Colorado Cols Bike Tour in 2015

Mary and I rode the Colorado Cols bike tour with Lizard Head in June and July 2015. Over seven days we covered 540 miles, including two centuries, with 36,000 ft of climbing. Bruce from Chicago was the only other guest, and Emily was our only guide. John Humphries, who runs Lizard Head, made special arrangements so we could do this tour with only three guests. We really appreciated that 🙂

Here is what we did each day.

On Day 0 (Saturday, June 27): We drive from Colorado Springs to Grand Junction after finishing the Spanish Peaks and Great Sand Dunes tour the day before. We visit Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park along the way.

On Day 1 (Sunday, June 28): We shuttle to Mesa and bike 70 miles (with 6,600 ft of climbing) to Paonia over Grand Mesa. We rate this our best Lizard Head cycling day yet!

On Day 2 (Monday, June 29) We bike a shortcut from Paonia to Crested Butte over 10,007-ft Kebler Pass. It is only 47 miles (5,000 ft) compared to the 110-mile recommended route. However, 23 miles of the shortcut are dirt and gravel, which is why it is not recommended. We manage to make it on our road bikes without falling, see beautiful scenery, and get to Crested Butte early in the afternoon.

On Day 3 (Tuesday, June 30): This is the Queen Stage of the tour, i.e., the longest distance. We go 134 miles (8,000 ft) from Crested Butte to Creede. Mary and I bike all the way in 13 hours!! She is only the second woman to do this on a Colorado Cols tour. We follow several rivers and go over two high passes: Slumgullion and Spring Creek. We have perfect weather with mild temperatures and very little wind. Bruce completes the bike ride too but gets sick afterward and rides in the van for the rest of the tour 😦

On Day 4 (Wednesday, July 1): We bike 65 miles (3,100 ft) from Creede to Pagosa Springs and go over Wolf Creek Pass. This is net downhill and easy compared to the day before. Soon after we get to Pagosa Springs a spectacular thunderstorm arrives. While we are soaking in our first pool the light rain turns to heavy hail. The pools take on a new dimension as the water jumps up when the hailstones hit. Before long the pounding on our heads makes us want our bicycle helmets. That and nearby lightning prompt us to go inside until the storm passes. Afterward the hail is piled up like snow in many places.

On Day 5 (Thursday, July 2): This is nominally a rest day. However, we do an easy 31-mile loop west of town (1,900 ft). We have lunch by a lake that reminds us of Wisconsin. Afterward we soak in several pools without worrying about hail and lightning 🙂

On Day 6 (Friday, July 3): We shuttle from Pagosa Springs to Durango and then bike 72 miles (7,500 ft) from there to Ouray through the spectacular San Juan Mountains. We go over three high passes – Coal Bank, Molas, and Red Mountain – and descend one of the most incredible roads we have ever been on: the Million Dollar Highway. We spend the night in an “unusual” room at the Columbus Hotel, the last hotel in Ouray with any rooms on the holiday weekend.

On Day 7 (Saturday, July 4): We celebrate our anniversary by biking 121 miles (3,900 ft) from Ouray to Gateway. We do one more climb to nearly 9,000 feet, but the rest is mostly downhill following the San Miguel and Delores Rivers. The ride begins with cold rain as we leave the mountains and finishes in desert heat moderated by high clouds.

Photos and commentary follow.