County Roads, Take Me Home

With the early summer air breezing through the ventilation holes of my helmet, I slowly meander over the rolls and undulations of River Road. As I make my way along County Road 14 it hits me. The many paved roads we can access directly from downtown Steamboat Springs and how they all link up to make several looped routes is utterly amazing. It would be hard for me to name another town that has this many miles of scenic road riding with such ease of access.

I’ve yet to find a road around Steamboat that I dislike rolling my 700c wheels atop. But in an effort to let you in on a few extra-special routes, here are a few of my all-time favorites.

Stagecoach Reservoir
From downtown Steamboat, take 5th street to the entrance of the rodeo grounds and turn left onto River Road. Without your knowing, this turns into Routt County Road 14 and takes you several miles alongside the Yampa River. At the junction where RCR 14 turns right onto RCR 35 stay left, over the train tracks and through Sydney Peak Ranch. At the junction of 14 and Highway 131, take a right and climb the gentle hill as you head towards the turn to Stagecoach State Park. Look for signs to Stagecoach and take a left back onto RCR 14. From here it’s smooth sailing all the way up and over Yellow Jacket Pass and down the backside to the Stagecoach Reservoir. When you get to the reservoir don’t forget to stop and soak in the view. It’s beautiful. There’s also a gravel rest area on the far side of the reservoir at the junction of RCR 14 and 16. Once rested, you can either turn around and enjoy the ride in reverse. Or you can continue on to the town of Oak Creek and make a loop out of it on Highway 131. You can see the full route here.

Three Witches
Sometimes referred to as Witches with a “B” (but I’m keeping this post PG), this route is a great choice for those seeking a bit more challenge in their ride selection. The route from Steamboat will take cycling enthusiasts over 48 miles and 3,400 feet of climbing. To enjoy the fun from downtown, turn on 13th street at the Bud Werner Memorial Library and begin pedaling your way out of town. Continue on along County Road 33 (“20 Mile Road”) as you start to climb at about mile 7. Settle into your rhythm and crank out those strokes through mile 9 when you can enjoy a fast downhill section through open ranch land and past many cattle ranches. The next climb on the route ends with a sweet decent down what’s referred to as the “corkscrew.” As the name dictates, this winding section of road will keep you on edge for a short while but leads you to the next 7 miles of relatively flat and scenic riding. When you see the 20 Mile Coal Mine in front of you (approximately mile 19) you’ll take a left onto County Road 27. This is where the climbing fun really begins. Up and over not one, not two, but three challenging climbs will eventually land you in the heart of downtown Oak Creek. Congratulations at this point, you’ve earned a bit of a rest. Stop into Kate’s Café for some coffee or Lupita’s Taco Shack on the main drag. From Oak Creek, the easiest way back to Steamboat is by following Highway 131 for about 20 miles. But for a complete route map, click here.

Head North
The last classic ride I’ll feature here is a longish ride up to Steamboat Lake and back. This 60 mile out-n-back takes cyclists on a steady climb past the dirt trails of Mad Creek & Red Dirt and alongside the mighty Elk River. From downtown Steamboat, simply take Highway 40 west for just about a mile and turn right onto Elk River Road (County Road 129). From here, just settle in and let your mind come to ease. The first scenic item to note is a ride past the Bob Adams regional airport. This is where you are likely to see vintage bi-wing planes and small, private turbo-props coming in for a landing. After cruising past some rural neighborhoods you’ll quickly find yourself surrounded by open space and jaw-dropping views of Sleeping Giant, Sand Mountain and Hahn’s Peak. About 20 miles up you’ll come to the Clark Store, a friendly general store that carries everything from freshly made sandwiches to snacks, beer and best of all, beef jerky! Say hi to Chris at the register. He seems to always be working and can make small talk with the best of them. Continue on and up towards Hahn’s Peak village and you’ll see the historic Hahn’s Peak Café on your right. If you’re hungry for a meal at this point, stop in for the best Philly Cheesesteak this side of the mighty Mississippi. On your left you’ll see Steamboat Lake and are encouraged to ride just a bit further to the marina. A public beach here is the perfect spot to dip your feet into fresh alpine water and cool off before the journey home. For all the details on this one, check out the route map on Ride with GPS.

So there you have it, some classic county road biking rides to explore on your next trip to Steamboat Bike Town USA. Shoot us your feedback and let us know your favorites. We’d love to swap stories or compare ride notes.

By |2018-06-15T22:53:28+00:00June 15th, 2018|Road Biking|