Editor’s note: This is part of The Know’s new series, Staff Favorites. Each week, we will offer our opinions on the best that Colorado has to offer for dining, shopping, entertainment, outdoor activities and more. (We’ll also let you in on some hidden gems). Find our previous Staff Favorites here.
My favorite mountain bike ride — and by that I mean a ride on a road bike in the mountains, not riding trails on a mountain bike — is the climb from Georgetown to Guanella Pass. I always find it to be demanding but extremely rewarding, promising great views on one of Colorado’s scenic byways, especially as you approach the pass.
If you start at Georgetown Lake at 8,500 feet, it’s a 12-mile ride to the summit of the pass at 11,700 feet. You get to warm up on the pleasant streets of historic Georgetown before tackling a few challenging switchbacks just above the town that will test your leg strength. A couple of miles later, you’ll see the first of three small lakes as you parallel South Clear Creek upward in elevation. Soon the jagged cliffs on the backside of Mount Evans and the Sawtooth Ridge connecting Evans to its twin peak, Mount Bierstadt, appear.
I always feel like this ride has the perfect elevation profile, hard enough to make you feel like you accomplished something difficult, exhilarating but not exhausting. And the pass itself is breathtaking. To the east are Evans and Bierstadt, both of which are fourteeners.
Parking areas atop the pass usually are filled to overflowing with fourteener peak-baggers, but there is some great hiking on the west side of the pass that is relatively neglected. I’m particularly fond of a peak there named Square Top Mountain, which is 13,794 feet. (I’ve spent a few glorious nights sleeping under the stars on that peak, watching the sun rise over Evans and Bierstadt.)
From Guanella Pass, the downhill ride back to Georgetown is fun, but you’ll want to keep your wits about you because it can be fast. Bring a jacket, because it can get chilly up there, even in the summer. You don’t want your arms cramping or getting numb in the cold, because you will need them to handle your brakes on that 12-mile descent.
I also love the Squaw Pass ride, widely regarded as a Colorado classic. That one takes you from Bergen Park near Evergreen to a high point not far past the Echo Mountain ski area, a ride of about 14 miles outbound with an ascent of 3,200 feet. You can return to Bergen Park or continue another 4 miles to Echo Lake, most of which is downhill. That makes for about a 36-mile round trip from Bergen Park.
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