Route: out-and-back up the west side of Loveland Pass
Start/End: Dillon, Colorado
Season: Spring – Fall
One of the many, many great things about living in Summit County, Colorado is the overwhelming number of places to ride. Road biking, mountain biking, path cruising, dirt jumping and downhill; you name it, Colorado’s got it.
From Summit County, cyclists have a choice of four paved passes – Loveland, Hoosier, Freemont and Vail – plus Boreas Pass, a dirt road that’s rideable on a ‘cross or sturdy road bike. (Boreas is an excellent fall ride.)
Since I live in Dillon, I ride Loveland Pass from home, but it would be easy to ride over from Breckenridge via Swan Mountain Road or Frisco via the Dam Road. Those driving from Denver or Vail could park at Dillon’s Marina Park.
Getting to and up Loveland Pass
Road biking Loveland Pass is pretty straightforward. We ride highway 6 from Dillon to Keystone and ride up to the summit of Loveland Pass. A second option for the Dillon to Keystone stretch is the paved bike path that you can pick up at the Dillon Marina. I especially like the bike path option on weekends and busy times, as the shoulder can get pretty narrow.
It’s about six miles from Dillon to Keystone, and the sign just past Keystone says eight miles to the Loveland Pass summit. But since I don’t use a bike computer, I’d guess the road bike ride from Dillon up to the summit of Loveland Pass is about 14-15 miles one way.
Loveland Pass Difficulty
Although Arapahoe Basin sits a bit more than halfway to the top from Keystone, I count the ski area as my mental halfway point. That bottom half up from Keystone feels much harder and steeper than the remaining road to the top. Be sure to look toward the ski area as you continue around the switchbacks – you’ll see the top of the Lenawee Chair across from, and then below the road on which you’re climbing.
Once I reach the 11,990-foot summit of Loveland Pass, I sometimes continue down the east side to Loveland Ski Area, which adds about four miles to the one-way distance. Smooth pavement and sweeping turns on the east side make for a fun descent. Climbing the east side seems intimidating when you look up at the road rising steadily to the Continental Divide; but I’m convinced this side is easier than the west, especially if you’re just climbing from the ski area. The approach from Georgetown to Loveland is probably more challenging than either side of the pass.
Road and Traffic Conditions up the West Side of Loveland Pass
This can of course, vary, but early in spring and later in fall (sans the time of year when the leaves change color and thus bring more cars on the roads), the ride up Loveland Pass is pretty absent of other travelers. That’s not to say that even in quiet times you won’t get buzzed by a large vehicle. But overall, the shoulder is decent, and on the ride up, passing lanes make it easy for motorists to give cyclists a wide berth.
As the road to Loveland Pass narrows and the switchbacks begin, the shoulder is fairly small, but at that point traffic is moving much slower. The smooth road makes for a fun, fast descent.
No matter which way I approach the summit, Loveland Pass is always stunning on a clear day. After all, it is the Continental Divide, and it’s great to see massive peaks in pretty much every direction.
Anyhow, if you haven’t figured it out yet, those seeking mileage and elevation gain specifics won’t find it at ColoradoSummitLife.com. I’m far more interested in fun. So if you want ideas on where and how to experience a little adventure in Summit County, Colorado (by bike, foot, climbing shoe, etc.) read another post. And if you’re looking for stats, buy a topo map. (I do always travel unfamiliar territory with a map and suggest Wilderness Sports in Frisco and Dillon for Summit County and surrounding area needs!)