Colorado is known world wide for its 14ers AND for its exceptional cycling terrain. Some of the worlds top climbs hail from Colorado - Pikes Peak - #4 US/#17 World, Mt Evans - #13 US/#94 World; also the highest paved road in North America) and Trail Ridge - #52 US and is the longest climb in the Continental US. Colorado's Top 10 Road Bike Climbs are 1. Pikes Peak, 2. Mount Evans, 3. Grand Mesa North, 4. Trail Ridge, 5. Grand Mesa South, 6. East Portal, 7. Independence Pass West, 8. Left Hand Canyon, 9. Wolf Creek Pass, South, and 10. Slumgulion Pass
Colorado is famous for its “Fourteeners” (mountains with peaks above 14,000’) and, true to form, the only two bike climbs in North America that are in the fourteens are Mt. Evans, CO and Pikes Peak, CO. In fact, fifteen of the top highest bike climbs in the US are in Colorado -- only Mauna Kea at #3 (13,842’) prevents a clean sweep by Colorado. Loveland Pass South is the highest starting point of any bike climb in the US (9,358’) and nine of the ten highest starting points for a US bike climb are in Colorado.
Top Colorado Climbs:
PJAMM Cycling has travelled to Colorado three times to experience and document the top bike climbs in this popular cycling state. In the following subjective list, our favorite five climbs in Colorado are:
#1 OF 5 FAVORITES
PIKES PEAK, MANITOU SPRINGS
Pikes Peak, Colorado #4 US Bike Climb.
We have ridden Pikes Peak three times and consider it one of the most epic climbs in the world. If we use the traditional and common definition of epic to equate “legendary” or “monumental”, we'd be hard pressed to ignore Pikes Peak. This mountain is well known, if not famous. It has been host to The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (aka Race to the Clouds) every year since 1916, the Pikes Peak Peak Ascent and Marathon (since 1956), and the Pikes Peak Cycling Hill Climb. Pikes Peak leaves nothing off the Most Epic Bike Climb Checklist: difficulty (#4 US/#23 world), elevation (#2 US), distance (#19 US), and varied scenery -- forests, lakes, hairpins, and unobstructed views of surrounding mountains and the Colorado Plains 8,000’ below.
#2 of 5 FAVORITES
Finish -- Mt. Evans.
Not only the highest bike climb in Colorado (and the United States and North America), this is the second longest climb at 27.4 miles (yet paling to Trail Ridge’s 43.9). Along the way expect to encounter all manner of wildlife. We have personally encountered mountain goats (photo above), rocky mountain bighorn sheep, deer, and marmots.
Each July cyclists race to from Idaho Springs (7,560’) to the end of the pavement above 14,000’ in the Bob Cook Memorial Bicycle Race. Bob Cook died of melanoma at age 23 after having won the race an unbelievable six times in his young life. The race has been held every year except three since its inaugural ride in 1962. Professional (or soon to be professional) cyclists have won the race over the years: Alexi Grewal (1981, 1984, 1990); Ned Overend (1985-1986); Michael Engleman (1991-1995); Jonathan Vaughters (1997, 1999); Scott Moninger (1998, 2000-2002); Tom Danielson (2004, 2007, 2009); Peter Stetina (2010); LeRoy Popowski (2011-2013); Christopher Carr (2013); Lachlan Morton (2015); Chris Butler (2016); Chad Haga (2017); and Gregory Daniel (2018).
#3 OF 5 FAVORITES
TRAIL RIDGE, ESTES PARK
At 43.9 miles, Trail Ridge is the second longest bike climb in the United States (behind #1 US/#1 World Mauna Loa), and 6th longest in the world. Trail Ridge is also the highest continuous (i.e., not a dead end) paved road in the United States. Traversing Rocky Mountain National Park, this climb offers spectacular views along the giant switchbacks 20 miles below a summit that tops out at a whopping 12,000'.
#4 OF 5 FAVORITES
GRAND MESA NORTH, GRAND MESA SCENIC BYWAY
Chalk Mountain (photo center) to the west as we climb.
As is obvious from the photo above, the views along this rigorous and long climb are simply stunning. The Grand Mesa North bike climb is a remote climb that is the furthest west of the nine Top 100 U.S. climbs in Colorado and is located in the Grand Mesa National Forest. Its claim to fame is that Grand Mesa is the largest flat-topped mountain in the world.
Near the beginning of the Grand Mesa North climb.
#5 OF 5 FAVORITES
COTTONWOOD PASS, BUENA VISTA
Cottonwood Pass is one of only six climbs in the U.S. that top out above 12,000' (five out of those six are in Colorado -- the Himalayas of North America). This is an up-and-back ride as the back side of the pass is not paved. This is also one of only three of the thirteen Colorado Top 100 U.S. Climbs that ends at the Continental Divide (Independence Pass and Wolf Creek Pass are the other two).
View from the top of Cottonwood Pass
Cottonwood Pass in spring.