The Alpine Loop, Colorado style

On tap for the weekend was a ~5 hour ride & not too hard.  Given that I'm nearly certain to do the Breckenridge 100, it dawned on me yesterday morning I could kill two birds with one stone by getting high.  The Alpine Loop takes in 50+ miles of backcountry jeep roads through the San Juans, much of it above timberline.  Just the ticket.  I started just outside of Silverton, rode up to Animas Forks (the headwaters of the Animas river), and began up Cinnamon pass for a counter-clockwise ride of the loop.

Photo blog time!  Here's the next best thing to being there.

The base of Cinnamon pass.  Yes, that's right - the ride begins at timberline and goes up from there.  Of course, there was maybe 1500' of climbing to get to this point.  This pass is pretty steep in spots, steeper than Engineer, but not as high.  It only tops out at 12,600.

It looks like this up top.  Earth or moon?  This area will explode with flowers in a few weeks.

From Cinnamon, it's down, down, down until Lake City at about 8,600'.  Lake City is the home of the Hinsdale county museum of Alfred Packer fame.  It took some searching, but there's an unlikely public waterhole in the back of some field near the Lake Fork of the Gunnison.

The route immediately heads out of Lake City uphill towards Engineer pass.  The "pass" is at 12,800', but that isn't the high point.  The road continues upward to near 13,000' beyond the pass.  Go figure.  The climbing is actually quite gradual as it occurs over 18 miles, mostly middle/big ring stuff, until the last two miles where it becomes steep in the tundra.

Capitol city, formed 1877, is about half way up. 

Near timberline there's a cabin dedicated to Henry David Thoreau.  It's been awhile since I've read some of his works...but just being here gives me the motivation to get to Maria's and update my library.

From here the climbing steepens.  At 12,800, obvious signs of winter still exist.  And this was a light winter.

The views from Engineer pass were mesmerizing.  I spent a good bit of time hanging out up there at 13k'.

Rooftop of the world...

It just doesn't get any better than this.  Unil August, that is :-)

Published Sunday, June 18, 2006 6:52 AM by Dave


# @ Sunday, June 18, 2006 8:22 AM

Awesome photos and ride Dave. Looks like one hellofa route.

I'll be at Breckenridge - signed up on Friday. See ya there!

The NM Endurance Series will have event #3 in Los Alamos next weekend. Check out NM section of MTBR ~ "Tour de Los Alamos, part duhhh" Gonna have some pretty strong riders for this and it's the best riding inn the state (but you can only string it together with the help of a local!!!) Hosted by Scott Sportsman.


# @ Sunday, June 18, 2006 8:52 AM

ooohh aahh. Looks like a luvely route.


# @ Sunday, June 18, 2006 9:22 AM

Have room in your basement? I am moving out to CO now!

Jeff Kerkove

# @ Sunday, June 18, 2006 11:25 AM

Jeesh, that makes my big ride look tame! The high passes out this way are still pretty much covered in snow. But July will have my tire tracks over them regardless.

See you in a few days.

Adam Lisonbee

# @ Sunday, June 18, 2006 9:51 PM

Wow! I'm going to have to get out with my bike there for a ride sometime.


# @ Monday, June 19, 2006 4:59 AM

Matt, that ride looks like a lot of fun but it's also the weekend of the the 12 hour event in Park City.

Everyone else (including Matt), let me know when you're coming this way and I'll hook up a sweet route, and Jeff, lots of room in my crawl space.


# @ Tuesday, June 20, 2006 8:12 AM

Jeff, I'm closer so I've got dibs on the crawl space! :-)

Man, that looks like one sweet ride, Dave. I love the few rides around here where you climb out of the high desert into the trees, but climbing out of the trees has to be so much cooler (pun intended).

Travis Swicegood