CO Flag

 

Fact Table:

Location Front Range North
High point 12183 ft
Max Grade 7.5%
Arv Rt Grade

3.9%

Dist to High pt 24 mi
Elev Gain 4900 ft
Rating Difficult
Access City Estes Park

 

Location Front Range North
High point 12183 ft
Max Grade 5.5%
Arv Rt Grade 3.0%
Dist to High pt 25 mi
Elev Gain 4000 ft
Rating Difficult
Access City Granby

 

Ride Tips:

  • Never ride this route on a summer weekend.
  • Ride as early in the morning as you can (e.g. 6AM or 7AM)
  • Watch downhill speed on switchbacks.
  • Do not trust RVs in any way shape or form.
  • Carry rain and cold weather gear. Weather changes fast and it can and does snow in July and August.
  • Food and water is limited. Carry plenty with you.
  • Watch for signs of altitude sickness as you are doing high altitude cycling.
  • Take the time on this climb to take in the scenery. It's spectacular.

Content for id "tips" Goes Here

 

Rainbow CurveRainbow Curve over Estes Park

Rock CutRock Cut
Rock2Rock Cut view north
Rocky Mtn Nat ParkRocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mtn Nat Park 2Rocky Mountain National Park
Lava CliffLava Cliffs in July
Gore ViewGore Range to west
S from Rock CutView South from Rock Cut

Rocky Mtn National Park Summary

Between this, Grand Mesa, and Mt. Evans, I can’t think of a better ride anywhere.  If you can put up with the traffic and fickle weather, you will be rewarded with spectacular vistas, leg burning climbs, and views of abundant wildlife.  The roads are smooth and fairly wide, but don’t expect shoulders too often.  Watch for road damage,  frost heaves, and RV’s with people not used to driving them.  In fact, the only bad thing about this ride is the traffic. Avoid riding this on a summer weekend. There are too many tourists pRMNP Profileaying more attention to the views than the roads. I recommend riding this pass as early in the morning as possible (as in hit the climbs by 6AM or 7AM) and riding Tuesday-Thursday. In fact, the earlier you ride, the better chance you have at seeing the wildlife. When you see bear, elk, moose, goat, big horn sheep, etc., do not approach it. They don't call it wildlife for nothing.

From Estes Park, I recommend Starting at the intersection of 34 and 36 and taking 34 to the Fall River Entrance (5 miles).  You avoid the traffic of Estes Park and set yourself up on some of the lesser traveled roads of RMNP. Yes, 36 is a bit shorter to the start of the main climb, but it is high traffic and you miss Aspenglen and Horseshoe Park areas where there is bound to be good views of lower altitude critters. The ride through Horseshoe Park is fairly flat as the real climbing does not start until 34 and 36 rejoin at Deer Ridge Junction.  From there, you have a more or less constant grind up to Rock Cut, the trip high point at 12,183 ft (mile 21).  Many Parks curve is 13 miles  and Rainbow Curve is 17 miles up the climb offer spectacular views.  As you climb toward Rainbow Curve, you'll spend a lot of time in the trees and only have a glimpse or two of the valley below, but at Rainbow Curve (a favorite spot to watch the sun rise) the world opens up below you and you are near the top of the world.

After Rainbow Curve, you have a nice long ramp to climb to get to your first of several summits. At the top, you have the Forest Canyon pull-out. Sundance Mtn, at 12466 ft is to the NE while a deep canyon is to the SW. This is a great place for a quick rest as you search for mountain critters. From here, it's more climbing to Rock Cut, a personal favorite. The road crews cut a gouge onto the rock for the road, making it an interesting man made feature surrounded by natural beauty. After Roc Cut, the next four or so miles has you riding around 12000 ft and through the alpine tundra. Iceberg Pass is 1 mile DOWN (E to W) from the Rock Cut high point, at 11827 feet.  Tundra Curves and Lava Cliffs are just a short climb onward.  It's in this area that I've seen the most animals scattered in herds just below the road level (to the west). The last of your climbing takes you about a half mile up from Lava Cliffs to the ride high point, about mile 24, of 12183 ft. and another half mile brings you down to the Gore pull-out. Another must see stop. Another half mile down brings you to the visitor center and another half mile down brins you to Fall River Pass (11,796 ft, mile 26).  From there, it’s a quick 4 mile descent to Milner Pass (10,758 ft).  Below Milner, it’s fast and furious through five switchbacks and on to Grand Lake.  At mile 36 the grade flattens and you’ll have a fairly easy ride into Grand Lake.

Obviously, just reverse this if yu start in Granby, but I want to include a few additional notes. First, you may see on the fact table that the averave route grade from Granby in only 2.4%. This is because of the long mostly flat section between Granby and the real start of the climb. The real climbing starts just past Timber Creek and if I were to estimate this, I'd say the lower part of the climb, which is the most difficult, is a steady 5%+. Also, climbing through the switchbacks is also one of the more incredible aspects of this side of the park. It is absolutely beautiful and with the grades encountered here, you'll have the time to enjoy the scenery. From Milner Pass, you'll only have a short downhill (don't blink or you'll miss it) and you start your climb to Fall River Pass and the visiter center.

One thing I notice is that a lot of cyclists put their heads down and grind out a climb as fast as they can. It's great if you do this, but I do have to suggest that if you're the tpye to push hard for a climb, you really be squandering a great opportunity to see nature at its best. Stop at the pull outs, hike some og the trails, watch for animals, and take pictures. This is easily one of the most scenic routes ever put together.

Services/ Notes

During your ride, food will be limited to what you bring with you or buy at the visitor center at Fall River pass.  Rest rooms can also be found at Milner Pass, Rock Cut, and some of the major park parking lots.
Estes Park is major tourist town where food, hotels, and camping are abundant. Bicycle stores are somewhat lacking, but there are a couple of back country outfitters.  Grand Lake is fairly good, however, there are no bike shops in the town that I know of.   
Elk Creek Camping and RV Park and Winding River Resort Village are within 2 miles of the town and Stillwater Campground is about six miles west.  Food options are fairly abundant in Grand Lake, as are hotels/motels.
This climb goes over 12000 ft.  Be prepared for quickly changing weather and know that it can and does snow in the high elevations year round.  Carry rain and cold weather gear with you.  Also, if a storm approaches, remember you could be above the tree line, making you one of the taller objects around.  Take cover in lightning storms.