Motorcycle Rides

Best Motorcycle Roads and Destinations in Colorado, United States

Best Motorcycle Roads and Destinations in Colorado, United States

With a nickname like “Colorful Colorado,” is it really any wonder why motorcyclists flock to this state to enjoy the full riding experience? Motorcyclists will find that Colorado is filled with a variety of terrain ranging from mountains, foothills, high plains, and deserts. Because the topography can suddenly change so drastically depending on which area of Colorado you visit, that means the scenery and difficulty of navigating the roads will keep you on your toes.

You may be familiar with some of Colorado’s more notable sights such as the Rocky Mountains, Denver, and Colorado Springs. Each of these are easily accessible by motorcycle, but there are plenty of other destinations you may not have been previously aware of.

This article will help give you a preview of Colorado’s most notable roads and destinations that will not only test your skills as a motorcyclist but also make lasting memories with your ride.

1. Best Roads and Destinations in Colorado

1.1 San Juan Mountain Skyway

Distance: 235 miles
Time: 5 hours 5 minutes
Start: Sherman St., Ridgway
End: Sherman St., Ridgway

Also referred to as the “Million Dollar Highway,” you start out in Ridgway where many Old West movies were filmed such as How The West Was Won. You can get a glimpse of what life was like in the Old West when passing through the old mining towns along the route including Ouray and Silverton. Ouray has plenty of hot springs for you to relax in and Silverton hosts mock gunfights for you to observe.

When passing by the Mesa Verde National Park, you should go check out what remains of the Anasazi civilization such as the structure known as Cliff Palace. Then you well head to Telluride which houses the bank that famous outlaw Butch Cassidy robbed long ago and the Bridal Veil Falls.

1.2 The Walden Loop

Distance: 248 miles

Time: 5 hours 56 minutes

Start: Fort Collins

End: Loveland

Traveling through Poudre River Canyon, you will typically have the route all to yourself as you navigate the twists and turns on your way to Walden. When you make it to Walden, there are restaurants such as the Coffee Pot Inn and the Elkhorn Cafe.

When you turn southward and reach Granby, you should take the opportunity to rest and fill up on fuel at any of the numerous gas stations available. Heading towards Estes Park, you will cut through the Rocky Mountain National Forest. You may catch sight of the local wildlife including moose, elk, bighorn sheep, and bald eagles.

In Estes Park, you can go visit the Historic Stanley Hotel and the City of Estes Park if you wish to browse the shops. At this point, you should have crossed over the Continental Divide twice.

1.3 Peak to Peak Highway

Distance: 61 miles

Time: 1 hour 29 minutes

Start: Estes Park

End: Black Hawk

Also referred to as the “Showcase of the Front Range,” this route is considered the oldest scenic byway in Colorado. You begin your journey by crossing over the Continental Divide.

This will take you through some of Colorado’s well-known natural sites including the Rocky Mountain National Park, the Golden Gate Canyon State Park, the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests, and the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area.

1.4 UnaweepTabeguache Scenic Road

Distance: 131 miles

Time: 2 hours 43 minutes

Start: Whitewater

End: Placerville

Traveling alongside the Uncompahgre National Forest, you will find yourself surrounded by red sandstone formations. You will also get views of the rushing Dolores and San Miguel Rivers nearby.

Shortly after your departure, you will notice the remains of the Driggs Mansion, its sandstone walls serving as a reminder of a failed attempt to make the desert landscape fertile.

Lined along the top of the cliff faces that run just above the San Miguel River, you will see the Hanging Flume which was used to carry water to the gold mines more than a century ago.

1.5 The Black Canyon Run

Distance: 44 miles

Time: 1 hour 6 minutes

Start: Sapinero

End: Crawford

Embarking from Sapinero, you will eventually come across the Blue Mesa Reservoir. Being Colorado’s largest body of water, there are plenty of opportunities for recreation including boating, fishing, windsurfing, and waterskiing.

As you continue to ride beside the mesas and cliffsides, you will notice that the environment around you will change from scrub deserts to alpine aspen groves.

Drawing near to Crawford, you can pull off the side of the road to get to overlooks that give views of the Black Canyon. When you reach the town, you should be able to find restaurants, gas stations, and hotels where you can restock and decompress before your next leg of your Colorado motorcycle trip.

1.6 The “High 5” to Mount Evans

Distance: 28 miles

Time: 1 hour 3 minutes

Start: Idaho Springs

End: Mount Evans

With a height of more than 14,000 feet, this route will have you climbing up the highest paved road in the United States. When you reach the summit, there should be a panoramic view of almost 75% of Colorado.

Before reaching the mountain peak, you may want to explore the old mining town of Idaho Springs. When you begin your ascent of Mount Evans, you will be confronted by plenty of switchbacks as you travel through the Arapaho National Forest. Keep in mind that the further up you go the less guardrails you will see along the sides of the twisty roads.

1.7 Independence Pass

Distance: 46 miles

Time: 1 hour 22 minutes

Start: Granite

End: Aspen

You will pass by the Twin Lakes while traveling on twisty roads that go over rough terrain. As the elevation gets higher, you will encounter plenty of switchbacks while giving you a view of the Continental Divide.

As you get closer to the pass, you may want to look around the ghost town known as Independence. From the current level of elevation, you should be able to see the Maroon Bells region of the Rocky Mountains.

Up at Independence Pass, you should find yourself in an alpine tundra. You may not see much vegetation besides small patches of shrub scattered amongst the rocky terrain. Because of the temperature, there is still snow on the ground almost year-round.

1.8 Colorado State Route 149

Distance: 126 miles

Time: 2 hours 41 minutes

Start: Columbine Road, South Fork

End: Gunnison

This route takes you through the Rio Grande National Forest and all the way up to the old mining town known as Creede. When you leave the forest behind and begin to hit the mountains, you will eventually cross over the Continental Divide at Spring Creek Pass.

Continuing on your way, you will head into the Gunnison National Forest. You will then ascend towards the Slumgullion Pass which has an elevation over 11,000 feet. Leaving the wilderness behind, you will ride alongside the Gunnison River as you get closer to the town sharing the same name.

1.9 Colorado State Route 65

Distance: 73 miles

Time: 1 hour 35 minutes

Start: Palisade

End: Delta

Appropriately named the Grand Mesa due to being the largest mesa in the United States, the flattened top is lined with aspen and oak trees. Much of this region rests within the Grand Mesa National Forest and is bordered by the Plateau and Kannah Creeks.

As you begin to descend, you will notice the white and black canyon walls that contrast with the surrounding greenery. If you reach the edge of the Grand Mesa, you can visit the former Land’s End Observatory. While you cannot see the building, the surrounding area can give you a panoramic view of both Colorado and Utah.

1.10 Pikes Peak Run

Distance: 24 miles

Time: 1 hour 5 minutes

Start: Manitou Springs

End: Pikes Peak

While still in the vicinity of Manitou Springs, you can take the time to appreciate nature by visiting the Manitou Springs Memorial Park and Rainbow Falls.

The first leg of your journey will have plenty of dense forest which will only begin to clear away so you can see the Crystal Creek Reservoir. As you begin to climb, the rows of trees will begin to thin so you can appreciate the beauty of natural sites such as Colorado Springs and the Woodland Park.

The climate along this route can be chilly even during the warmer months to the point that you may see snow on the sides of the road. Make sure you are dressed warmly as you continue to climb up towards Pikes Peak.

1.11 Poncha Springs Loop

Distance: 154 miles

Time: 2 hours 56 minutes

Start: Poncha Springs

End: Poncha Springs

If you prefer to just admire the sights and ride at a comfortable pace, it is suggested you take this route during the fall. The colors of the changing leaves blend in well with the changing landscape from plains to mountains that are along the route.

Providing you with a scenic view of Colorado’s natural beauty, you will travel along the high roads close to the Rocky Mountains and run through part of a region in the Gunnison National Forest.

1.12 The Steamboat Scream

Distance: 80 miles

Time: 1 hour 31 minutes

Start: Granby

End: Steamboat Springs

You should be able to get a view of the Rocky Mountains National Park while you are still close to Lake Granby. This route has many small towns that could serve as pit stops along the way including Hot Sulphur Springs, Parshall, and Kremmling.

Entering the wilderness, you will climb up mountains and pass through the Arapaho National Forest. When you finally get to the Rabbit Ears Pass, you should finally be able to see Steamboat Springs in the distance.

1.13 Old Loveland Pass

Distance: 33 miles

Time: 55 minutes

Start: Silver Plume

End: Frisco

The original Colorado route to get over the Continental Divide, getting to the Old Loveland Pass requires climbing up winding roads almost 12,000 feet high. Following the road, the twists and turns should eventually lead you to the Arapahoe and Keystone ski areas.

When you get closer to the base of the mountains, you should be able to see the pristine surface of Lake Dillon. Just continue going down the Swan Mountain Road and you should end up at the ski towns known as Breckredge and Fresco.

If you are looking for a place to grab food and refreshment, you should either try the Q-4-You in Fresco and the Crepes A La Cart in Breckenridge.

2. Motorcycle Laws in Colorado

2.1 Helmet Laws

While within the state of Colorado, you are only required to wear a motorcycle helmet if you are below the age of 18. However, as most fatalities in motorcycle accidents were the result of riders not wearing a motorcycle helmet, it is recommended you keep one on whenever you are operating on Colorado’s roads or highways.

Your motorcycle helmet must follow the safety guidelines for the U.S. Department of Transportation and must have been made by either the American National Standards Institute or the Snell Memorial Foundation.

The only two models that meet these criteria are the three-quarter or full-face motorcycle helmets. You will be able to recognize them if they have the following aspects:

  • Has a Department of Transportation (DOT) sticker
  • Can be fitted around your head snugly
  • No visible signs of damage
  • Has a face shield with no scratches (Full-face helmet only)
  • Requires separate eye protection with no scratches (Three-quarter helmet only)
  • Has a hard and durable outer shell that is shatter-resistant
  • Gives you a clear, peripheral view
  • Can be fastened with a neck- or chin-strap
  • Allows airflow without fogging up
  • Can allow you to wear sunglasses underneath

2.2 Required Safety Features

As a safety precaution, you should make periodic inspections of your motorcycle to make sure there is no faulty equipment before you turn the ignition. If even one primary component is experiencing mechanical failure, it could cause your motorcycle’s overall functionality to fall apart.

While traveling through Colorado, make sure to have at least the following motorcycle equipment in good working order or given proper maintenance:

  • Horn
  • Wheels
  • Tires
  • Handlebars
  • Brake system
  • Controls
  • Headlight
  • Taillight
  • Brake light
  • Reflector
  • Exhaust system
  • Muffler
  • Rearview mirrors
  • Turn signals

2.3 Lane Splitting Laws

Lane splitting is deemed illegal in Colorado. Motorcyclists are not allowed to ride on top of the dividing lines between lanes, navigate in between adjacent rows of vehicles even if they are stopped, and you cannot attempt to share or pass a larger vehicle while you are both in the same lane.

Motorcyclists are allowed to move freely within the space provided they are currently traveling in and can ride alongside another motorcycle within the same lane. However, the latter is only possible if you stay apart at a distance of at least two abreast and both parties’ consent to sharing a lane beforehand.

2.4 Passenger Laws

It is only legal to transport a passenger on your motorcycle if the vehicle has a designated passenger seat and adjustable footholds. The passenger seat can either be part of the driver’s seat, a separate saddle near the rear, or a sidecar. So long as it is positioned somewhere that will not throw the motorcycle off-balance or impede your capability to operate a motorcycle.

Colorado does not have a minimum age requirement for motorcycle passengers. If your motorcycle passenger is below the age of 18, he/she must wear a motorcycle helmet similar to yours. When determining whether it is safe to carry a passenger of a specific age, utilize your best judgment. Check to make sure your passenger can comprehend and respond to directions quickly. Also, make sure your passenger can be seated comfortably and reach the footholds with no difficulties.

3. Motorcycle Luggage for Colorado Motorcycle Tour

Besides having a stylish design that compliments the look of your ride, motorcycle luggage is useful for packing the essentials you will need to last for hours or days traveling on Colorado’s routes. Because Colorado has a diverse environment and climates, you may need to pack clothing suited for the temperature. If your motorcycle suffers minor damage, you can just grab your tools and fix it up real quick on the side of the road. You may be surprised how many necessities you can fit within the pocket(s) of your motorcycle luggage.

While the main purpose of all motorcycle luggage is to provide secure and safe storage for all your belongings, there is some diversity between them. Based on your preference in materials, size, and overall functionality, you should be able to find the motorcycle luggage best suited for you.

4. Parting Words

Because Colorado possesses a geography with varying levels of elevation, the roads can range from smooth and low to the ground or bumpy and rising high above the surface. This makes Colorado ideal for both novice and veteran riders because there are plenty of routes that match their preferred level of difficulty while still being an exhilarating challenge. While Colorado’s natural scenery tends to be the highlight for most riders, there are other attractions to enjoy for the duration of your motorcycle tour. Many of the small towns that lie on your intended path have stores, food establishments, or historic sites that are not as well-known but still could leave a lasting impression. There are plenty of outlooks on the sides of the highways that provide perfect spots to take pictures of Colorado’s natural surroundings. While this article has listed some of Colorado’s motorcycle roads and destinations, you should never stop trying to expand your horizons. If you manage to find other locations, they could also increase how much fun you could have during a motorcycle trip through Colorado. 

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