Western Colorado Motorbike Trip: Rolling By the Rockies

Western Colorado Motorcycle Ride
Rugged mountains, evergreen spires, historic cities, and improbable curves spotlight this loop journey via western Colorado.

As I sat within the grassy courtyard of the Retro Motel in Cortez, Colorado, the quaint motel’s identify struck a chord. It dawned on me that “retro” would be the theme of this western Colorado bike journey. Merriam-Webster defines “retro” as one thing “fashionably nostalgic.” That appeared becoming as I contemplated a loop journey that may take me deep into the Rocky Mountains and thru a few of western Colorado’s iconic cities. Essentially the most well-known of those cities are deeply rooted in frontier historical past however have since taken on the upscale air of ski-chic and Western excessive style.

After a slug of espresso and a nibble of the motel’s grab-n-go breakfast, I headed north out of Cortez on State Route 145. Very quickly, I used to be rolling via the tiny city of Dolores. From there, I started a phenomenal journey that follows the Dolores River for a protracted stretch and features elevation. The route is a pleasing mixture of brief straights and sweeping corners. 

Western Colorado Motorcycle Ride

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As I parted methods with the clear waters of the Dolores, the corners tightened and the air cooled. After a spirited journey, I motored into the historic silver mining city of Rico, which was settled in 1879 and nonetheless boasts spectacular historic buildings for such a tiny place. I dropped a kickstand on the city corridor and the neighborhood church, each of which have been constructed within the early Eighteen Nineties and are remarkably well-preserved. 

Western Colorado Motorcycle Ride
The whitewashed Rico Group Church was inbuilt 1891 and restored in 1993.

I had gained virtually 3,000 ft in elevation within the 50-mile journey from Cortez, and the mid-September leaves have been altering on the winding street out of Rico. The street coiled much more as I rolled via the colourful greens of the western Rockies. 

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Rockin’ within the Rockies

Western Colorado Motorcycle Ride
Overlooks within the Rockies usually reveal the good tarmac that’s to return.

This isn’t the primary time I’ve been on this space, and recollections occupied my ideas as I made the brief jaunt into Telluride. The Victorian silver mining city, which sits in a formidable field canyon, was based across the identical time as Rico. The world’s economic system has shifted from mining to snowboarding and tourism. Telluride is now distinctively upscale whereas retaining its Victorian attraction. I rode previous high-end boutiques peddling their expensive wares from inside historic brick facades. 

Western Colorado Motorcycle Ride Telluride
A painter practices his artwork on the outskirts of Telluride.

My reminiscing hit full tilt as I made it to Telluride City Park, the place my spouse and I attended the Trip Music Competition a few years again. The setting is wonderful, with a precipitous tree-covered mountain face as a backdrop behind the everlasting live performance stage. All of the city’s festivals are held on this must-attend venue for music lovers. One in every of my favourite pageant recollections was listening to Pearl Jam fill the field canyon with their hovering melodic riffs. On my most up-to-date go to, Frisbees and softballs crammed the air, however I may virtually hear Eddie Vedder nonetheless echoing within the evergreens. 

I climbed out of Telluride to the northwest. It was good to be out of the congestion and again on the curvaceous tarmac of western Colorado. The visitors picked again up as I approached the town of Delta. After making it although the slow-and-go, I headed northeast towards Aspen. 

Western Colorado Motorcycle Ride
Snow-laced mountain passes are ubiquitous within the Rockies of Colorado.

This stretch is mountain motorcycling at its greatest. Tight curves and relaxed sweepers are the rule right here, and the Rockies, which have been snow-laced on the time, make the right backdrop. The street’s situation was remarkably good contemplating the climate extremes on this space. I needed to slalom across the occasional pothole, however that’s about it. 

It was on this leg that I occurred upon a kind of “completely satisfied surprises” on a bike tour.  From a distance, I noticed what appeared like rows of mud nests made by cliff swallows – besides a lot larger. As I acquired nearer, it was clear the buildings have been man-made and far more uniform. It seems I used to be driving alongside the historic Redstone coke ovens. These brick-lined ovens have been inbuilt 1899 and have been used to burn the impurities out of coal to supply “coke” to be used in metal manufacturing. Fascinating stuff.

Western Colorado Motorcycle Ride coke ovens
The Redstone coke ovens are a captivating roadside attraction. In-built 1899, the brick-lined ovens have been used to burn the impurities out of coal to supply “coke” to be used in metal manufacturing.

Western Colorado Motorbike Trip? Or Excessive Plains Drifting?

I gassed up in Carbondale, which is the northernmost level on this loop journey, after which headed southeast on State Route 82. The street right here was not what I had anticipated. Most of this stretch heading to Aspen opens up into what you may anticipate on the excessive plains of Wyoming. There are wonderful views, as a lot of the world is huge open or lined with solely intermittent decrease vegetation. It was a relaxed and entertaining stretch on this final portion of the day’s driving. 

As I rolled into Aspen, I couldn’t assist however consider that ridiculous scene from the film Dumb and Dumber when Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels are practically frozen strong after they journey into city. Fortunately, I used to be not on a minibike, and my gear was far more applicable. 

Western Colorado Motorcycle Ride
Native wildfires had forged a hazy pall over the in any other case idyllic panorama.

Aspen is a ski, purchasing, and out of doors recreation mecca within the Rockies. Ski slopes lead from the encompassing mountains and seemingly terminate immediately in town’s most important avenue, which is lined with stately buildings courting again to the 1800s which are spectacular in each their dimension and structure. After a brief journey crisscrossing the roads of Aspen’s historic district, I unpacked the panniers at my lodging for the evening. The Aspen Mountain Lodge was clear and cozy, and its effervescent scorching tub was simply the factor to shed the day’s miles from my decrease again. 

My September night stroll via Aspen was an attention-grabbing mixture of historical past, extra, and mountain attraction. I strolled previous households frolicking within the city’s park, girls sporting outfits that possible value greater than my bike, and the delightfully eclectic mixture of buildings all through the city. After a few slices of connoisseur pizza and a neighborhood brew, I settled again into my room for the evening.

Western Colorado Motorcycle Ride Aspen
A boutique in Aspen exemplifies the city’s eclectic nature.

The Trip to Independence 

I awoke the subsequent day with a smile as a result of I’d get to journey some of the thrilling roads within the Southwest, which culminates within the skinny air and sweeping vistas of Independence Move. With luggage packed and gas topped off, I headed southeast deeper into the Rockies. 

Western Colorado Motorcycle Ride Twin Lakes
Historic log buildings dot the panorama in western Colorado.

Virtually instantly after leaving Aspen’s metropolis limits, the street coils right into a slim black ribbon of leisure. The climb is steep, and the visitors is refreshingly sparse. At instances, the street narrows to a single paved lane. The skeletal stays of the world’s mining heyday rise from the undulating grasslands. Spire-like evergreens attain stoically skyward, and snow traces the grey rock peaks just like the marbled fats on an excellent steak. 

Western Colorado Motorcycle Ride
The bones of historic mining buildings add visible texture to this journey.

Earlier than I knew it, I used to be there. The street cresting the tundra above the tree line led me to signage indicating I had reached Independence Move. At an elevation of 12,095 ft, the summit is the very best paved go in Colorado (however not the very best paved street; that honor belongs to Mount Evans at 14,130 ft, positioned about 70 miles to the northeast). I used to be completely satisfied that I used to be on a fuel-injected BMW GS, as this elevation could be tough on a carbureted bike.

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Western Colorado Motorcycle Ride Independence Pass Continental Divide
Independence Move is a thin-aired spotlight of this western Colorado tour.

After the requisite pictures and a second to breathe in what little oxygen this elevation offered, I got here down from the go. 

The opposite aspect of the summit was each bit as thrilling because the climb. Hairpins practically as tight as these you’d discover on a rest room self-importance abound. It’s a 1st-gear descent for the primary few miles previous Independence Move, and the views are spectacular. 

Western Colorado Motorcycle Ride Western Colorado Motorcycle Ride
The visible definition of a “hairpin” curve on the southern descent of Independence Move.

Finally, the turns relaxed till I reached one of many few straight stretches on the loop. After that, I headed southwest on U.S. Route 160. This in the end results in Wolf Creek Move. Sure, that’s the one within the Nineteen Seventies track by C.W. McCall. I rode down from the practically 11,000-foot go amid quite a few warning indicators in regards to the precipitous grade and what it may well do to truck brakes. There have been two runaway truck ramps on the descent that spoke to the hazard.

Western Colorado Motorcycle Ride Wolf Creek Pass Great Divide
The famed Wolf Creek Move is a shining star of the Nice Divide.

I threw down the kickstand on the viewpoint to get pleasure from some of the spectacular vistas on the journey. The view serves as a topographical foreshadowing of a descent via jagged rocks and vivid conifers right into a grassy valley. The few miles between right here and my ultimate stopover didn’t disappoint.

Western Colorado Motorcycle Ride
The view south on U.S. Route 160 is gorgeous and expansive.

Soaking within the Final Cease of the Western Colorado Motorbike Trip

I entered Pagosa Springs road-weary however happy. That is one other city wealthy in historical past however with the added draw of the steaming waters of the Mom Spring aquifer. I made my option to The Springs Resort and Spa, an upscale and visually gorgeous property that boasts two dozen soaking swimming pools fed by the aquifer.

Western Colorado Motorcycle Ride Pagosa Springs
The pure scorching swimming pools at The Springs Resort and Spa in Pagosa Springs are excellent for soaking away the stiffness of the street.

The swimming pools vary in temperature from 88-112 levels, and all supply wonderful views of the San Juan River and surrounding mountains. After sampling a number of of the new swimming pools, I retired to my comfy suite and drifted off with visions of the day’s wonderful journey dancing in my head.

All that was left of my western Colorado loop tour was a calming journey due west again to my start line in Cortez. There was, nonetheless, yet another iconic city left on the docket. After about 50 miles of gently curving freeway, I came across Durango.

Western Colorado Motorcycle Ride Durango
Durango’s Strater Resort is one among many stately, historic buildings on this journey.

This southern Colorado city is located on the banks of the Animas River and, like all of the others I’ve visited, has a wealthy historical past and well-preserved downtown space. I picked up a to-go sandwich and sat by the whitewater park to observe kayakers navigate the rapids. I put up the kickstand for the final time on the journey on the brief jaunt again to Cortez. 

Clearly, this can be a summer time journey. The intense elevations make for an early winter and late-arriving summer time. Some stretches on this route are completely closed within the winter. Pack with the expectation of enormous swings in temperature and precipitation. Plan effectively and revel in!