Verdant valleys harboring crystal-clear streams, mountain passes, and steep slopes ablaze with Indian paintbrush, characterize this new weeklong, inn-to-inn tour of southwest Colorado’s San Juan Mountains. Could it get any better? Yes! We’ll stay each night in a cozy mountain inn or motel and feast at local restaurants. During the days, we’ll drink in the scenery, stopping often to breathe in the clean, crisp Rocky Mountain air.
Starting in the vibrant, friendly, and cycling-crazed town of Durango, we’ll make our way along the San Juan Skyway, one of the world’s most spectacular road networks. Our loop encircles the western flank of the massive San Juan Mountains, a range containing some of the highest peaks in the Lower 48, including several at more than 14,000 feet above sea level.
Ranging from a “low” elevation of 6,200 feet near Cortez to over 11,000 feet at Red Mountain Pass, the route takes us through forests of quaking aspen and stately pines, Victorian mining towns, prehistoric ruins, and expansive livestock range. And don’t be surprised if you spot elk, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, black bears, or mule deer, as all inhabit the region.
|Start Date:||Jun 08, 2014||End Date:||Jun 14, 2014|
|Start Location:||Durango, CO||End Location:||Durango, CO|
|Total Days:||7||Riding Days:||5|
|Average Daily Mileage:||47.0||Surface:||Paved|
|Riders:||13||Elevation Alert:||High point: 11000'|
|Airport:||Durango-La Plata County Airport (DRO)||Tour Leader:||Richard Pace|
|Meals:||Indoor Dining||Accommodations:||Indoor (Inn to Inn)|
|Type:||Self Contained||Physical Difficulty:||Advanced|
|Level of Support:||Inn to Inn||Cost:||$1,769.00|
Durango. Hordes of cyclists, both recreational and competitive, have chosen to call Durango home over the years. You’ll understand why as soon as you arrive: Durango’s amenities include world-class road riding and mountain-bike trails, a beautiful historic downtown, and an overall irresistible vibe. Here we’ll meet in the late afternoon for a delicious meal and an orientation session, before bedding down at our designated lodging to get a good night’s sleep and dream of the week ahead. (A sudsy option before bedtime: the Durango Brewing Company’s Tap Room, featuring décor inspired by local lore, including that of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.)
Durango to Dolores, 47 miles. Get ready for some ups and downs, for today we’ll begin our journey on the San Juan Skyway, heading west toward Cortez. Just past Mancos, we’ll pass the entrance to Mesa Verde National Park, whose cliff dwellings were home to the Ancestral Pueblo people from approximately A.D. 600 until 1300. The park contains around 4,000 known archaeological sites, including some of the most important and best preserved ruins in North America. We’ll end the day in the laid-back community of Dolores, situated along the banks of what the Spanish Catholic priests Dominguez and Escalante dubbed Rio de Nuestra Señora de las Dolores, or the River of Our Lady of Sorrows. The priests passed through in 1776, during their search for a good route connecting the missions of Santa Fe and Southern California.
Dolores to Telluride, 65 miles. The payoff for the long climb along the Dolores River and then up and over Lizard Head Pass, elevation 10,222, is magical Telluride. If you know of a village more gorgeously situated, we’d love to hear about it. A large share of the silver boomtown-turned-ski resort is within the Telluride Historic District, an important component of the National Register of Historic Places. Embracing the town are ragged cliffs and steep, timbered slopes dotted with mining ruins. Beyond, at the head of the box canyon in which Telluride sits, is 365-foot Bridal Veil Falls, and downtown, in the valley below, are all stripes of eateries and drinkeries. No doubt about it, we’re going to have fun tonight and tomorrow!
Layover in Telluride. We couldn’t think of one good reason to make you rush out of Telluride, so we’ve schedule a layover day there. With its beautiful Victorian architecture and lively, well-preserved downtown filled with restaurants and shops, there’s plenty to do. Telluride is less than a mile from end to end, so everything is close by and within easy walking or biking distance. Optional activities above and beyond include hiking, horseback riding, jeep tours, and riding the gondola from Telluride to Mountain Village — or how about a trip to the spa for a massage?
Telluride to Ouray, 50 miles. You still might not be ready to leave Telluride, but it’s back on our bikes today, a day filled with more tumbling streams and mountain magic. If there is a town better than Telluride, its name is Ouray. You be the judge, for our destination today is that very place. Aptly nicknamed “the Switzerland of America,” Ouray indisputably received more than its fair share of blessings from Mother Nature; first and foremost are the ample sulfur-free hot springs gushing forth from within the earth. Several hot pools here are open to the public, including Ouray Hot Springs Pool and the Wiesbaden, with its therapeutic “Vaporcave.”
Ouray to Silverton, 24 miles. Today’s ride includes the “Million Dollar Highway,” a well-known section of the San Juan Skyway following U.S. Highway 550 between Ouray and Silverton. The actual source of the nickname is debatable, but it could well derive from the riches of silver and gold taken from these hills during the late 1800s and the 1900s. After cresting the high point of our loop, 11,018-foot Red Mountain Pass, we’ll enjoy our own bounty in the form of an unforgettable downhill that delivers us to historic Silverton, home for the night. Unlike many old makeshift mining towns, it's said that Silverton never experienced a major fire — so most of the old buildings are still standing, and what you see is what they got.
Silverton to Durango, 49 miles. We’ll trace the route of the famous Iron Horse Bicycle Classic in reverse today, going from Silverton to Durango. Launched in 1972, the Iron Horse is the longest continually run bicycle event in the United States. We’ll take it a bit slower than the racers do in the late May event, taking time to savor our final day in the glorious San Juan Mountains. We’ll begin with a climb out of Silverton to Molas Pass, climb another summit known as Coat Bank Pass, zip past the Durango Mountain Resort, and continue down into Durango. Let the party begin as we celebrate a week of cycling highs and lows in the mountain country of southwest Colorado.
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