On July 9, 2017 a hardy group of four of us decided to ride the loop from Breckenridge over Boreas Pass to Como, over Red Hill Pass to Fairplay and over Hoosier Pass back to Breckenridge adding three passes to our ever expanding list of accomplishments. After some lively discussion regarding a starting point that would qualify us for 2000 vertical feet of elevation gain- as defined by our “rules of engagement” at the time- we agreed to start across Valley Brook Street from the Breckenridge Police Dept., which barely met our qualifications. In hindsight, we should have started several blocks further to the north at a slightly lower elevation. We started out on mountain bikes, with our ever present SAG team following with our road bikes for later in the ride. We proceeded south along the River Parkway trail, crossing the river at Watson Road and continuing on Main Street. We took a left- into the quieter neighborhood streets- on Jefferson Street and then a right on French Street, and then another left onto Boreas Pass Road. At mile 3.0 Illinois Gulch Road trail breaks off to the right and reconnects again with Boreas Pass Rd. at mile 4.8. One member of our group chose to hang back and then make a quick split from the group and jump out ahead while we waited for him like the gentlemen riders we all are. After waiting and wondering where he was and if he was okay, a quick phone call confirmed our suspicions. We learned of his detour and were able to reconnect with him later at the summit. Knowledge of the neighborhood terrain can be priceless when trying for every advantage a person can get! At a small parking area at mile 5.5 the road turns into a well maintained dirt road. We continued climbing and the grade stayed relatively steady at just under 3 percent until the summit. At mile 6.0 Goose Pasture Tarn becomes visible below, to the right. Word has it, that the Tarn was created years ago by a local who simply backed up the Blue River with a sort of landfill to create the tarn, and that, because it was not engineered properly, it is slowly failing- definitely a concern for downriver Breckenridge. Further along, at mile 8.6 we passed a handsome railroad water tank on our left- evidence of the railroad route that passed through this area years ago. Traffic was light on this Saturday morning- however, when we commented on the beauty and abundance of aspens, we were informed by a local Breck resident that one shouldn’t even attempt the ride any day of the week during the middle of September which is peak aspen viewing time. Ninety minutes and twelve miles after starting we summited the continental divide at Boreas at 11,482 feet. We took a couple of quick photos at the marker sign and then began our descent. We rode seven miles on a fairly well maintained dirt road at approximately 3 per cent to the intersection of Forest Road 50 where we took a left and continued southwest to Como where we stopped near the local fire station to change to road bikes. We proceeded southwest bound on US 285 towards Fairplay, and although it was only a few days after a midweek Independence Day celebration, we assumed there would be lots of Denver bound traffic. We were unpleasantly surprised by the amount of south bound traffic. The shoulder the whole way was over four feet wide and we were only out on US 285 for ten miles, less than an hour, so it wasn’t too bad. We rode over rollers for 4.4 miles losing about 200 feet in elevation, and then began a short steady two mile ascent of Red Hill Pass at between five and six percent grade, topping out at 10,051 feet, the fourth lowest pass of the Bicycle Passport 41. The other opportunity for riding over this pass would be riding the over seventy miles on US 285 between Bailey and Buena Vista, also over Kenosha Pass (10,001 ft.). It doesn’t look too bad on the map and in profile, but I’m not sure what the traffic situation would be like. There is no marker at the summit of Red Hill and limited pull off opportunity. We made a short one mile descent and then a gentle uphill into Fairplay. Well by now it’s around 2:00 pm and why not stop for lunch. And, what better place than the Brown Burro Café at 706 Main Street in Fairplay, with outdoor seating- which wasn’t what we were looking for on this warm day. It was a nice spot to grab a sandwich and top off our water bottles. We enjoyed lunch while sitting across from another table of “bikers”. But these were of the motor kind. The juxtaposition of shaved legs, spandex and lycra vs. black t-shirts, leather vests and chaps was interesting. It always amazes me how many different ways there are to recreate and enjoy Colorado. It was almost 3:00 p.m. when we were ready to go, and we had our most difficult pass yet to climb. We headed north on Colorado 9 towards Alma. We climbed about 500 feet in the first eight miles and then the grade got steeper and the real fun began. Shortly after going through the town of Alma the grade changed to six to seven percent and we had a steady climb for almost four more miles until we reached the summit and the continental divide for the second time that day. We took a few more photos again at the summit divide marker and then began our descent. It could be argued that the northbound ascent of Hoosier from Faiplay might be nicer for a few reasons. The ascent is mostly straight road and the northbound descent has a few nice hairpins to lean into. It’s probably not as steep going up northbound. We enjoyed our descent and our speeds topped out at over forty miles an hour on the downhill. The descent took us about a half hour. Traffic was light, and we traded pulls, jockeying for position and continued to enjoy a beautiful Colorado day. We coasted back to our parked cars about 4:30 p.m., about six hours after we had left. We had ridden over 56 miles in a little over four hours of actual saddle time and had climbed nearly 4,500 vertical feet. But more importantly we had all earned three more precious stamps in our Bicycle Passports. What a magnificent way to spend another glorious Colorado Saturday!
I rode Hoosier pass last week from the Breckenridge side to the top with a friend. It’s nice to be riding up high again as the weather is getting so nice here in the high country. Shoulder is a little narrow heading out of Breck but the climb has plenty of room and the views are great.