Pingree Park and Buckhorn Rd out-and-back

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Larimer County, Colorado
Date Published:
August 6, 2023
Gravel Ratio:
100% Gravel
Difficulty Rating:
Enjoyability Rating:
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This route is 100% gravel and in general, the dirt roads are in great shape! (Expect some washboarded areas and a few places where rocks have slid down onto the road, but almost all of it is avoidable if you can choose your line and use different parts of the road.)

The landscape is remarkable. In the lower portion, you'll bike through pine forests, aspen groves, and alongside the beautiful South Fork Cache la Poudre River. As you get up higher, you'll see huge burn scars. The day we biked it, the top was socked in with heavy fog and misty clouds which added to the unique atmosphere.

Even though you start off from the busy Poudre Canyon, and there is some initial camping traffic, after about 5 miles, traffic thins to a minimum and you will feel extremely remote. Certainly, once we were on Buckhorn Road, we hardly saw another car and only encountered 2 other gravel bikers.


From where we started, there is no warm-up. You begin right away on fairly steep grades that probably average around 4%, but have short pitches of up to 9%.

This area was impacted severely by flooding in 2013 and the Cameron Peak Fire in 2020. Expect to see many miles of the haunting landscape of burnt forest.

There are both dispersed camping and designated campgrounds all along the first 5 miles of Pingree Park Road, which means there is car traffic (particularly on weekends). Our experience doing this on a Sunday around 11:00 am was that there were a few more cars than we would have liked. However, traffic had lightened considerably in that same stretch when we were returning around 3:00 pm.

Do this ride if you are in the Poudre Canyon in the warm summer months and want a simple out-and-back gravel climb which is remote and scenic.

Other Notes:

We parked in a small parking area just over the bridge off the Poudre Canyon Highway and Pingree Park Road (N Co Rd 63E). There are no bathrooms or access to filtered water, so come prepared with what you need in terms of water, food, and sports hydration.

There is a public vault toilet at the Fish Creek Picnic Site, which you will pass at mile 9.2 on the way out and 26.9 on the way back.

At miles 8-12 (and 25-29), you begin biking alongside the South Fork Cache la Poudre River. Not only is it beautiful, but this is also where you could filter water if you bring a device such as this one.

The route is best done in late summer. (Buckhorn Road is closed seasonally from December through May.) The climb tops out at about 9,100 ft., so plan for any variety of weather and for temps that are generally cooler than you anticipate. Even in the summer, we would recommend packing gloves, raincoats, and extra warm layers. Always check and consider the weather before you head up as thunderstorms can move in quickly.

Because of impacts from the Cameron Peak Fire, if you plan to do any further explorations in the area we encourage you to do your homework beforehand and don't trust google maps or Strava 100%. Many campgrounds and smaller roads have been permanently closed but still appear on the map. (We originally hoped to do a lollipop route, but forest roads that we thought we could get through on were gated and impassable.)

If you want more miles, Buckhorn Rd (Pennock Pass) continues downhill for another 12 miles before the turnoff to Stove Prairie Rd. Just keep in mind this would add 24 miles round trip and another 1,900 feet of elevation gain.

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Laura & Rose

Laura Karpinski and Rose Barcklow are the creators of Gravel Bike Adventures. Click on the About page to learn more about them.

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