Segment #2: Horsethief Park TH to Guanella Pass TH and Mt Evans/Mount Bierstadt

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Tour 14er Front Range Segment 2
Tour 14er Front Range Segment 2

Introduction

Segment #1 and Pikes Peak should now have given you a taste for things to come. We’ll delve deeper into the Front Range, where towns are replaced with saloon stops and Wilderness areas surrounding you will be the norm.

Both the MTB and All Road routes for Segment #2 will follow similar paths, as the Lost Creek Wilderness to the North and East of our starting point won’t be accessible by bike. Both versions will be taking advantage of the Tarryall Road Colorado Trail bike detour route around the Lost Creek Wilderness, so expect some friendly company along the way.

Hopefully the allure of singletrack all the way to Summit County starting at Kenosha Pass won’t persuade you to change your trip’s itinerary before you get to the next trailhead! But if it does, I’ll be describing a side trip for you.

We’ll end our route somewhere near the crest of Guanella Pass, to take on a hike of Mt. Bierstadt, and optionally a traverse over to Mt. Evans via the Sawtooth Ridge (Class 3).

Summit of Mt. Evans
Summit of Mt. Evans

The MTB Narrative will take 2-4 days; the Road Narrative 2-3. Again, take a full day for the hiking portion and leave for your hike as early in the morning as possible.

MTB Narrative

Tour 14er Front Range: Segment #2: MTB Elevation Profile
Tour 14er Front Range: Segment #2: MTB Elevation Profile
  • Mileage: 91 miles
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: +8048’/-6101′

Segment #2 starts at Horsethief Park TH and HW 67. Ride north on HW 67 towards the small town of Divide. A Grocery Store and Irish Pub/Pizza Joint are available right off the highway (see Segment 1 Narrative). If you’re looking for camping for the night, continue north up CR 5 and find a dispersed campsite after the National Forest boundary.

Resupply at Divide – the small towns that dot the highway leading up to Tarryall Road may be able to work as a resupply, but the grocery store in Divide is your last great chance until Georgetown, many miles away, and on the other side of Guanella Pass.

Ride west on HW 24 until reaching Lower Twin Rocks Road/CR 42 and turn left to cut off a little highway riding. Take CR 42 southwest, until you reach CR 421, and take a right on this road to head west. CR 421 ends at CR 1. Turn right onto CR1 and take it back to HW 24.

Enter the small town of Florissant.

Florissant Services

Take Costilla Road/West Florissant Street out of town north to cut down a little highway riding. Turn left on Teller County Road 31 and head west. This street will turn abruptly left and leave you back onto HW 24. Turn right on HW 24 and continue NW towards Lake George.

Lake George Services

  • Groceries: Starky’s General Store
    338316 US HW 24
  • Coffee: Bla Bla Blah Caffe
    38283 US HW 24

Once through Lake George, Continue NW on HW 24 until Tarryall Road and turn right to leave the traffic of HW 24 behind for the last time.

Tarryall Road should be relatively quiet in comparison to the highway. Most traffic will be local or from those looking to go fishing along the road. To the east of you is the Lost Creek Wilderness, which this road essentially makes the western border of. Dispersed camping opportunities will present themselves after a few miles riding on the road.

Of note is Matukat RD/CR 211, which you’ll find on the right hand side. This road is used as the bikepacking detour of the Colorado Trail around the Lost Creek Wilderness (Tarryall is the other road used). Dispersed camping off of the gravel Matukat RD/CR 211 may be more pleasant than further on Tarryall.

Golden to Pikes Peak to Golden Loop

If you want to loop your trip from Golden to Pikes Peak and then back to Golden, take Matukat RD/CR 211 NE to Stoney Pass Road/CR 560 N all the way to the Colorado Trail, then take the Colorado Trail east to the start way back in Waterton Canyon. You may need to resupply in Bailey before getting on the CT Proper – just keep on the same road N to Bailey, located on HW 285, then double-back to the CT. Don’t ride on HW 285, unless you need to bail – it’s not very pleasant. A bus stop for the Bustang is located up 285 NE at Pine Junction, which can take you to Denver to the east or Alma/Buena Vista/Salida to the west.


Services on Tarryall are going to be slim. A small general store may be open, and there is an absolutely required stop at Stage Stop Store and Saloon.

Tarryall Road Services

  • Restaurant/Bar: Stage Stop Store and Saloon
    53 Stagestop Rd
    Jefferson, Colorado
    stagestopsaloon.com

If you’re not in a great rush, this would make a fantastic point to stop for dinner, then spirit away for the night in the nearby National Forest. The Stage Stop is usually open until 1:00 am. Hopefully patrons do not turn into vampires at midnight.

Once past the trappings of civilization, continue on Tarryall Road to Rock Creek Hills Road/CR 39 and take a right. This is where the MTB and Road route narratives finally split. The Road narrative continues on Tarryall Road to the town center of Jefferson where a few additional services are available, then takes HW 285 on a good shoulder up to Kenosha Pass. The MTB narrative will take a rough gravel road to the Colorado Trail.

Both Narratives will meet up again at Kenosha Pass.

MTB/Road Segment #2 Split
MTB/Road Segment #2 Split

Rock Creek Hills Road/CR 39 starts out as rough gravel and we’ll be using it to access onto the Colorado Trail (singletrack). Free dispersed camping is available after the National Forest Boundary. Several offshoot 4WD tracks come off of CR 39, but stay on the main road, until it ends at Lost Park Road/CR 56. Take a right on CR 56 east, and take it until Rock Creek Road/FR 133. Take a left on FR 133 and travel north, until you cross the Colorado Trail. Take a left onto the Colorado Trail and head west.

Ride the Colorado Trail as it flows generally northwest to HW 285 and Kenosha Pass. A USFS campsite is located on the west side of the pass, and dispersed camping can be found further down the trail itself.

Side Trip: CT to Summit County, GDMBR to Como, 285 to Kenosha Pass

Side Trip: CT to Summit County, GDMBR to Como, 285 to Kenosha Pass
Side Trip: CT to Summit County, GDMBR to Como, 285 to Kenosha Pass
  • Mileage: 68 miles
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: +7791’/-7791′

If you’re on the route primarily for the riding, continue on the Colorado Trail west from Kenosha Pass until you hit HW 9 near Breckenridge. The CT and the GDMBR converge here. The GDMBR follows the bike path system south to Breckenridge proper, then takes off up Boreas Pass. Follow the GDMBR up and over Boreas Pass (paved, then gravel) to the small town of Como (most likely, no services). Take HW 285 back up Kenosha Pass. If you’d like to throw in a hike along the way, the Centennial Mt. Silverheels can be accessed from the GMBR via its East Ridge route.


From Kenosha Pass, turn right on HW 285 and head north, then east. Unfortunately for us, HW 285 is getting busier each year, as people are utilizing it as an alternative to the gridlock of I-70 for mountain activities. But from Kenosha Pass, it’s mostly a well-shouldered, paved, 1,000′ descent to the town of Grant. Don’t expect too many services in Grant – perhaps a BBQ joint will be open, and a small trading post.

HW 285 seems like it would be a great paved bike route through the Front Range of Colorado, but it’s too busy for me to really suggest. Even the official CT detour goes the long way around Lost Creek Wilderness to the south, rather than taking the much shorter path via HW 285 from the North.

At Grant, turn left on Guanella Pass Road N. The crest of Guanella Pass Road is our final destination on this segment, and will give us access to Mt. Bierstadt and Mt. Evans.

Camping on Guanella Pass Road

Recent changes to the management of the Guanella Pass Scenic and Historic Byway Corridor have officially disallowed dispersed camping off of the corridor itself in most areas. Many of the often-used dispersed camping areas have simply become overused. [1]

North of Guanella Pass, you’ll need to be 1/4 mile off the centerline of the road itself, before you can dispersed camp. [2]

Nevertheless, I’ll outline some of the better resources available to you below. Camping on top of the pass itself is not extremely attractive, as there is little to no surface water, little cover, and nighttime temps can dip very low.

Free, Dispersed Camping

  • Forest Road 118E
    From Grant, FR118E is ~ 5 miles up and is on the west side of the road.
  • Forest Road 119
    From Grant, FR 119 is ~5 miles up and on the west side of the road. Ride a mile past the NFS Campsite up the road and find the numbered camping sites.

From either of these two roads, it’s ~7.5 – 8 miles with 2,000′ of gain to Guanella Pass and the TH for Mt. Bierstadt.

NFS Camping (Fee Areas)

  • Guanella Pass Campground ($$$)
    recreation.gov/camping/campgrounds/232306
    Guanella Pass Campground is located on the northern side of Guanella Pass, but is closer to the pass itself at only ~2 miles and 1100′ of elevation gain. Potable water is also available. If you don’t feel like reclimbing back up to Guanella Pass after riding up it from the south, the chances of hitching a ride back up in the morning are in your favor.

Road Narrative

Tour 14er Front Range: Segment #2: Road Elevation Profile
Tour 14er Front Range: Segment #2: Road Elevation Profile
  • Mileage: 90 miles
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: +6830′ -4855′

The Road version of Segment #2 closely mirrors the MTB narrative. Follow the MTB Narrative up into Tarryall Road to the Stage Stop Saloon.

After the Stage Stop Saloon, continue on Tarryall Road to it’s terminus at the small town of Jefferson, rather than taking on the Colorado Trail.

Jefferson Services

  • Restaurant: Hungry Moose
    38539 US Highway 285
  • Grocery: Jefferson Market
    38600 Colorado Highway 285
    jeffersonmarket17.com

Once you’ve overindulged on fudge, continue up HW 285 on a good shoulder to Kenosha Pass. Rejoin the MTB Route and Narrative.

Hiking: Guanella Pass Trailhead to Mt. Bierstadt + Mt. Evans

Mt. Evans from the east
Mt. Evans from the east
 Hiking: Guanella Pass Trailhead to Mt. Bierstadt + Mt. Evans
Hiking: Guanella Pass Trailhead to Mt. Bierstadt + Mt. Evans
  • Rating: Class 3
  • Mileage: 11 miles (round trip)
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: +3979’/-3985′ (round trip)

Mt. Bierstadt is one of the most visited 14ers in the state, and its west slopes route is one of the easiest 14er hikes there is. You’ll have plenty of company, so get ready to tell everyone of your self-powered trip to get a surprising reaction.

Mt Evans can be access from the summit of Mt. Bierstadt via the Sawtooth Ridge. The west slopes route up Mt. Bierstadt is easy Class 2, the Sawtooth Ridge route is Class 3. If you are comfortable with that level of scrambling and the weather seems to be holding, go off and tag Mt. Evans as well. The descent off of Mt. Evans western slopes is an interesting adventure in of itself, filled with massive stands of fire-breathing willows (fire-breathing not confirmed). The west slopes route up Mt. Evans is also an option to do on its own.

Mt. Bierstadt (background) and the Sawtooth Ridge (foreground)
Mt. Bierstadt (background) and the Sawtooth Ridge (foreground)

If only Mt. Bierstadt is in the cards for you, you can tag Mt. Evans later on once you make it to Idaho Springs. Mt. Evans, like Pikes Peak has a paved road to almost its summit that makes a ultra-classic hill climb.

Do note that both mountains are in the Mt. Evans Wilderness Area, so no bikes will be allowed on trail – lock up the bikes at the TH.

Aprés Hike

Camping for the night can be done back at your last campsite, or if you have the legs, ride down Guanella Pass (mostly downhill) to find more dispersed camping off of Leavenworth Road/NFSR 248.1. Beyond Leavenworth road, NFSR 248.1, you’ll soon reach the town of Georgetown where most services are allowed, but little free camping is available on route.

Segment #3’s MTB narrative will go up Leavenworth Road to the top of 13,000’+ of Argentine Pass; the road narrative will visit Grays/Torreys via Stevens Gulch.

Footnotes

[1]:

Click to access fseprd577266.pdf

Designated dispersed campsiteson the South Platte RD, Pike National ForestGeneva Creek Road #119From Denver, travel south on Highway 285 through Pine Junction and Bailey. Continue on Highway 285 to the town of Grant, turn right on Park County Road 62 (Geneva Rd) and continue for approximately 5 miles. Make a left on Forest Road119; continue 1 mile past the Geneva Creek Campground and the designated dispersed campsites are identified with a signfor parking and camping. There are approximately 30 designated dispersed campsites along the road, first-come first-serve.

[2]: https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd577265.pdf

Guanella Pass Road (Clear Creek County Road 381):No camping, or campfires anduse after sundown and before sunrise allowed within ¼ mile of the centerline of the GuanellaPass Scenic and Historic Byway from Georgetown to the summit of Guanella Pass. This includes portions of the Leavenworth road, NFSR 248.1 and all of the Silver Dollar Lake road, NFSR 243.3D.Parking of vehicles are allowed in posted signed pullouts and trailheads.

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