This route is a challenging and consistent climb with an average gradient of about 6% (but nothing much steeper for more than a few feet).
There are spectacular views both on the way up and on the top of the Grand Mesa. (At the old Observatory, if you look to the west, you can see the La Sal Mountains in Utah, over 120 miles away. To the southeast, Uncompahgre Peak along with several other 14,000-foot mountains can be seen. Colorado National Monument, Unaweep Canyon, and Big Dominguez Canyon are visible from this lookout, as well.)
The road was extremely quiet and peaceful. (We rode in late May 2020 and it was closed to car traffic due to covid, as was the observatory at the top.)
There is some thick chunky sections where the gravel is loose.
This route is quite exposed, so there is very little shade.
You are in the Grand Mesa National Forrest and there are absolutely no services- no bathrooms no water and certainly no breweries on route to stop at before or after.
Do this ride if you are near Grand Junction, CO and you want a long, quiet and challenging climb with seriously epic views.
There is absolutely nowhere to fill water bottles or refuel. You will be working hard for the whole first half, so come prepared with plenty of extra calories and hydration.
The National Forest is closed seasonally from December 1st-May 1st and may be restricted or changed due to Covid. (You can contact the Grand Junction Field Office at 970-244-3000 with questions.)
Due to the warm temperatures in the summer we recommend doing it as soon as it opens in May or in the Fall before snow is threatening. Laura and Rose did this the last day of April 2021, and were not able to make it all the way up to the Observatory due to deep snow still covering the road (at about mile 13).
Roads get drier and dustier with heat. It would have been a very different experience doing this route in the summer with heavy car traffic that kicks up dirt and doesn't allow you to use the whole road to navigate. Any time of year, choose a car restricted day or weekday if possible for maximum enjoyability!
We parked on the side of the road in a gravel pull off/parking area right before the gate (which is about 7.7 miles from the turn off from US-50 if you use Kannah Creek Rd to get to Land's End Road).
Laura Martel and Lewis Dawnay are avid bikers who ride and compete in road and gravel events often. They are also friends of Laura and Rose, the founders of Gravel Bike Adventures, and they got into gravel ridding through Laura & Rose's encouragement. Because of that, they have ridden many of the Colorado routes on this site and have had many more gravel adventures on their own.