The ride begins in the Colorado National Monument which is one of the most beautiful places in Colorado. Although it is on pavement we wouldn't have skipped this section if you'd paid us. We rode on a Saturday morning when the campground was 100% full so we thought there might be traffic on the park roads, but we mostly felt like we had the whole majestic place to ourselves.
We got to debut our new Gravel Bike Adventures kits and ride with friends, so what is not to love about that!
While the first 25 miles are all uphill, the first 12 are pavement, grades are relatively gradual, and gravel/dirt road surfaces are all in good condition and rideable.
You'll be in open cattle range areas on the roads that circle back to Glade Park, and we got to see ranchers (surprisingly all cowgirls!) moving a heard of cattle. (It was also slightly terrifying to see 30+ cows charging down the road in our direction. We pulled off into a driveway to let them pass!)
This route takes you up to above 9.000 ft and stays at those elevation for about 8 miles before heading back down. Be aware in early Spring that snow might not have melted and roads might be wet and muddy. (We learned the hard way and had to hike-a-bike for miles in the snow and mud which we certainly don't want anyone to repeat! It took us quite a bit longer than expected to complete this route and a post ride beer was never so deserved at the end.)
Although the initial decent was fast and had incredible views, the gravel here was a little chunky and the road was a bit bumpy for a few miles!
Do this ride if you are visiting the Colorado National Monument in Grand Junction, CO and you want to spend an epic day gravel grinding though some seriously spectacular scenery.
We left from the Saddlehorn Campground in the Colorado National Monument since that was where we were camping. (It is one of the nicest and most beautiful campgrounds you can find and we highly recommend it! Because of that, reservations typically need to be made well in advance.)
If you wanted to skip the park and avoid the park fees, you can start at N 16th 1/2 and Black Ridge Road where there is a small parking lot. This option would cut off approximately 14 miles round trip and make your loop around 50 miles. All of the monument roads are paved, however the scenery is pretty spectacular so we don't recommend skipping it unless you are short on time.
Park entrance fees are $25 for a car/$15 for a cyclist. (Or you can use your National Park Pass if you have one.)
There are almost no services on route except for a convenience store called the Glade Park Store on the corner of S 16 1/2 and D S Road. (approximately mile 11.5 on the way out and mile 52 on the way back. (Check their hours if you plan to use this as a supply stop, but it seems they are generally open 9am-6 pm.) As usual take plenty of extra water and food with you for a long day in the saddle.
We did find a vault toilet in a camping area around mile 23.
We did not have cell phone service for most of the loop portion of this route, but we did get service in Glade Park as well as in the CO National Monument.
Wait until June to do this route when winter snow has fully melted and mud has dried up. Alternately, we imagine this would be a fantastic Fall ride though the Aspen groves.
This is a remote route where you might encounter wildlife. FYI- We saw a big bear paw print in the snow just before the summit, so you might want to consider bringing a bear bell and/or spray.
There is a really cool rock formation called the Ela Natural Bridge, at about mile 46 (just past 11 5/10 Rd) which is a tourist attraction and great photo op.