Friday, July 28, 2017


A number of people have asked me about cycling to the top of Vail Pass. Most of the questions have come from people living at sea level and want to know how hard it is. There are plenty of more difficult climbs in the U.S. but very few are as amazingly scenic or this high in altitude. I love this climb and would love to share a few tips for you to enjoy it. If you are coming from sea level it is important to give yourself a few days to acclimate to Vail's 8,022' altitude. Don't forget to drink plenty of water as this will help you adjust. If you don't have your own bike there are a number of good rental shops that can outfit you with a good rental.

 The route I'll take you on was used for the famous U.S. Pro Cycling Challenge Time Trial. Many famous pro cyclists like Tejay van Garderen, Jens Voight, and Andy Schleck, pictured here, have ridden this route. You can still see the names of racers painted on the road.

I started my ride in Vail Village and rode East up the road toward the pass. Don't forget to bring two water bottles and a few gels and energy bars. It may seem warm in the village but it can be chilly or rainy when you summit at 10,662'. A wind jacket or a vest is definitely recommended. The ride is up and down and begins to be hilly as you ride the 6+ miles to the Gore Lake Trailhead.

 At the Gore Lake Trailhead, the fun begins. There is a steep 12% ramp as you swing around the car barrier. From here on it is a grinder,... all up. Yes, your lungs will feel it but look around and savor this fabulous ride. You'll pass colorful clumps of lupines, Fireweed, Paintbrush, and lots of Penstemon. This is why you came here! 

  It is another 3 miles to the narrow recreational trail on your right. This is what you'll take to the summit for 6 more miles. Many cyclists like to stop here to have a gel or a bar before heading up.

 You'll ride downhill a short bit so watch your speed near the bridge.

As you go through the tunnel under I70 you will make a quick left and start a short but tough bit of 12+% climbing. It's a steep ramp but you can do it! Go slow in your easiest gear and power through it! Around the bend at the top, you'll have a few small flats to catch your breath. 

Close to 12% in this section.

It is a climb but so beautiful! Black Gore Creek is to your right.

This is a steep but short ramp. It really isn't too bad and guess what, are almost to the summit!

You just finished a 15 uphill mile ride from the Village to the summit of the 10,662' Vail Pass! You'll see vans full of people at the top getting on the bikes to ONLY ride downhill. That is fine for some but you aren't one of those people. You can also ride up to Vail Pass heading West from Frisco and Copper Mountain and it is easier than the route I took you on!

The ride back down to Vail is a fast descent and tricky at times so watch your speed!

I love this bridge on the recreational trail.

This is the view looking West down Vail Valley.

The Gore Valley Trail back to the Village is very pretty.

You will ride past many gorgeous homes Vail is famous for like this one with the grass roof.

This is the famous Vail Golf Course.

I know not all of you may be cyclists and interested in doing the pass. That's OK. You may love hiking just as much! My daughter Stacy and her husband speed hike "Strawberry Lane and Berrypicker every day while in Vail. They LOVE Vail!

The mountain vistas and wildflowers are something to behold while hiking throughout Vail.

I hope you enjoyed my Vail cycling and hiking post. If you have any questions or need travel advice email me at:

1 comment :

  1. Dick, great blog! Reading this makes me eager to bike the climb with Sarah. Hope to ride a Hill or two with you soon, maybe Croatia 2018?