The Centennial State offers a diverse terrain for motorcyclists of all levels, including high-altitude adventures that sweep through the Rocky Mountains and leisurely cruises along the Eastern Plains. There’s truly something for everyone in Colorado, with each ride bringing its own unique thrill and unmistakable scenery.
For riders keen on discovering more, neighboring states like New Mexico showcase a blend of desert and mountain rides that feature historic pueblos and vast expanses of wilderness. And to the north, Wyoming’s Beartooth Highway offers an unforgettable journey through high-altitude passes and stunning views of the Rocky Mountains.
I’ve explored the vast and magnificent landscapes of Colorado to bring you the top 10 best motorcycle rides in the state. These routes stand out for their natural beauty, curves, and thrilling open roads. Strap on your helmet and get ready to discover the wonders of Colorado, from steep mountain passes to picturesque valleys.
1. The San Juan Skyway
As a top contender in Colorado motorcycle rides, the San Juan Skyway offers riders stunning views and exciting twists and turns. With its varying elevations and picturesque landscapes, it’s no wonder that this route is regarded as one of the most scenic rides in the state.
Best Time to Visit : The ideal time to explore this route is from late May to early October. During these months, the weather conditions are most suitable for taking to the road on a motorcycle.
Distance and Time to Travel : Spanning approximately 232 miles in length, the San Juan Skyway can take anywhere from 4 to 6 hours to complete, depending on the stops one makes and the overall pace. It’s worth taking the time to fully experience the beauty that this route has to offer.
Places to Stop : The San Juan Skyway has numerous stops worth exploring:
- Durango: A historic town with a rich cultural history and plenty of amenities
- Silverton: A quaint village that showcases Colorado’s mining heritage
- Ouray: Known as the “Switzerland of America,” Ouray offers beautiful mountain scenery and relaxing hot springs
- Telluride: A popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, featuring a classic western feel intermingled with modern amenities
Level of Difficulty : The ride is considered moderate in difficulty, with some elevation changes and tight turns. It’s suitable for most experienced riders, but beginners may want to tackle easier routes first.
Keep the following details in mind:
- Be prepared for changes in weather conditions, as the high elevation can cause sudden shifts
- Keep an eye out for wildlife, particularly in more remote stretches of the route
- Be mindful of altitude sickness, and plan accordingly – allowing a day or two to acclimate to the elevation can provide a safer and more enjoyable ride
2. The Peak Highway
The Peak to Peak Highway in Colorado is a scenic and adventurous route that I highly recommend for motorcycle enthusiasts. This highway offers stunning views of the Rocky Mountains, lush forests, and various picturesque towns along the way. It’s a favorite among locals and visitors alike.
Best Time to Visit : The ideal time to ride the Peak to Peak Highway is during late spring, summer, and early fall when the temperatures are just right. With the unpredictable Colorado weather, it’s crucial to check the forecast before hitting the road.
Distance and Time to Travel : This scenic byway stretches for about 55 miles and takes roughly 2 to 3 hours to complete, depending on your pace and stops. The journey starts in the town of Black Hawk and ends in Estes Park.
Places to Stop : Make sure to take time to explore the following points of interest during your ride:
- Nederland: A charming mountain town with an array of shops, restaurants, and cafes.
- Golden Gate Canyon State Park: A beautiful park that offers hiking trails and picnicking areas.
- Rocky Mountain National Park: A must-visit spot for outdoor enthusiasts. Entry to the park requires a fee.
Level of Difficulty : The Peak to Peak Highway is considered a moderate level of difficulty. The road is well-maintained with a few twists and turns, but nothing too extreme. However, it’s essential to watch for wildlife and be cautious on blind corners.
- Ensure your motorcycle is in excellent condition, as there are limited places along the route to stop for repairs.
- Pack extra layers and rain gear, as weather can change quickly in the mountains.
- Be cautious when riding through town centers, as there might be significant traffic during tourist seasons.
- If you don’t have your own motorcycle, there’s a motorcycle rental in Denver that you can use.
3. The Grand Mesa Scenic Byway
One of my personal favorite motorcycling routes in Colorado is The Grand Mesa Scenic Byway. This incredible ride offers breathtaking views and diverse landscapes, from dense forests to shimmering lakes. The scenic road stretches for 63 miles along the Grand Mesa, the world’s largest flat-topped mountain.
Best Time to Visit : The ideal time to experience the Grand Mesa Scenic Byway is from June through September. During these months, weather conditions are typically mild, and the surrounding landscapes burst into vibrant shades of green.
Distance and Time to Travel : The route is approximately 63 miles long, and it’ll take you about 2 hours to complete, depending on your speed and the number of stops you make to enjoy the spectacular views.
Places to Stop : Along the journey, you’ll find several points of interest to stop and explore, such as:
- Island Lake: A picturesque alpine lake surrounded by towering pines. Perfect for a picnic or a refreshing swim.
- Land’s End Observatory: At the western edge of the Grand Mesa, this observatory offers panoramic views of the surrounding valleys and mesas.
- Powderhorn Mountain Resort: If you’re visiting during the winter months, this ski area caters to both skiers and snowboarders of various skill levels.
Level of Difficulty : With well-maintained roads and a mix of gentle curves, steep climbs, and thrilling descents, the Grand Mesa Scenic Byway is suitable for riders of all skill levels. Novice riders should take extra caution, especially on the narrower sections of the byway.
When planning your ride, keep the following in mind:
- Due to its high elevation (over 10,000 feet), the temperature can drop rapidly as you ascend the mountain. Don’t forget to carry appropriate gear and layered clothing to stay warm.
- Cell phone reception might be sparse in some areas, so it’s wise to carry a printed map or GPS for navigation.
- Wildlife, such as deer and elk, can often be spotted near the byway. Stay vigilant to avoid surprises and potential hazards.
4. Independence Pass Adventure
If you’re seeking a thrilling motorcycle ride with jaw-dropping views, I highly recommend the Independence Pass Adventure. Snaking through Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, this scenic route promises an unforgettable experience for avid motorcyclists.
Best Time to Visit : The ideal time to embark on this adventure is late spring to fall, typically between May and October. During these months, the road is clear of snow, the weather is predictably pleasant, and the vibrant colors of nature are on full display.
Distance and Time to Travel
Independence Pass stretches for 82 miles (131 kilometers) and takes approximately 2 to 3 hours to cover, depending on riding speeds and stops. Riders can get ready for an adrenaline-pumping experience with steep grades and sharp turns.
Places to Stop ; As you journey along Independence Pass, you’ll come across fantastic spots for breaks and photo opportunities. Some noteworthy places include:
- Twin Lakes Village: A quaint lakeside town for stocking up on snacks, fueling up, and stretching your legs.
- The Town of Aspen: Offering dining, shopping and a chance to explore this world-famous mountain destination.
- Grottos Trail: A short hike leading to beautiful geological formations and cascading waterfalls.
Level of Difficulty : Independence Pass is characterized as a moderately challenging route, ideal for experienced riders. The ride entails navigating hairpin turns, steep inclines, and potential for wildlife encounters. Therefore, it’s essential to remain alert and cautious.
Before embarking on your Independence Pass adventure, it’s crucial to keep some key points in mind:
- The elevation at the summit reaches 12,095 feet, so be prepared for altitude changes and possible temperature fluctuations.
- Gas stations can be scarce; make sure to fuel up whenever possible.
- Roads may be narrow and without guardrails in certain areas; exercise caution and ride safely.
5. Rocky Mountain National Park Loop
This scenic ride is one of the most iconic motorcycle trips in Colorado. With its majestic mountain views, winding roads, and breathtaking landscapes, it’s an experience that will leave you craving more.
Best Time to Visit: Typically, the prime time to enjoy this ride is between June and October, when the weather is most favorable. However, always check current road conditions and closures before embarking to avoid any surprises.
Distance and Time to Travel: The Rocky Mountain National Park Loop covers roughly 228 miles and takes about 6 hours to complete at a moderately relaxed pace.
Places to Stop: There’s no shortage of sightseeing opportunities and pit stops along the way, some of the most notable being:
- Estes Park: This picturesque mountain town is a great place to grab a bite, shop for souvenirs, or take a detour to the iconic Stanley Hotel.
- Trail Ridge Road: As the highest continuous paved road in the United States, the stunning views and wildlife sightings make this a can’t-miss part of the ride.
- Grand Lake: Offering a variety of amenities, lodgings, and outdoor activities, Grand Lake is an ideal stop to unwind and enjoy the tranquil lake scenery after a long day of riding.
Level of Difficulty: Generally considered an intermediate ride, it’s important to be aware of the changing elevation, switchbacks, and occasional traffic congestion, particularly in peak season. Riders should also be prepared for rapid weather changes as they traverse the high-altitude terrain.
It’s worth noting that there’s an entrance fee for Rocky Mountain National Park. However, one-time entry passes or annual parks passes offer a cost-effective solution for avid riders and adventurers alike. In addition, while cell service can be spotty in remote areas, there are a few visitor centers along the route to acquire any needed information or assistance.
6. Trail Ridge Road
Trail Ridge Road is undoubtedly one of my favorite motorcycle rides in Colorado. Located in Rocky Mountain National Park, this route treats riders to stunning panoramic views, exhilarating twists and turns, and pristine alpine landscapes. Before diving into the details of this spectacular ride, let’s take a quick look at its overall characteristics:
The best time to visit Trail Ridge Road is between May to October. It’s important to note that this road may close unexpectedly due to hazardous weather conditions like snow and ice, especially during early or late season, so always check the National Park Service website for updates.
Covering a distance of approximately 48 miles (77 kilometers), it takes about 2-3 hours to complete the ride. However, don’t forget to budget extra time for stops to capture photos and take in the breathtaking views. And trust me, there are plenty of those along the way.
I highly recommend making stops at Estes Park and the Alpine Visitor Center. Estes Park is often considered the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park and offers excellent dining, lodging, and shopping options. The Alpine Visitor Center serves as the highest visitor center in the entire National Park System and provides restroom facilities, an informative exhibit hall, a gift shop, and a café.
In terms of difficulty, I’d classify Trail Ridge Road as a moderate ride. While it includes several tight curves and steep inclines, the road itself is paved and well-maintained. That being said, always exercise caution and obey posted speed limits, particularly when navigating the higher altitude portions of the route.
Lastly, it’s important to mention that there is an entrance fee required to access Trail Ridge Road within Rocky Mountain National Park. Fees vary depending on the type of pass purchased, so visit the National Park Service website for pricing details.
7. The Million Dollar Highway
As one of the most breathtaking and picturesque routes in all of Colorado, the Million Dollar Highway checks all the boxes for an unforgettable motorcycle ride. This legendary stretch of road lies within the spectacular San Juan Mountains and offers riders unbeatable views, exhilarating curves, and a true experience of the great outdoors.
Best Time to Visit: Midsummer or early autumn are the best times for a ride on the Million Dollar Highway. During these seasons, you’ll be met with the stunning contrast between the vibrant colors of the surrounding trees and snow-capped peaks, as well as more agreeable weather for a motorcycle trip. Although beautiful, the higher elevations can be tricky to navigate during winter months due to snow and ice on the roads.
Distance with Time to Travel: This scenic route covers approximately 70 miles (112 km), stretching from Silverton to Ouray. With plenty of twists, turns, and scenery to capture your attention, it’s recommended to give yourself about 2 to 3 hours for the entire ride. This will allow ample time to stop and take in the views or snap some photos along the way.
Places to Stop:
- Silverton: The ride begins at this historic mining town that’s now home to a tight-knit community and various attractions.
- Red Mountain Pass: At 11,018 feet elevation, it’s a perfect spot for a photo op with a jaw-dropping panorama.
- Ouray: Known as the “Switzerland of America”, this small town offers a charming end to the ride, with picturesque scenery and soothing hot springs.
Level of Difficulty: The Million Dollar Highway is considered moderate to challenging. There are a few steep drop-offs and tight curves without guardrails, which can be intimidating for some riders. However, if you take your time and ride with caution, it’s an enjoyable journey for experienced motorcyclists.
It’s important to pack extra layers for the ride, as the higher elevations can have cooler temperatures even in the summer months. You’ll also want to ensure your motorcycle is in good condition before tackling this route, as you don’t want to break down in a remote area.
8. The Royal Gorge
One of my favorite motorcycle rides in Colorado has to be riding through the Royal Gorge. It’s a breathtaking experience that offers a mix of stunning natural beauty, thrilling curves, and some of the state’s most iconic landmarks. Here’s everything you need to know about this incredible ride.
Best Time to Visit : While the Royal Gorge is accessible year-round, the best time to visit is during late spring through early fall. This is because the weather is typically mild and dry, which makes for optimal riding conditions. Keep in mind that the higher elevations can still be chilly, so it’s a good idea to dress in layers.
Distance and Time to Travel : The ride from Canon City through the Royal Gorge encompassing the loop is around 50 miles long. Given the winding roads, varying speeds, and stopping points, it usually takes about 2 to 3 hours to complete the journey. Of course, the actual time taken will depend on your personal riding pace and how often you choose to stop.
Places to Stop : The route is filled with several amazing places to stop and take in the surroundings. Some of these include:
- Skyline Drive: This scenic drive offers panoramic views of Canon City and the surrounding area.
- Royal Gorge Bridge: A must-visit, this impressive suspension bridge is one of the highest in the United States and provides spectacular views of the gorge below.
- Royal Gorge Park: Home to a visitor center, picnic areas, and an aerial tram, this park is an ideal place to take a break and enjoy the scenery.
Level of Difficulty : The Royal Gorge ride is moderate in difficulty, with several twists and turns that will require your full attention. However, it’s not overly challenging, making it suitable for riders of various skill levels. Just be sure to remain cautious around blind turns and always respect the posted speed limits.
A few more things to be aware of when planning your ride through the Royal Gorge are:
- The road can sometimes have gravel or debris, so it’s crucial to be vigilant and maintain a steady pace.
- Gas stations and restaurants are limited along the route, so it’s wise to fuel up and grab some snacks before starting your ride.
- Cellular reception can be spotty in certain areas, so make sure to carry a map or GPS device for navigation purposes.
9. Highway 50: The Lifeblood of America
I have to admit, there’s something incredibly special about Highway 50 in Colorado. Often referred to as the “Lifeblood of America,” this scenic route offers a one-of-a-kind motorcycle experience that is truly unforgettable. With a variety of terrains, stunning vistas, and interesting pit stops along the way, this ride should definitely be on your Colorado motorcycle adventure list.
Best Time to Visit : The ideal time to explore Highway 50 on a motorcycle is between May and September. During this period, the weather is mild, and the road conditions are favorable for a smooth ride. Keep in mind that Colorado weather can be unpredictable, so it’s essential to stay updated on the latest forecasts and road conditions before you hit the road.
Distance and Time to Travel : Highway 50 in Colorado stretches for about 306 miles from east to west. Depending on your speed and the number of stops you make, you can expect to spend anywhere from 5 to 8 hours traveling this iconic route.
Places to Stop : There are several must-see spots to visit as you cruise along Highway 50, including:
- Royal Gorge Bridge and Park: This historic bridge stretches across a stunning canyon and offers a wide array of adrenalin-pumping activities.
- Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park: Showcasing incredible geological formations and dramatic views, this national park is a must-visit destination.
- Curecanti National Recreation Area: Home to the Blue Mesa Reservoir, this area has fantastic scenic views and excellent opportunities for outdoor recreation.
Level of Difficulty : Highway 50 is generally easy to navigate, with well-maintained roads and straightforward terrain. However, there are sections of the route that can be twisty and filled with elevation changes, so riders should remain cautious and be prepared for occasional challenges.
- Fuel and Amenities: Along Highway 50, you’ll find plenty of fuel stations and restaurants to keep you refreshed and fueled up. Nevertheless, it’s a good idea to fill up whenever possible as there may be long stretches between gas stations.
- Wildlife: Keep an eye out for wildlife, especially deer and elk, which can sometimes wander onto the road.
10. Colorado’s Deckers Route
Colorado’s Deckers Route is an exciting motorcycle ride that allows you to experience the beauty of Colorado’s outdoors. As I’ve ridden this route many times, I can attest to the thrilling curves and stunning scenery throughout. This ride offers breathtaking views, enjoyable twisties, and a variety of terrains.
Best Time to Visit: The ideal time to explore the Deckers Route is from late spring through early fall. This period offers moderate temperatures and less chance of encountering snow on the higher elevations. Keep in mind that the weather conditions may vary and it’s always a good idea to check the local forecast before hitting the road.
Distance with Time to Travel: The Deckers Route is approximately 75 miles long. The ride typically takes about 1.5-2.5 hours to complete, depending on your pace.
Places to Stop: There are several notable places to stop along the route:
- Pine Valley Ranch Park: A beautiful park offering trails, picnic areas, and lake views.
- Deckers: A small town with a general store and a few eateries where you can rest and refuel.
- Buffalo Creek: A picturesque area with opportunities for fishing, hiking, and camping.
Level of Difficulty: The Deckers Route is generally rated as moderate in terms of difficulty. Riders should be prepared for:
- Tight, technical turns
- Varying road conditions and possible debris
- Changes in elevation and temperature
- Occasional wildlife sightings
Fuel up before you start the ride, as gas stations are limited along the route.
Mobile reception can be spotty in certain sections; it’s smart to download offline maps or carry a physical map for navigation purposes.
Be mindful of weather changes, especially at higher elevations where sudden rainstorms or snow flurries can occur.
What are some top motorcycle rides in Colorado?
Some Of The Best Motorcycle Rides In Colorado Include San Juan Skyway, Trail Ridge Road, Pikes Peak Highway, Mount Evans Scenic Byway, And The Peak To Peak Highway.
What makes the San Juan Skyway a popular motorcycle route in Colorado?
The San Juan Skyway Is A Popular Motorcycle Route For Its Stunning Mountain Views, Historical Landmarks, And Diverse Landscapes Throughout The 233-Mile Loop In The San Juan Mountains.
What features make Trail Ridge Road a sought-after motorcycle ride?
Trail Ridge Road Is An Attractive Motorcycle Ride For Its High Altitude, Incredible Alpine Views, And Wildlife Sightings As It Traverses Through Rocky Mountain National Park.
What can motorcyclists expect from the Pikes Peak Highway ride?
The Pikes Peak Highway Ride Offers A Thrilling Ascent To The Summit Of Pikes Peak, Featuring Tight Hairpin Turns And Breathtaking Views Of The Surrounding Landscape At Over 14,000 Feet.
What makes Mount Evans Scenic Byway a must-ride in Colorado?
Mount Evans Scenic Byway Is A Must-Ride For Its Status As The Highest Paved Road In North America, Reaching An Elevation Of 14,130 Feet, And Offering Riders Sweeping Views Of The Rocky Mountains.
Wrapping It Up: The Best Motorcycle Rides in Colorado
After exploring the top 10 best motorcycle rides in Colorado, I have to say, this state truly offers an incredible variety of landscapes, challenges, and unforgettable experiences for riders. No matter your level of expertise or personal preferences, you’ll find something captivating in Colorado’s motorcycle rides. To make the most out of these rides, here’s a summary of important details to keep in mind:
- Late spring to early fall (May through September) is the most ideal time for motorcycle rides, as the weather is typically warmer and drier, allowing for safer and more enjoyable riding conditions.
- These are various lengths and durations for the rides, ranging from a couple of hours to multiple days.
- Each ride has its unique points of interest, including scenic overlooks, historical sites, and unique attractions. A few examples include:
- Mount Evans Scenic Byway: Mount Evans Summit and Echo Lake
- Million Dollar Highway: Ouray Hot Springs and Silverton Historic Mining Town
- Peak to Peak Highway: Estes Park and Golden Gate Canyon State Park
- Riders can expect a mix of difficulty levels, from beginner-friendly routes to more challenging rides that require experience and skill.
- Always check current road conditions, weather forecasts, and possible closures or detours in advance. This information can be accessed by visiting the Colorado Department of Transportation website.
In wrapping up, I hope this guide to the best motorcycle rides in Colorado has inspired and informed you. Each ride offers a unique way to experience the breathtaking beauty of this state, along with the freedom and exhilaration of riding. So, grab your helmet and leathers and hit the open road. As a fellow rider, I look forward to the shared camaraderie on Colorado’s spectacular highways and byways. Safe travels!
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I am Vishwanath Mathpati, a full-time Blogger and Motorcyclist from Bidar, Karnataka. I love writing about my Motorcycles Stories and Riding Gears on this blog.
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