“14.5 miles that will take you through Grand Mesa's incredible south face in as little as 30 minutes.”
— Zack Loucks
Only open once the snow melts, typically June, sometimes as early as April. Probably wouldn't want to be there during hunting season (Oct. - Nov.).
This is a must-ride if you are visiting, new to the area, or simply haven't done it yet. Average speeds of 30+mph! Up close views of alpine lakes and wildlife. Distant views of the West Elks, San Juans, and Uncompahgre Plateau. A crazy descent through alpine forest with possibility of seeing mule deer, elk, black bear, moose, porcupine, and other wildlife. The run ends on a stretch of 2015's Ride the Rockies day 2 route.
Ideal run for a group of riders or at least a pair that can shuttle 2 vehicles. This ride links public roads with trails and even a short stretch of highway, so you'll have to be mindful of cars at times.
Need to Know
If you ride this in October or November, an orange vest would be a good idea. Grand Mesa is a huge hunting attraction in the fall.
There are lots of variations to this ride, but I've mapped it to be most convenient to visitors with easy-to-find parking. Park vehicle 1 at Aspen Trails Campground on the west side of hwy 65. (The END marker on the map). They have a large parking lot and you'll want to grab a bite here after the ride anyway.
Take vehicle 2 up hwy 65 to the Grand Mesa Visitor's Center (marked START on the map). Another large parking lot, with great fishing right there, and the Visitor's Center has info, maps, etc inside.
Dig out the two-wheelers and ride up the paved road from the Visitor's Center. The USFS map marks this road as "121". Follow 121 past Alexander Lake Lodge, Alexander Lake, and then Baron Lake. The pavement ends between Alexander and Baron Lake. At the end of Baron Lake, there is a stop sign. Go right on 123, aka "Old Grand Mesa Road". This is where the speed begins and it's all downhill from here. Your brakes will work much harder than your chain from now on.
Old Grand Mesa Road is a well-maintained dirt road but gets enough traffic that can be washboarded. Watch for vehicles coming up, but most likely you'll be moving faster than any vehicles coming down and won't have to worry about what's behind you. This road is loose gravel with a good number of switchbacks, so don't ride faster than you are comfortable with. The true fun part is yet to come and you'll want to enjoy that.
The road eventually ends at a stop sign at hwy 65. This next part is when it gets giggly-fun. From the stop sign at hwy 65, look for a 2-track across the highway and about 50 yards to your right. That is where you're headed. This is 2225 Rd, an old Jeep Road, but it is very rare to see any vehicles on this stretch. Honestly, you're more likely to bump into wildlife. On the way down, you'll find lots of rocks ideally placed for launching off of, you'll pass through alpine forest, aspen groves, and ride a rim section with incredible views of the valley.
This ride often gets overlooked by mountain bikers because it's on a dirt road and 2-track, not the singletrack that is on everybody's radar. However, it has become affectionately known as "social singletrack" because the 2-track section is an absolute blast to ride/race with a buddy next to you. This is a rocky but fast trail. I guarantee you'll want to do this lower section again.
There are a couple roads that branch off of 2225 near the end, just remember to stay left and you'll remain on 2225 until it ends at hwy 65 again. The rest is just bombing down hwy 65 back to your Vehicle 1 at Aspen Trails Campground. This is a fun time to tuck and hold on for a couple miles. Yes, you're on a highway, but it's a scenic bypass and traffic is rarely anything to worry about. Additionally, you can say you rode part of the 2015 Ride The Rockies route.
When you arrive at Aspen Trails, you owe it to yourself to drop in for a meal or at least a treat. The owners, Bill and Kim, are two of the nicest people you'll ever meet, and man can they make a burger! Chill out on the deck, order a Burly Burger or a Veggie Sandwich (both are amazing) and a Mocha Whip. (Chocolate malt shake with cappuccino) Tell them Zack Loucks sent you (rhymes with Ouch). It probably won't get you a discount, but it will get a smile. Enjoy the hummingbirds while you wait and entertain the idea of doing it all over again.