September 5, 2013 Updated: September 5, 2013 at 8:25 am
This is the last of a summer series exploring great mountain rides in the state:
Length: 17.5 miles one-way
Top elevation: 11,539 feet
Overview: Stunning vistas, steep grades, sharp turns and smooth highway - this ride has it all. But it also has traffic, and plenty of it.
Starting at Summit High School at the intersection of Colorado Highway 9 and Swan Mountain Road, riders can bypass the vehicles while pedaling south toward Breckenridge on a wide rec path. But the path is littered with stop signs as you approach the bustling town.
The route features a subtle incline all the way through Breckenridge, a great way to warm up for what lies ahead. Upon leaving town, the climbing begins with a steady grade that takes riders to Blue River. The traffic can be heavy in this area as many residences line the highway.
The final 4 miles to the summit are easily the highlight. A sign will signify this stretch, but your body also will warn you. With lungs and legs burning, this is the crux of the ride as you labor above 10,000 feet.
Fortunately, the number of vehicles decreases as you ride and nothing - even motorized - tends to go too fast on these grades. You certainly won't be, but the miles do tick away amid a beautiful portion of Summit County.
The finish is a series of switchbacks that can hurt, but riders can sense the end is near and that typically provides a bit of a boost.
Enjoy some time at the top as the views are exquisite. You won't have to work much on the way down, but take caution in negotiating the tight turns up high.
How to get there: Take U.S. Highway 24 west to Hartsel. Drive north on Colorado Highway 9 to Breckenridge. Follow through town to Summit High School, where there is plenty of parking.
Nathan Van Dyne, The Gazette
Difficulty: 4 of 5
The climbing is consistent and becomes more difficult in the final stretch to the summit.
Scenery: 4.5 of 5
From the Blue River to pristine lakes to Quandary Peak, there is plenty to catch your eye.
Traffic: 4.5 of 5
Highway 9 is busy in and out of this ski town with loads of residential and commercial traffic.