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© The Alpine Bicycle
& Colorado Rough Riders Club
to Taos Alpine Tour
The following is a route
from Breckenridge to Taos best ridden in August or September. This adventure
was created in the spirit of "Alpine Touring".
Total distance for the trip is approximately 300 miles with about 12,000
ft of climbing and 15,000 ft of downhill through the mountains of Colorado
and New Mexico. Crossing several mountain ranges, this trip is a mix
of terrain including dirt roads, single track, old pack trails and pavement.
There may even be short sections where packing the bike on ones back
Although the route is divided into seven legs, each segment does not
necessarily represent days on the trail. Instead they represent towns
and destinations where we can drop down and get supplies. The ride usually
takes about 5 days depending on weather, motivation and the number of
saloons in each town. Anyone interested in the whole route or just segments
of the route is welcome
True to an Alpine Touring philosophy, we travel in an ultra light mountaineering
or old cowboy fashion. No weighty luxuries like a tent or cooking equipment.
Instead we sleep under the stars, get water from streams and resupply
food in each town. Going light is probably the only practical way to
handle this much climbing over mixed terrain anyway.
The Breck/Taos Route
Leg #1 Breckenridge to Hartsel
50 mile length, elevation gain 1,320, elevation loss 3,000
Description: The trip starts in the lovely ski town of Breckenridge
Colorado. From town, we follow the Great Divide Trail over the Continental
Divide, a classic high altitude route in the heart of the Rockies. This
spectacular trail over the Front Range Mountains is mostly dirt road
with some single track opportunities. Once over the divide, the route
winds down through the heart of South Park to the small town of Hartsel
0.0 Start in Breckenridge @ Boreas Pass Road, paved then quickly turns
to dirt (elev. 9,700 ft)
10.0 Reach top of Boreas Pass and the Continental Divide (elev. 11,
20.4 Reach small town of Como (elev. 9,813)
21.3 Junction w/ Hwy 285, turn left (elev. 9,681)
21.7 Approx. 0.4 miles to Elkhorn Rd, dirt road heading through South
Park, turn right (elev. 9,735)
25.3 Stay Right as road forks
33.1 High Point (elev. 9,670) trail drops and rises approx. 200 ft
50.1 Reach town of Hartsel (elev. 8,864 ft).
Alt #1: We could also follow French Pass which is a single track route
over the saddle of Bald Mountain and slightly higher than Boreas Pass.
Alt #2: There is a nice alternate single track on Boreas Pass's east
side which links back to Como and 285.
Leg #2 Hartsel to Salida
46.6 mile length, elevation gain 1,270 ft, elevation loss 3,033 ft
Description: We continue on the Great Divide Trail through South Park
and over the Arkansas Mountain Range to Salida. This leg travels some
very remote Colorado backcountry partly following an old Ute trail.
Yes, we need to watch out for Buffalo. Once over the unnamed pass it's
a steep downhill run into Salida for supplies, rest and relaxation.
0.0 In Hartsel, turn left towards Caņon City onto State Highway 9 and
the TrandsAmerica Bicycle Trail.
1.0 Turn right onto County Road 53 (elev. 8,837 ft).
3.19 Bear right on dirt road 15.9 Bear right on dirt road
19.1 Pass through a gap in mountains into a dry basin with dark mountains
23.9 Continue straight on County Road 53 at unmarked junction. Route
soon turns narrow.
26.2 Cross Cattle guard, trail gets more primitive (elevation changes
up/down by a couple hundred ft)
29.9 Right onto Ute Trail 175 (west) (elev. 9,108)
27.7 Ford small creek with no bridge. Get water
30.3 Junction with Power Line, continue straight (do not turn left)
30.6 Continue straight on Ute Trail 175, as another trail/road goes
right to Cable Gulch and Herring Park.
32.6 Climb gets really steep through San Isabel National Forest towards
34.5 Cross cattle guard at watershed divide and start the descent. (elev.
39.0 Continue straight/left down at junction
46.3 Turn left at T to continue on County Road 175
46.5 Turn left onto State Highway 291 towards Salida
46.6 Go right onto Mesa Lane and into Salida. (elev. 7,100)
Leg #3 Salida to Westcliffe
46.5 mile length, elevation gain 850 ft, elevation loss 200 ft
A ride down through the spectacular Arkansas River Canyon and then up
through the Wet Valley to Westcliffe for supplies. This is some of the
best fly fishing country in Colorado. If I wasn't going so light, I'd
bring a fly rod. There are also possible opportunities to ride off road
on sections of the Rainbow Trail along the Sangre de Cristo range but
may require some bike packing. We could also raft our bikes a few miles
0.0 In Salida take road heading towards river at south of town. (elev.
1.3 Intersect and take Hwy 50 down river (elev. 7,018)
5.1 Turn east towards & over river on County Rd. 45
17.2 Cross over Hwy 50 but stay on County Rd. 45
19.1 Intersect Haden Creek Rd. turn left (north east)
19.4 Reach Coaldale, turn right (south east) on Hwy 50
23.5 Reach Cotopaxi, turn right (south) on
30.5 Turn right (south) on Road 69
46.5 Reach Westcliffe (elev. 7,875)
Alt #1: We could rent a river raft and float our bikes down the Arkansas
River to Cotopaxi.
Alt #2: The Rainbow Trail runs roughly from Salida to Westcliffe through
the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and can be mostly traveled by bike. Talking
to a local bike shop it sounds like the trail is torn up by ATV's and
is not much fun for bikes. However if we find a nice section the route
can be diverted for some distance on this trail.
Leg #4 Westcliffe to Fort Garland
70.8 mile length, elevation gain 3,100, elevation loss 2,660
Description: This leg winds up through the Wet Valley then over the
Sangre de Cristo Mountains and down to Fort Garland in the San Louis
Valley, Colorado's only true desert. The Sangre de Cristo Mountains
are very rugged but there are a couple of opportunities to cross over.
0.0 In Westcliffe head south on 6th Street, turns into Hwy 69. (elev.
15.9 Reach high point (elev. 8,560)
33.1 Reach Gardener (elev. 6,968)
33.9 Back to junction Hwy 69 & County. Rd. 572 towards Malachite (elev.
39.8 Reach Malachite, turn South on County Rd. 572 (elev. 7,508)
51.1 Reach Pass Creek Pass (elev. 9,379) 52.3 Junction with North La
Veta Pass Rd. 160. (elev. 9,095)
70.8 Reach Fort Garland (elev. 8,021)
Alt #1: Medano Pass also crosses over the Sangre de Cristo Mountains
south of Crestone Peak into Sand Dunes National Monument and down to
Fort Garland. Sounds like a fun route, but might require a couple miles
packing our bikes on our backs through soft sand.
Alt#2: We could ride/pack over one of the 14,000 ft peaks in this range
Leg #5 Fort Garland to Amalia New Mexico
35.7 mile length, elevation gain 500, elevation loss 300
This leg is a relatively flat trip down through the San Louis Valley
visiting Colorado's oldest town, San Louis. The route veers off the
main road at San Louis and follows back roads to New Mexico primarily
to find a more direct route and to get out of the desert quickly. An
interesting alternate route over Wild Horse Mesa is an interesting possibility.
Imagine riding with the heard. Stock up in Fort Garland or San Louis,
because there are no services until Red River New Mexico. Amalia isn't
really a town.
0.0 In Fort Garland go south on Hwy 159 (elev. 8,021)
15.7 Reach town of San Louis, Head south east on dirt road (elev. 7,969)
18.3 Turn right, South, on dirt road towards San Pedro (elev. 8,100)
19.2 Reach village of San Pedro (elev. 8,087)
20.2 Reach village of San Pablo (elev. 8,093)
21.5 Right turn, South, on dirt road towards New Mexico (elev. 8,177)
27.1 Cross stream (elev. 8,470)
34.5 High point (elev. 8,570)
35.7 Reach Amalia New Mexico (elev. 8164)
Alt#1: The semi-wilderness area south of San Louis is called Wild Horse
Mesa. This route would include dirt roads linked with single track,
might be a great bit of fun and very secluded.
Leg #6 Amalia to Taos
49.5 mile length, elevation gain approx. 1,000 ft, elevation loss approx.
down to Costilla New Mexico and ride the highway through Questa and
Route is still Preliminary