Cycling Colorado: Ute Pass (from Silverthorne)

July 4, 2013
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Ute Pass


This is part of a summer series exploring great mountain rides in the state:

Length: 18.5 miles one-way

Top elevation: 9,583 feet

Overview: After two straight trips over 12,000 feet the past couple of weeks with Trail Ridge Road and Independence Pass, it's time to catch our breath. This trek allows you to do that.

While the ride isn't the most difficult, it still involves climbing - just not miles and miles of it and just not above 10,000 feet. This is a relatively low-key route that is worth the time, and one you won't be feeling days later.

You can start any place in Silverthorne, but I began from the softball complex behind the factory outlet mall. A bike path lines Colorado Highway 9 as you pedal north out of town. It won't be long until you join the highway so you might consider hopping on it at your first opportunity. The road sees a fair share of traffic, but the shoulder is quite wide and typically free of debris that might lead to a flat.

Silverthorne quickly fades in the distance as a slight downhill elevates your speed for most of the first 13 miles, with much of that stretch running next to the cool, trout-filled Blue River. But a challenge still looms, so don't waste all your energy sprinting.

Watch for the sign to Ute Pass Road. Once you reach it, turn left and find a lower gear. The steeper grade kicks in after a few hundred yards. The next 5 miles aren't quite grueling, but the climbing is tough as you push toward 10,000 feet. The road finally relents in the final half-mile to the summit.

Since this ride only involves about 2,000 feet of elevation gain, cyclists easily can take on more by dropping down on the other side of the pass into Grand County. One fast descent leads to Henderson Mill and adds another 4-5 miles to your overall trip.

How to get there: Take Interstate 25 north to Denver and Interstate 70 west to Silverthorne.

Nathan Van Dyne, The Gazette

Difficulty: 2.5 of 5

Most of the ride is tame, but the 5-mile climb to the summit will get your attention.

Scenery: 3 of 5

Ute Pass Road features some unique rock formations and the views from the top are grand.

Traffic: 2 of 5

On a recent weekday morning, only a half dozen vehicles passed on the 5-mile ascent.

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