We've been wanting to try a muti-day, unsupported bikepacking trip for a while now, but were a little intimidated until we found an interesting route in the Gunnison National forest on bikepacking.com, and we found a small group of women who were willing to join in on the adventure! We did the 65-mile route over 3-days. Below is a review of day one's segment as we did it.
See Day Two's route and review here.
See Day Three's route and review here.
The first 4 miles are on smooth asphalt and roll past the meandering Tomichi Creek and meadows with cows. It was such idyllic scenery that we all started out the route grinning from ear to ear.
The first 2 miles of dirt until you turn off and head up the first climb of the day, is pristine, packed and fast (more smiles).
The second climb of the day up Waunita Pass got us into shade with lovely Aspen trees that shimmered their leaves in the breeze. The shade felt good since we were climbing in the heat of the day with weighted-down bikes. (This would be an even more beautiful ride if you could hit it on a peak weekend of Fall and see the changing leaves!)
We found an incredible camp site (#10) in the PIkin Campground where we had plenty of room for 5 tents, and it had a picnic table, a fire pit and the babbling Quartz Creek right beside us!
While the grades of the first 2.5 mile climb up Black Sage Pass were not terribly steep, it was sandy and had a steep camber on the outside. Traction was a little tricky especially as we were getting used to the weight of our bikes and when you had to get over for passing cars, motorcycles or ATVs. (We did this over Labor Day so we are guessing the traffic was a little busier than usual.)
Both descents were pretty rocky, bumpy and jarring on the upper body and seat. (Between all of us, we had a variety of tire widths ranging from 36mm gravel tires to full-on mountain bike tires. The general consensus was that bigger was better for the downhills.)
Do this ride if you want a fun gravel route in rural Colorado that is just challenging enough to help you get your day-one bike packing jitters worked out! Expect some climbing, beautiful scenery, lots of cows and a cute little town and great camping site to spend the night at!
We parked in the the Daly Gulch parking area just off highway 50 at the bottom of Monarch Pass. There was plenty of parking for all 5 of our cars and we felt safe leaving them day for the three days. There were no bathrooms here, so you'll want to use the bathroom in either Poncha Springs or in the nearby town of Sargents before you get going.
Cell phone reception was spotty. We were glad we had uploaded the GPX file at home before we left and could easily follow the route on our Wahoo bike computers.
The town of PItkin has little general store that was open till 6:00 pm where we were able to pick up some supplies, ice cream and get dinner from their food truck. Our one complaint was that there was not beer or alcohol sold here.
The PIkin Campground was listed as "low usage" and we were able to easily get a site on Labor Day weekend. Sites 10-14 were for tent camping only so we were away from the noise of RV generators. One site cost $20 (don't forget to bring cash!). They have vault toilets, trash disposal and drinking water available.
We did this in early September. Day temps were warm (especially in the exposed areas), and night time temps were cool (low 40's). Keep in mind that the route goes up over 10,000 feet. Snow often occurs well into June and again as early as October, so this is best done in Summer and early Fall.
This could also be done as an out and back gravel route without the bike packing if you started early and weren't weighted down with bags food and gear. Have lunch in Pitkin then turn around and head back to the cars for 50 miles in one day.
Curious about the bags and gear we used? Check out the bikepacking section in our shop.
Laura Karpinski and Rose Barcklow are the creators of Gravel Bike Adventures. Click on the About page to learn more about them.