I decided to ride over Cumberland pass as a good training ride preparing for the Leadville 100. I had my son drop me off in Pitkin at the gas station, yes there is only the one, and I jumped on my bike and headed northeast on county road 765. The road is a good quality gravel road that has heavy traffic from motorcycles, quads, and side by sides. I would recommend a mountain bike, or gravel bike with wide tires as the road is in good shape, but is rutted and bumping in many places.
There is a historical marker on the right hand side about 1/2 mile from Pitkin that describes the Alpine tunnel and the rail line that once came through this area. The ride up to the Alpine tunnel is a great ride steeped in history, but is not a pass as the tunnel collapsed many years ago and there is no rideable trail over the pass at that point. There are several right hand turn option as you leave Pitkin do not take any of them as they do not lead to Cumberland pass.
You climb steadily for about 10 miles from Pitkin to reach the pass and the scenery is aspen and pine with the associated aromas. Soon you are riding due north as you progress up to the pass.
At the pass there is a weather worn sign directing you to Tin Cup and Taylor Park or back to Pitkin. On my ride there were sever moto cross riders at the top talking about how out of breath they were riding their motorcycles up to the pass from Tin cup. I looked at them and asked “Gee how do you think I feel I rode up this thing and I live at sea level.” If you ever need an ego boost talk to a group of motorcycle riders who could barely make it up a road you just rode your bike up.
The ride down is fast and very bumpy, it is here that a mountain bike is a better choice than a gravel bike. The north side of the pass has high alpine meadows filled with bogs that beaver and moose love so be careful as hitting a moose at 35+ mph would be very much like hitting a wall except the wall doesn’t trample you for hitting it.
Soon you start seeing buildings that make up the summer only town of Tin Cup. Stop by Frenchies for pie, or their shakes which combine a piece of pie with ice cream, hey you earned it by riding up. My ride stopped in Tin Cup as my son was there to pick me up, but continuing on to Taylor Park is an option that only adds 5 downhill miles.
Brian: CONGRATULATIONS. I saw this posting today and wondered WHO THE HECK IS RIDING OVER CUMBERLAND in December???? You did not mention snow and avalanche, so I assume this report is from some time ago (also in light of the cancellation in 2020 of the Leadville 100). Having ridden the L-100 myself, I agree that Cumberland is EXCELLENT practice…even prettier in some areas. The descent to TinCup is a wild one. We stayed in the Hotel in Pitkin (yes, like the gas station the only Hotel). This is one of the VERY BEST passes to go conquer and makes you (me) hunger for more.
Brian: Delighted to hear you got it done in 2019. Did you get a chance to ride the L-100 and how did it go?
I rode 5 additional passes in August and September of the year, 2020. Right now I am sitting at 39. Looking forward to next summer as Fall River Pass awaits in Rocky Mountain National Park. I’ve driven it (scouted it) and from Glen Haven on up to the top at the Visitor’s Center is spectacular. Road Bike from Glen Haven into the Park and up to the dirt of Fall River Pass. Then switch to MTB for a switchback filled and Beautiful ride to the top. Switch again to Road Bike and descend into Grand Lake. I hope the Cameron Fire has not destroyed to much and/or cleaned up some of the beauty of the place.
My 2019 Leadville was a great experience, but I did not get my 4th buckle. I had severe intestinal issues on the Columbine climb and could not keep food in so my 4th buckle will have to wait. I live in Michigan, but altitude has never been an issue for me before so I don’t have an explanation for my sickness other than just one of those things.
I live in West Olive, a town about the size of Pitkin, half way between Holland and Grand Haven right on Lake Michigan. My wife is from East Lansing we met at MSU. Michigan would be about perfect if we had mountains.
We spend a lot of time in Colorado with a Sister and brother in law. They live in Gunnison so that is our mountain base