Route:Highway 9 north from Silverthorne and up Ute Pass Road
Start/End: Out-and-back from Dillon, Colorado
Season: Highway 9 / Ute Pass is typically rideable year round, but it’s best in winter and spring when everything else is snowy or wet
Each summer here in Summit County, Colorado, I see people on the bike path using their Nordic-style roller skates and think, “C’mon people, really? Can’t you just enjoy the summer?”
And now I understand. I am one of those people, just in the opposite season. A couple weeks ago I couldn’t wait any longer to get on my bike, so I made the changeover to hybrid tires and rode the dusty shoulder through Silverthorne, Colorado toward Ute Pass. And for the record, I have enjoyed winter, and spring. But I’m ready for bike rides.
It’s only natural that this spring tendency toward dusty bike rides rather than the “outstanding spring ski conditions” we preach at work has given me a good eye on what’s dry enough to ride. Highway 9 north of Silverthorne and Ute Pass road tend to dry out faster than much of the rest of Summit County, and it’s even rideable in winter.
Spring Bike Riding up Ute Pass: the Flattest 50-miler in Summit
Ok, so I can’t verify that statement, but based on the gears I use (don’t even think about asking gear ratios), it sure doesn’t feel steep or hilly compared to most 50-mile routes starting from our house.
From Dillon, Colorado I head north (which is really west on Highway 6) and cross under the interstate. The bike path can be questionable this time of year. To avoid traffic, I ride Rainbow Drive to the Blue River bike path, which can get covered in snow, but usually not enough to deter hybrid or ‘cross tires.
The Blue River bike path spits me out near the Silverthorne Kum ‘N Go, which is where the shoulder begins. From there, it’s a straight shot north on Highway 9. Don’t be fooled by neighborhood roads that have the word “Ute” in their names. The right-hand turn onto the Ute Pass Road has a turn lane (the only one) and a clear sign.
Beyond Ute Pass road, Highway 9 north loses its shoulder and while I’ve ridden it to Kremmling, it’s really not a pleasant experience.
Ute Pass road climbs gently and at the Granby county line (beware the old cattle guard), drops toward the Henderson Mill and surrounding reservoirs. Once a little confusing on the return route, turns for the mill are now signed very well to keep drivers (and riders) on the road and off mill property.
From Dillon, it’s about 45 miles round-trip to where the pavement ends and the dirt begins, which is just beyond the mill at road 30. Thanks to tires burlier than that of a road rig (thanks, Surly, for the fatties fit fine stays), I continue on the dirt to road 32, which makes for more like 50 miles round trip.
This summer, I look forward to making this my own loop version of a Triple Bypass: Ute Pass, Berthoud Pass and Loveland Pass. A stop in Winter Park could make for a good one-night tour. (UPDATE: since the post was written, we did our own little Triple Bypass tour — read about the bike overnight here.)
The beauty of this ride is the wide shoulder along Highway 9 and the lack of cars on Ute Pass Road. Yes, it’s dusty and, yes, the cars go fast. But like those Nordic roller skaters, I can get my off-season fix from home.