GDMBR Detours: Lake City Linkup

Cebolla Road between Lake City and Marshall Pass

With another run of the Tour Divide this year, I’m reminded again of this awesome cross-country route and the many great memories I have on it.

The last time I was riding on the GDMBR was on my Tour of the Highest Hundred, where I rode up Marshall Pass after riding the 100 miles from Lake City to summit my first Sawatch of the trip: Mount Ouray.

The route itself was excellent, and provided a relatively quiet and mostly dirt route linking two disparate mountain ranges. The GDMBR barely gets into the San Juans, which is a real shame, as the San Juans are truly one of the crown jewels of Colorado. I’ll explain the route from Salida to Lake City, as this is where you’ll get on it via the GDMBR, then detour off towards Lake City. Once at Lake City, you’ll have to make a choice of where to go, as detouring back to the GDMBR is a trip in of itself and is also, sadly, all on pavement.

Here we go:

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Making the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route Even Greater: The Peaks Trail in Summit County, South Park alt. Out of Hartsel

Taking refuge in a kid's play house in Hartsel on a particularly snowy day

The GDMBR in yellow; alternative in red

Time again to revisit the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route! As the Tour Divide race rolls along and the top riders are flying through Colorado, I’m once again reminded on how much fun this route is, and also some great alternative lines to the official route. My last foray into this topic lead to a major reroute up and over Rollins Pass to the east side of the Divide, then back to the west side on Argentine Pass. That alt. adds major miles, and a whole lot of adventure – it’s pretty audacious!

This time, we’ll keep things a little more straightforward and direct: we’ll get rid of the bike path riding out of Frisco Colorado into Summit County, and do a slightly different line through half of South Park. Let’s check things out!

We’re going to start at the intersection of Highway 9 and East Main Street in Frisco, CO. From here, the official route basically follows the bike path out of Frisco, and into Breckenridge. But, there’s a fairly fun single track trail that also gets you to Breckenridge!

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Making the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route Even Greater: Rollins Pass/Argentine Pass


The GDMBR in yellow; alternative in red

The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route is without a doubt one of the preeminent off road touring routes in the US/Canada. Now that I’ve ridden the route essentially twice and have done some extensive touring within Colorado, I can’t help but think how one could enhance it.

Personally, I enjoyed my time more when the route stuck close to the actual Continental Divide, rather than opting to drop down into a relatively easy going valley or basin to gain some mileage towards the end goal (finishing!). I always greatly anticipated gaining the summit of the passes, then rocketing down. Knowing Colorado a little more intimately now, it’s a shame how much of Colorado is missed with the relatively easy path the GDMBR takes.

The GDMBR has many goals, and one of the most important one is to get a heavily laden bicycle and rider (cyclists on a mountain bike, pulling a trailer) eventually to the end of the route. If the route is too long, too hard, and/or with too many Divide crossings, it’s just never going to realistically happen for a good majority of people. If we throw these constraints out of the window, and focus on the goal of staying as close to the Divide as possible, while also keeping the route terrain somewhat similar: gravel roads to 4×4 trails, we start drawing out something a little different.

Below, I’ll be describing a route that takes you off the official GDMBR just before Ute Pass, and rather takes you up and over the Continental Divide at Rollins Pass, parallels the James Peak Wilderness as you travel south to Idaho Springs, then brings you back west to go up and over the Continental Divide again at Argentine Pass, finally depositing you once again onto the official GDMBR in summit county. It circuitous and it’s a whole lot of fun .

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