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Route: Swan Mountain Road loop, clockwise around Lake Dillon
Start/End: Dillon, Colorado
Since I started mountain biking in Colorado (last season), I’ve definitely been splitting the time I formerly spent solely on my road bike. I like it all, and I love commuting and touring. But with a recent back injury, I found myself rediscovering some of my favorite road bike rides in Colorado, including the Swan Mountain Road loop. Recent completion of the bike path up the east side of Swan Mountain Road has also made it much more pleasant. (UPDATE: The lake loop has been completed via a path extension on the east side and an expanded shoulder on the west side. It’s a great ride in either direction.)
Swan Mountain Road
A two-lane road, Swan Mountain Road runs between U.S. Highway 6 (near Keystone and Dillon) and Colorado State Highway 9 (near Breckenridge and Frisco). It’s a much shorter route than I-70 for those traveling between Breckenridge and Keystone or Summit Cove. It can also be a preferred route to/from Dillon.
The road can be sketchy on a bike. It’s two lanes, with little to no shoulder. There are plenty of commuters who buzz back and forth, not to mention dump trucks, county buses (in winter), vehicles with trailers hauling summer toys (think bikes and dirt bikes) and slower vehicles whose drivers are paying more attention to the scenery than the road (and the bikes on it).
The new bike path from the Cove is only partially complete, I prefer to ride the Swan Mountain Road loop in a clockwise direction. And since I live in Dillon, I can start from home.
Getting to Swan Mountain Road via the Summit County Bike Path
When riding to Swan Mountain Road, I typically pick up the bike path near the Dillon Marina, and for those driving there’s a town parking lot at Marina Park. From the Dillon Marina, the bike route cruises past the docks and along Tenderfoot Street (which has been under construction and may require a dismount) to the eastern shores of Lake Dillon.
Here, the bike path follows the shores for a scenic, mellow road bike warm-up. When the bike path splits at the intersection of Highway 6 and Swan Mountain Road, I stay right. The bike path then bends left to cross Swan Mountain Road. Be careful! Though I think this is technically a crosswalk, cars typically don’t stop at this intersection.
The bike path then dumps cyclists on to Cove Boulevard, the main access road for Summit Cove. From here, I continue right, up a gentle hill and make another right onto Royal Coachman. Pick up the Swan Mountain Road bike path on the right, where it continues uphill through a quiet, forested area. I’ve seen porcupines and deer at twilight along this section of path. Cyclists should stop at the crosswalk where the bike path crosses Swan Mountain Road. The recently-completed upper section to Sapphire Point switchbacks up the hillside to an excellent view.
The Swan Mountain Road bike path ends here and many cyclists can match the speed of traffic heading downhill toward Breckenridge / Farmer’s Korner. From Farmer’s Korner, I continue north on the bike path, which is nearly all downhill to Frisco. At the County Commons building, I cut to the east side of Highway 9 and follow the bike path through Frisco, along the Dam Road and over the Dam to return to Dillon.
Swan Mountain Road / Lake Dillon Loop
There’s been plenty of talk of “Completing the Circle” around Lake Dillon, and though the path down the west side of Swan Mountain Road has been approved, the cost to complete it is huge. In fact, this weekend, the Bob Guthrie Memorial Ride takes place this weekend (Saturday, August 14th) and has raised major funds for the Swan Mountain Road bike path. Some folks support widening Swan Mountain Road on the Breckenridge side where a path does not exist.
While either option would be nice, the recent completion of the Swan Mountain Road bike path on the Dillon/Keystone side offers what I think is a safe uphill option for cyclists. On the downhill into Breckenridge/Frisco, many cyclists can maintain the same speed as traffic; thus, cyclists taking the full lane don’t block the roadway or require cars to drive in the oncoming lane to avoid them.
As an avid cyclist (road, mountain and commuter), I support bicycle advocacy. I also believe cyclists and drivers should refer to common sense. And for me, common sense on Swan Mountain Road is riding in a clockwise direction, up on the bike path and down on the road into Breckenridge/Farmer’s Korner.