Route Overview

Region

Central Colorado

Miles

192 without 14ers
285 with 14ers

Days Out

4+ without 14ers
9+ with 14ers

Physical Difficulty

6/10 without 14ers
10/10 with 14ers

Season

Summer

Elevation Gain

28,500' without 14ers
50,000' with 14ers

Tire Size

≥ 2.1``

Technical Difficulty

6/10 without 14ers
10/10 with 14ers

Route Map

Route Details

The mountains of central Colorado are home to the highest concentration of 14,000-foot peaks in the lower 48. This loop connects seven 14ers with ~200 miles of beautiful, singletrack-rich riding between Salida and Leadville. You can choose your own adventure – riding the loop without the peaks, hiking or biking or climbing in a 14er or two, or tackling all seven for a truly exhausting endeavor.

From Salida, the route climbs west to join the Colorado Trail, and the flowy singletrack winds its way north along the flanks of the Collegiate Peaks to the towns of Buena Vista and Leadville. Four of the 14er options sit just west of this section of the Colorado Trail – Mounts Shavano, Antero, Huron, and Elbert (Colorado’s highest peak). Each of these peaks requires a steep 4,000-foot climb to reach the summit and top-notch technical skills for a bike descent back down.

From Leadville, the steep climb up Mosquito Pass leads to the tiny town of Alma. The route then heads south on bike paths and dirt roads, past Mount Sherman, the last of the 14ers, eventually reaching primitive singletrack below the eastern slopes of Buffalo Peaks. A few dozen miles of quiet forest roads leads to a final 2,000-foot singletrack descent that leads directly to downtown Salida, closing the loop with an exclamation point.

  • Flowy, mostly-rideable Colorado Trail singletrack between Salida and Leadville
  • Towering 14ers standing high above the scenic Arkansas River Valley
  • Access to 7 of the 8 semi-rideable 14ers that are bike-legal; riding these is some of the most stunning, memorable, and difficult mountain riding in the West
  • Cheery mountain towns – Buena Vista, Leadville, Alma, and Salida
  • Rugged mine roads into the alpine at 13,000-foot Mosquito Pass
  • Primitive backcountry singletrack with big views into South Park
  • Classic Salida singletrack descending right to downtown
  • Glowing aspen groves if ridden in September
  • What kind of bike should I ride? We recommend a mountain bike with tires at least 2.1” wide, and long-travel full suspension if riding the 14ers.
  • What’s the ideal time of year to ride the route? Generally mid-July to mid-September for the base loop, and mid-August to mid-September for summiting the 14ers, but it depends on the year. See the route guide for more details.
  • How long will the route take to ride? Generally 4+ days without the 14ers or 9+ days with the 14ers, but it depends on the rider.
  • Do I need any special permits? No, but riding the 14ers along this loop is a new and fringe activity. Continued access by mountain bike is tenuous, so it is of paramount importance that mountain bikers respect other users and practice Leave No Trace principles.
  • Are there any specific safety considerations on this route? Be wary of afternoon thunderstorms. At high elevations lightning strikes are very common, and a number of hikers have been killed. Plan to be below treeline by noon at the latest on days when storms are building.
  • What is the longest distance between water sources? 90 miles. See the route guide for more details.
  • What is the longest distance between resupplies? 30 miles. See the route guide for more details.
  • Is it easy to find places to camp? Yes, dispersed camping is often relatively easy to find, but some routes also include some lengthy sections of private lands. See the route guide for more details.
  • Can I ride the route in either direction? Yes. 
  • How do I follow the route? These routes are not marked on the ground in any way. You will need to load the route data onto a GPS unit.
  • Why didn’t you include x road/area in these routes? There are infinite possibilities for creating routes. Our choices include a range of considerations that aim for the most enjoyable riding experience possible. 
  • Are you going to organize races on any of these routes? We are not, and we do not encourage any sort of racing on these routes. Underground racing could jeopardize future access for all mountain bikers.
  • How do you summit the 14ers? You can stash your bike or bags in the woods, and hike or ride the peak unloaded. If you’re bringing your bike, plan on hiking most of the ~4,000 steep, rugged and rocky vertical feet). Descending these trails on a bike requires advanced skills,and is not the place to push your limits  – exercise caution and restraint. Long-travel full suspension bikes, dropper posts, and pads are recommended.

This route and associated information is just a starting point for your preparation. Your safety is your responsibility. Check for current conditions, route updates, use common sense, obey local laws and rules, and travel with alternative means of navigation. Bikepacking Roots is not responsible for any injury or damages incurred along this route. If you encounter any inaccuracies or changes please let us know at [email protected]

 

If you ride this route and enjoy it, please consider joining Bikepacking Roots and making a donation to support route development and maintenance.

 

If you encounter any inaccuracies or changes please let us know at [email protected]

  • As of the 2021 riding season, the small loop off the northernmost end of the main loop from Alma is no longer open to public access to reach Mt. Cameron and Mt. Lincoln. Please do not ride that small loop – the Colorado 14ers Initiative has been in discussions with private landowners about this access issue, and trespassing will only complicate these discussions.
  • This route was the brainchild of Scott Morris in an ambitious attempt to connect all the “semi-rideable” and bike legal 14ers on one bikepacking loop (with the exception of Pikes Peak).
  • Scott and Kurt Refsnider developed the resulting loop, choosing the most rideable and enjoyable links in between the 14ers.
  • Final route scouting was completed in the summer of 2016 by Kurt, Scott, and Eszter Horanyi.
  • This route traverses the traditional lands of the Ute people.