The Aspen Buzz

The Insider’s Guide to Road Biking in and around Aspen

Road biking is one of my favorite ways to enjoy summer in Aspen. I love it not only because it is a low-impact sport that keeps me fit and healthy, but also because it is a great way to spend the day outdoors and soak in the scenery in a very different way than you would from the car. It also gets me out to different parts of the Roaring Fork and other valleys that I’d never see otherwise.

Let’s just say the world looks a little bit better from a bike. Here are a few of my favorite rides–LBW

If you’re in great shape: Castle Creek/Maroon Creek “The Sisters”

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The view of the Maroon Bells is even more rewarding from a bike.

Maroon Creek Road and Castle Creek Road are the crown jewel of Aspen’s repertoire of world-class road rides. Both offer unparalleled scenery and very few cars—the hallmark of a perfect ride. These routes can be ridden separately but to tackle them both at once is the standard for anyone who takes their time in the saddle seriously.

There’s also no shortage of challenge. Gain 1,600’ in elevation in the 10-mile ride from downtown Aspen to the Maroon Bells. Once you pass T-Lazy-7 Ranch (at 4.6 miles) it’s straight up and only gets steeper towards the top. After gazing at Pyramid Peak for a while, the Maroon Bells finally appear around mile 8. Then you have to contend with the last three miles of the climb: the steepest and most punishing yet. Still, whatever suffering you endured is immediately rewarded on the screaming downhill, the most fun you’ll have when not on a pair of skis.

Descend back to the roundabout where the climb begins again. The Castle Creek Valley offers 12-miles and 1,500 vertical feet of climbing with views of snow capped peaks and the stone-strewn Castle Creek. This ride offeres a variety of terrain (flats, steeps, and some fun rollers in the middle) that will require every gear on your chain ring. The good news: this out-and-back route means you can turn around anytime and still have a great ride.

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The view at the top of the Castle Creek Valley.

If you just want to cruise: The Rio Grande Trail to Woody Creek
There’s no better way to spend a lazy summer afternoon than cruising on the Rio Grande Trail from Aspen down to Woody Creek. It’s a paved bike path with no cars and mostly downhill, the kind of ride you can do with a beer in one hand or with a kid and your grandparents in tow—or both. Cancel out whatever calories you burned with beers and burgers at the Woody Creek Tavern. And don’t think for one second you’re the first person to hire a taxi ride back home (Try calling Snow Limo).

If you want to explore: Carbondale to Redstone
Riding up the Crystal River Valley from Carbondale feels like a total departure from the sheen of Aspen, starting with the wide-open ranchlands that blanket the flanks of Sopris in emerald grasslands, cows and horses grazing lazily as you ride by. For the first six miles, enjoy a playful bike path that affords an up-close-and-personal view of Sopris across mostly flat and rolling terrain before hopping onto Highway 133 for the remaining 11-mile climb. The slight grade is hard to detect, but you’ll know it when you come flying downhill on the way back. Just when you begin to tire of the climb, the first entrance to Redstone magically appears and so does the comfort of this tiny, cozy little town where the welcome sign reminds you just how small: population 92. Stop at the Redstone General Store for ice cream, coffee, and chocolate chip cookies fresh out of the oven.

If you want a river view: The Frying Pan
The thirty-three-mile out-and-back route from downtown Basalt to the end of Frying Pan Road is a popular training ground for even the most seasoned roadie because of it’s epic variety of terrain. But it’s also hands-down one of the most scenic routes in the Rockies. You ride alongside gold medal fishing waters of the Frying Pan River, up a gentle, rolling grade for the first twelve miles through this immaculate river valley. Four miles up, red rock spires tower over the landscape like a chunk of the Utah Canyonlands that mysteriously landed in western Colorado. Flying by, well, fly-fishermen feels like a scene out of a Robert Redford movie, their long lines glistening in the sun. Pedal past the historic past at Captain K Ranch and Sloss Depot, a relic of the old Midland Railroad. Then climb past Rocky Fork for six miles as the road wraps around Ruedi Reservoir, finally topping out at mile seventeen–this is a great turnaround point. If you’re up for more of a challenge, enjoy a short reprieve during a five-mile descent into Meredith before the long, slow, ten-mile climb from Thomasville to the end of the road, where a gain in elevation to over 9,100 feet rewards views of the high alpine and the seemingly endless wilderness that surrounds you in every direction.

Lorrie Recommends …
Bike Shop: Hub of Aspen
hubofaspen.com

Bike Rentals: Aspen Bike Rentals
aspenbikerentals.com

Biking Instruction and Guide: Erik Skarvan, Sun Dog Athletics
sundogathletics.com