Colorado is a rider’s paradise with scenic mountain passes, stunning landscapes, and dramatic road curves. From the Rocky Mountains to Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado offers a variety of locations to explore.
Where should you start if you prepare to hit the road in the Switzerland of America? We bring you the top five unforgettable motorcycle rides in Colorado.
1. Mount Evans
The high-altitude Mount Evans Road is one of the most impressive scenic and historic byways in Colorado. Rising over 14,000 feet above sea level, it is higher than any other paved road in North America.
The Mount Evans route begins in the picturesque mining town of Idaho Springs. Highway 103 will take you out of town and to the junction of Highway 5, where Mount Evans Road begins.
As you ride up the curving road, you’ll enjoy breathtaking mountain views of sharp peaks and plummeting valleys. If you’re lucky, you may spot some bighorn sheep and mountain goats grazing by the roadside.
Be sure to gear up in warm riding attire since the average summer daytime temperature at the top of Mount Evans is just over 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Some road areas may be closed to motor vehicles depending on weather conditions.
2. Mesa Verde National Park
A journey through the Mesa Verde National Park rewards the rider with views of magnificent sharp cliffs, clusters of local vegetation, and astoundingly well-preserved cliff buildings of the Anasazi people. A trip to Mesa Verde, which rises to an altitude of about 8,500 feet, is best to take from mid-spring through mid-fall.
The Mesa Verde National Park ride features a long meandering climb to Chapin Mesa and the park’s second major area, Wetherill Mesa. Overall, you’ll get to cross 40 miles of scenic roads with numerous vantage points that make Mesa Verde one of the most unforgettable motorcycle rides in Colorado.
If you feel like stepping down from your bike for a while, you can stop by the Mesa Verde Visitor Center and purchase tickets for a ranger-guided tour of the cliff dwellings.
3. Santa Fe Trail
The 4-hour, 184-mile Santa Fe Trail from Trinidad to Lamar will take you back to the days of pioneers and the old American frontier. Pioneers, traders, and adventure-seekers followed the original trail over the prairie back in the 1800s. Pioneer wagon ruts still exist in many areas along the trail.
Around the middle of the Santa Fe Trail, be sure to visit Bent’s Old Fort, a fascinating national historic site. The fort, originally built in 1833 and reconstructed in 1976, served as a secure trading post and meeting place for merchants and fur trappers from all across the plains.
The Santa Fe Trail also crosses the Comanche National Grassland, a unique national park that encompasses over 440,000 acres of prairie grasslands and canyons teeming with diverse wildlife.
4. San Juan Skyway
San Juan Skyway is one of the most magnificent motorcycle routes in Colorado. The 236-mile loop of the San Juan Skyway will give you a gorgeous view of pristine pine woods, majestic mountain peaks, gushing waterfalls, and sapphire-blue lakes.
San Juan Skyway includes the Million Dollar Highway, one of the most spectacular mountain roads in America. This stunning scenic road runs between the quaint mining-era towns of Silverton and Ouray. About 40 accidents occur on the Million Dollar Highway each year, so be careful as you ride through this stretch of picturesque landscape.
A ride on San Juan Skyway both starts and ends at the town of Durango, home to several attractions including the heritage Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.
5. Top of the Rockies
A list of unforgettable motorcycle rides in Colorado would be incomplete without Top of the Rockies Byway, a 75-mile route that begins at Copper Mountain, crosses Leadville, and follows through to Aspen. Top of the Rockies Byway passes Colorado’s two tallest peaks, Mount Massive and Mount Elbert, both over 14,000 feet high.
The highest part of Top of the Rockies Byway is Independence Pass, which reaches an elevation of over 12,000 feet. Independence Pass will take you through lush aspen forests and wind near the old ghost town of Independence.
If you get hungry while riding along the Top of the Rockies Byway, stop for lunch at one of Leadville’s many restaurants, where you’ll find anything from steaks and pizza to Mexican and Asian food.
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