There was an abundance of animals on this ride. We saw a flock of wild turkeys, a road runner, grouse, pronghorns and llamas (as well as lots of horses and cows). It was really fun to be on the lookout throughout the ride for another glimpse of cool wildlife.
The rolling terrain on this route was an absolute delight. We noted the elevation gain of nearly 3,000 ft but it never felt like a grind. It had enough variation that it felt like a mild roller coaster ride the whole way. There was one really fantastic downhill section at mile 33-35 that made us feel like kids again. Shoes unclipped, legs flying out wide just laughing as we descended on a great road.
We did this ride on Mother's Day weekend and there is always something special about the first smell of pine forest after winter. We would get whiff's throughout the ride and it made us smile realizing that winter is finally over and we've got 6 months of play time ahead of us.
There were very few cars on this route and the cars and trucks that did pass us were generally respectful, slowing down and waving as they passed.
We would have given this route 5 stars if it wasn't for the a 5 mile stretch of fairly brutal washboards (around mile 52-57). You've just descended down a pristine section and had so much fun and then it comes to a screeching halt as you hit the rumble of washboards. We wanted to keep going fast but the washboards slowed us down a ton. Some it was completely unavoidable and sometimes we could squeeze ourselves on the very edges of the road to avoid the worst of it.
At the very end, there is a short section (just under 2 miles) on State Highway 96 that takes you back to your car. There is a big shoulder and there didn't seem to be a ton of traffic but it is always an adjustment to go from a quiet dirt roads to a fast-moving paved highway.
Do this ride if you want a delightful 80% gravel route from the Pueblo area that has rolling terrain, beautiful high desert scenery and lots of southern Colorado wildlife.
We parked and started this ride from a roadside parking area for the Red Gate Trailhead. Parking was fairly limited, but we easily parked 3 cars there on a Saturday morning. There are bathrooms or services here, so make a bathroom stop beforehand and come prepared with the water and food you will need.
There are absolutely no services on this route. Bring everything you need to be self-sufficient including plenty of nutrition and water. A hydration pack might be preferable as water bottles can get bounced right off your bike (speaking from experience...)
We would only recommend doing this ride in the early Spring or Fall when high temps are below 80º. High heat would make this both uncomfortable and/or dangerous. In the Spring, we found it a perfect place to go when higher elevation is still under some snow and Denver was cooler and more wet.
If you are looking for camping in the area, we stayed at Lake Pueblo State Park which was a short distance away from the start of the ride.