Overnight Bike Tour: Summit, Winter Park & the Fraser Valley

The dirt road up to Ute Pass near Summit County, Colorado offers fabulous scenery and minimal cars.

The dirt road up to Ute Pass near Summit County, Colorado offers fabulous scenery and minimal cars.

Why wait for a week or two off work? Go overnight.

Living in Colorado makes this bike touring motto especially easy. Some would argue difficult, as for the most part in Summit County, the only two route options are uphill and downhill. And with one comes the other.

Regardless, there are many outstanding overnight bike touring choices across Colorado. Many are a snap to do from home or with a short drive.

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Check out the route on MapMyRide.com

Bike Tour Route: 145ish-mile loop through Dillon/Summit County to Winter Park and back via Loveland Pass, Berthoud Pass and Ute Pass
Bike Tour Start/End:
Dillon, Colorado in Summit County
Summit County/Winter Park Bike Touring Season:
spring through fall, depending on temperature tolerance (cool, high-altitude sections combined with dry, warm sections means travelers should pack for various temperatures, no matter the season)

At some point, I’ll have time to go on about this stunning route and my love of bike touring. But now is not that time, and if you found this on Google, you probably only care about the route. So here goes.

Day 1: Colorado Overnight Bike Tour
U.S. Highway 6 over Loveland Pass and U.S. Highway 40 over Berthoud Pass
(Dillon, Colorado to Fraser, Colorado)

We started our day a bit later than desired but still managed to ride both Loveland and Berthoud passes (crossing the Continental Divide twice) in the daylight. It’s plenty of climbing, but we don’t have a snazzy GPS that tells us how much.

U.S. Highway 6 from Dillon to Keystone offers up a sweet bike path, but I often ride the road as it is more direct and several sections offer a large shoulder. (Hey, if I can get treated like a car – getting pulled over on my bike – I should be able to ride the shoulder.) From Keystone up to Loveland Pass, traffic thins and the shoulder ranges from not awful to small. But in my experience, vehicles headed up Loveland have been respectful and where the shoulder narrows, a vehicle passing lane allows for additional space.

Loveland Pass is stunning. But it’s also cold, so add layers and get moving. Cyclists must ride Interstate 70 From Loveland Ski Area to Exit 221 Bakerville, which isn’t too bad. Continue the sweet downhill on the frontage road (south of the interstate), which moves to the north side of interstate just before Silver Plume.

At the Silver Plume stop sign, head under the interstate to make a left just past the I-70 eastbound on-ramp. This bike path continues east through Georgetown (great lunch spot near the train) and turns into the frontage road. Cross over the interstate on the bridge before the Winter Park exit (you’ll see the highway sign from the frontage road) and continue east, making a left at the stop sign to head West toward Empire, Colorado on U.S. Highway 40.

Climb. Through Empire, Berthoud Falls and up the pass. Be thankful for the sweet shoulder uphill and the hut at the top, which offers warmth and pit toilets. The descent pretty much lasts through Hot Sulphur Springs and beyond.

We camped up St. Louis Creek Road in Fraser, Colorado. If the campground is full, there are plenty of backcountry options just beyond the designated sites. Great camping is also available along the pass and in many National Forest/BLM areas from Winter Park through Hot Sulphur Srings.

Day 2: Colorado Overnight Bike Tour
U.S. Highway 40 west from Fraser to Parshall, Colorado (just beyond Hot Sulphur Springs) and Ute Pass to state Highway 9 south
(Fraser, Colorado to Silverthorne/Dillon, Colorado via Ute Pass/county road 3)

Dairy Delight on the main road in Hot Sulphur Springs, Colorado served up THE perfect burger and fries. Had it been near the end of the day, I totally would've preferred the chocolate-dipped strawberry cone.

Dairy Delight on the main road in Hot Sulphur Springs, Colorado served up THE perfect burger and fries. Had it been near the end of the day, I totally would’ve preferred the chocolate-dipped strawberry cone.

We started Day 2 with an abundance of pedaling downhill, which is a great way to warm up for more miles and more climbing. Hands-down, eat at Dairy Delight, on the main road in Hot Sulphur Springs. While the chocolate-dipped strawberry cones looked divine, my stomach can’t handle that sort of thing prior to a climb (yep, learned that from experience). Settled on fries and a plain hamburger.

The left turn onto county road 3 is unsuspecting, with no signs of Ute Pass or anything else. But there is a left-turn lane and a sign marking it. Be on the lookout just after Byers Canyon.

Ute Pass is deserted and gorgeous, mostly groomed dirt on the Fraser side. It’s hot in September and, I’m sure, boiling in summer. The road is clear and remains the main path to the Henderson Mill, where pavement returns. If in doubt on deserted dirt sections, follow county road 3.

Once past the mill, a short uphill leads to a cattle guard, where the descent to state highway 9 begins. A left onto 9 leads to Silverthorne and Dillon. In spring, expect a headwind on 9; mid-summer and later, the wind is typically at your back. Read more about Ute Pass.

Colorado Overnight Bike Tour: Loveland, Berthoud and Ute passes

In a previous post, I’d talked about my own version of the triple bypass. This is it. Doable in a day, but much more fun overnight. Some might say two nights.

Either way, there’s no need to wait for a week or two off work. Go overnight.