Aspen – Lake City – Chama

ROUTE DESCRIPTION: From Snowmass Village it is possible to ride back roads
almost all the way to Carbondale. From Woody Creek to beyond Basalt there is a
bike path. At the end of the path cross the highway and ride on the back road on
the west side of Hwy 82. We were successful just following our nose . . .

The ride from Carbondale up McClure Pass is fantastic. There is a nice park in
Redstone for a picnic (and great ice cream right across the street). The grades are
quite gradual along the river until the Marble turnoff. The last three miles to the
summit is a grind. However, the downhill off the pass is wonderful with good
blacktop and wide turns. The road gets busier near Sunset and Bowie due to the
mines. Avoid late afternoon if you can.

There are two routes out of Paonia toward Crawford. Take the more main road to
Hotchkiss OR ask a local how to take the back cut off. The main road is gentler.
The back road is shorter but has lots of steep ups and screaming downs – and
some rough blacktop. From Crawford the road rises gently through meadow
country before a steep ascent to the back side of the Black Canyon of the
Gunnison. Once gaining the major elevation the road rolls “playfully” around the
mountain before a ten-mile descent to the Blue Mesa Dam. (This is a wonderful
ride in reverse, too!)

One could ride east toward Gunnison to the Lake City turn off. We chose to load
the bikes and take the Pine Creek Road across to Hwy 149, a shortcut of about
forty miles. The ride from the road junction up into Lake City is gradual and
lovely.

The first eight miles up Slumgullion Pass out of Lake City is a real grunt.
However, the ride down the backside makes it worthwhile. There is a second
climb to the top of Spring Creek Pass – not so significant. Don’t miss the pull out
about five miles further on to see the waterfall. A paved road accesses the
parking lot about 1/4 mile off the main road. Several miles further the downhill
lessens as you reach the valley floor. We stopped in Creede for lunch. >From
there it is a very gentle downhill through Wagon Wheel Gap and out to South
Fork. You could call it a day here – but we wanted to soak in the hot springs
in Pagosa so headed on up over Wolf Creek Pass.

Wolf Creek, like many Colorado passes starts off gently along the river. Unlike a
lot of passes, though, the steeper uphill is pretty long. There is quite a bit of
traffic but the road is wide and in good shape. There is one short tunnel and a
couple of snow sheds – but no problem. The down side of the pass goes on
forever and is quite steep with poor road near the top. Once off the pass the
road rolls a bit into Pagosa, unwelcome uphills at the end of a long day. Just
stay focused on the hot springs.

>From Pagosa the road rolls and climbs through beautiful countryside into
Chama. We got in to Chama early enough that we rode on to the top of the
first pass (Cumbres) before loading up and heading home.

INTINERARY:
Day 1
Route: From Snowmass Village to Carbondale (back roads and bike path
most of the way) – 30 miles, S on 133 over McClure Pass (8,755′) past
Somerset and Bowie, turn left on 187 to Paonia – 64 miles. (94 miles total)
Bross Hotel Bed & Breakfast, 312 Onarga St, Paonia, 970-527-6776
or Leroux Creek Inn, Hotchkiss, 970-872-4746

Day 2
Route: Take 187 out of Paonia (6,000′) about 9 miles to Hwy 92, turn left.
The next 30 miles is gently uphill with a bit steeper climb just before
reaching the high point (8,300′). Drop down to the junction of Hwy 92 and
Hwy 50 – 61 miles. Load bikes in cars and drive about 3 miles west on
Hwy 50 to Pine Creek Rd (also Rd 25). Turn left and drive about 10 miles
to Gateview. Unload bikes and continue riding on Hwy 149 south to Lake
City – 22 miles (83 miles total). The Old Carson Inn is beyond Lake San
Cristobal (about 10 miles out of town).
Old Carson Inn, Co Rd 30, Lake City, 970-944-2511 or 800-294-0608

Day 3
Route: Drive to pavement or on out to junction with Hwy 149 (9,300′).
Take 149 all the way to South Fork – 71 miles. Along the way: Slumgullion
Pass (11,361′) about 8 miles from junction, Spring Creek Pass (10,901′) –
6 miles, waterfall off road to left in about 5 -6 miles (worth the stop),
Creede – 28 miles, South Fork – 23 miles. Then, for the overzealous riders,
continue riding on Hwy 160 over Wolf Creek Pass (10,850′) – about 20 miles
to the top – on over to Pagosa Springs for an additional 42 miles (122 miles
total). Note that Hwy 160 will have more traffic including some truck.
traffic. We’ll eat dinner at the Greenhouse Restaurant (great views & food).
Tel: 970-731-2021
Spring Inn, Pagosa Springs, 970-264-4168 or 800-225-0934

Day 4

Route: Backtrack about 1 mile on Hwy 160 to the
right turn onto Hwy 84 toward Chama. We’ll work
out the logistics since this is an ambitious ride with
the drive home – but mileages are as follows:
Chromo – 24 miles, Hwy 64 Junction – 11 miles,
Chama – 13 miles (48 total). From Chama take
Hwy 17 to Antonito over Cumbre Pass (10,022′)
and La Manga Pass (10,230′) – 48 miles.
We’ll decide if we want to stop in Salida on the
way home for pizza at Il Vicino.