The first seven miles of Shrine Pass to Red Cliff were nothing but coasting and enjoying the views (when you’re not dodging rocks!). It was a wonderful start! During this descent you are looking straight at Mt. Holy Cross (a 14er), following Turkey Creek river, and enjoying meadows of wild flowers during the summer months.
The town of Red Cliff is a sweet, sleepy town that we wish we had more time to explore. (We rode this during the 4th of July holiday and Covid-19.)
Forest Road 703 out to Homestake Reservoir is a great gravel road with few washboards.
The climb up to the Reservoir was well worth it for the views and the solitude. There were very few people up there even on a holiday weekend.
The last seven miles up Shrine pass were a tough way to finish the day!! Double digit grades are never easy, and we were racing to get back to our campsite before a thunderstorm descended upon us with crazy head winds. (We did appreciated the 4×4 ATV driver that cheered us on and tried to hand us off a PBR beer.)
Forest road 703 seemed to be a popular destination for the ATV crowd. We saw a lot of people camping and getting ready to go off-roading. Due to the threatening rain, we didn’t experience a ton of the traffic but imagine that on a typical, nice weekend there could be some noise and traffic.
Do this ride if you want to experience a high-altitude ride that is mostly gravel with beautiful views and some lung-busting climbs.
There is a stretch of about 2 miles on Highway 24 each way. This is the only paved section with any traffic. There is little shoulder but speed limit is 40 MPH and cars were very respectful of bikers.
Shrine Pass is a typical unmaintained forest road. It definitely has some sandy spots, large rocks and steep grades in places. It is not a smooth, gravel road.
There are places for refueling and bathrooms in Red Cliff if needed.
At about mile 20, there is a fork in the road, and no clear signs for the reservoir. Stay to the left if you want to go straight to the reservoir!
This is a route for mid to late summer. There are still traces of snow and we imagine the snow just recently fully melted.
Plan your ride so you are done by 2:00pm when you are biking at elevation since storms typically roll in fast and strong right around that time.
We were camping along Shrine Pass and started right from our camp site, but a logical place to start this ride would be the parking lot/rest stop at the top of Vail Pass and I-70. (This would add about 8 miles round trip.)
Laura Karpinski and Rose Barcklow are the creators of Gravel Bike Adventures. Click on the About page to learn more about them.