garden of the Gods, which is about 12 miles long and 5.2% average grade, is in very good condition and has awesome views of Pikes Peak. It is fairly exposed but there is a little bit of shade in the morning. We have had a wet spring so things were very green and the Aspen's new leaves we brilliantly green! Cars use this road but traffic was light and cars were respectful and slow when we did it on a Sunday morning. We saw a small herd of deer on the way up.
We were really impressed with Colorado Springs bike paths! We were able to get from Monument back to the Garden of the Gods park almost entirely on paths. The first part of the trail from Monument is the brand new New Santa Fe Regional Trail. This portion of the trail is dirt and was really flowy, slightly downhill and fun! On the map, it looked close to the interstate, but in most instances, you barely noticed because of trees and creeks, and you can always look right to see the beautiful mountains. It is a beginner trail but there is some sand and a few punchy inclines so that kept things fun and interesting.
There is more traffic after you get to the top of the climb and cars do travel a bit faster so there are some washboards. The "top" is about 15 miles long and rolls more than we anticipated before you get to the big downhill.
We've done Mt. Herman before and similar to last time, descending was slow. We had to take a lot of care since you end up on the outside close to the drop-off edge and cars tended to take wide turns through the tight switchbacks. In addition, there were some pretty nasty washboards the last mile of the Mt Herman descent before you hit the pavement (around mile 39).
Do this ride if you want a BIG climb and great gravel loop with incredible Colorado views of Garden of the Gods and Pikes Peak. Make sure you have your climbing legs and good sense of adventure!
At mile 23 we did a little extra climb on a paved road, but you can stay on Rampart Range road. The GPX file that is offered doesn't include the extra climbing but the elevation profile reflects our actual ride so you'll see that little blip there. The "extra" climb is only about a mile long but it is steep (average 8%)!
The forest road going down Mt Herman is “unmaintained” so things are always interesting. Expect to bob and weave a bit around potholes, rocks and some sandy areas, but you don’t have to worry about things being too technical or scary. We did this comfortably on our 700x35cm Panaracer Gravelking SK+ Tires (set up tubeless and pumped to 35 psi).
Once you get close to the end, stay on the trails and sidewalks. (Do NOT get on W Garden of the Gods road at about mile 61.5 mile. Same with N 30th Street- stay on the Palmer Mesa Trail.)
This route is very similar to the Rampart Ranger 73 mile Gravel Fondo, so if you prefer a competitive group ride, check it out. It doesn't appear to be officially scheduled yet, but they seem to be planning for October of 2021.
We parked in the Garden of the Gods Parking which is at the Park entrance, across the road from the Visitors center. There is plenty of free parking available there.
We did not find bathrooms where we parked but there are public bathrooms at the "Main Parking lot and at "Scotsman Picnic Areas". After you get on Rampart Range Road and until you get to the town of Monument, there are no services. Come prepared with enough calories and hydration to do 40 tough miles unsupported. We stopped at Lolley's Ice Cream and it was delicious!! They kindly filled up our water bottles with ice and water when we ordered ice cream and cookies!