Welcome to ThinkVail! We hope you find this article about scenic motorcycle rides in Colorado helpful.
Motorcycling in Colorado is a demanding, but amazing adventure. Most every road in the area boasts steep grades and tight curves and many require skill and attention at all times.
Throw into the mix, jaw-dropping scenery, huge elevation gains, tons of wildlife and unpredictable weather conditions (including snow in July) and you’ll see why there is never a dull moment driving in the high country.
Here are 7 incredible motorcycle rides near Vail, Colorado that offer big open skies, stunning views and soaring mountains for a motorcycle-touring adventure you will never forget.
If you need detailed maps for these unique adventures, scroll to the bottom and check out the Butler motorcycle route maps for Colorado and the Rocky Mountain region.
Scenic Motorcycle Rides in Colorado
Top of the Rockies Scenic & Historic Byway (CO-24)
This spectacular routes goes from Minturn, CO to Leadville CO. Leadville, is the highest incorporated city in the United States, and sits at the dizzying elevation of 10,200 feet. Flanking this quaint, historic mining town are the two tallest peaks in Colorado, Mount Massive (14,421 feet) and Mount Elbert (14,440 feet).
This ride is 75 miles (one way) and takes about 2 hours, crosses the Continental Divide twice and follows the Arkansas River almost to its headwaters.
For added interest, you will pass Redcliff, Minturn, Camp Hale, Twin Lakes and views of Mount Massive along the way.
This route is open year-round but because of the high altitude and tendency for this ride to be cold, snowy or wet most of the year, make sure you dress warmly or have a thermosuit for this ride unless it’s high summer.
Top of the Rockies, which is also known as the 10th Mountain Division Memorial Highway, is a designated National Scenic Byway and is one of eleven America’s Byways® designated in Colorado. This is a stunning route that should not be missed.
Independence Pass (CO-82)
This seasonal route from Aspen, CO to Twin Lakes, CO (near Leadville, CO) is only available from Memorial Day to Labor Day, the high altitude lends itself to early winter road conditions and makes this ride impossible for much of the year
At its peak, at the top of Independence Pass you will enjoy views that only the Continental Divide and an elevation of 12,095 feet can offer. They are spectacular and you may find it difficult to keep your eyes on the road. Aspen Stands and old growth forest mix with huge, wide open alpine meadows and jagged mountain peaks. Big, blue, wide open skies frame your view.
You will pass the ski towns of Aspen and Snowmass,Glenwood Springs and Basalt and majestic views of Mount Sopris.
This ride is about 80 miles one way and takes about 2 hours because it is narrow, twisty and only one lane in many places, so take care while riding this route.
Mount Evans Scenic & Historic Byway (CO-5)
Come travel the highest paved road in North America, the Mount Evans Scenic & Historic Byway climbs more than 7,000 feet in just 28 miles, summiting at 14,130 feet in elevation.
This incredible motorcycle adventure starts in Idaho Springs, CO.
Enjoy majestic pine tree stands until you reach timberline, and then enjoy the experience of riding on an exposed mountainside, with magnificent mountain views surrounding you.
Share the road with mountain goats, bighorn sheep and red-tail hawks or stop and take a selfie while enjoying the “forever” views.
But keep your eyes on the road, it can serpentine widely here and the guardrails disappears near the top. Traversing the switchbacks safely will demand your attention.
Portions of this trail are closed in the winter, so explore this one during the summer and early fall. This route is 49 miles but plan on allowing 2 hours to complete it.
Glenwood Canyon (I-70)
This is a BEAUTIFUL canyon, and Interstate 70 slices right through it.
This was one of the last stretches to be completed on the original interstate system, and it’s easy to see why, with its towering, rocky cliff walls that climb as high as 1,300 feet above the Colorado River and span for miles, it was no easy feat building an interstate highway through this particular real estate.
This innovative highway was devised to minimize environmental impact to the canyon while enabling to transport thousands of motorists daily. Not coincidentally, this was one of the most expensive stretches of road in the entire interstate system.
So dial some tunes into your bluetooth headset, settle into the saddle and enjoy how this incredible section of road gracefully combines, stunning, rugged beauty with modern, technological know-how.
Glenwood Canyon is a quick ride, only about 12.5 miles long but it follows the Colorado River and comes out at Glenwood Springs, CO.
Enjoy the “World’s Largest Outdoor Hot Springs Pool” and the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park in Glenwood Springs.
Wolcott to Steamboat Springs (CO 131)
The Wolcott to Steamboat Springs motorcycle route travels through beautiful lush, green scenery as well as dry, stunning, high desert terrain. It boasts a combination of views, good road surface and an interesting mix of curves and grade.
CO-131 begins in Wolcott, CO and travels north through a variety of small towns including McCoy, Oak Creek, Yampa and Toponas and ending at U.S. 40 just south of Steamboat Springs
Riders will climb alongside Alkali Creek, Horse Mountain Ranch, State Bridge, and the Colorado river.
This ride is almost 70 miles long and is the most direct route from I-70 to Steamboat Springs.
At State Bridge, northbound CO-131 intersects with Trough Road, which follows the Colorado River east toward Kremmling, CO.
This ride is remote and there are not many services along the way, however, some snacks & gas can be found at Oak Creek.
State Road (CO133)
This unforgettable motorcycle ride starts south of Carbondale, CO (20 miles from Aspen, CO) and winds past the spectacular Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Area and over McClure Pass, topping out at an elevation of 8,755 feet.
After is crosses McClure Pass, the road drops down to Paonia and Hotchkiss, CO in the Grand Valley.
Travel back in time while discovering historic, old coking ovens, the stately Redstone Castle, and the charming, eclectic town of Marble, named for the local material and quarry that has built numerous world-famous monuments, including the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Lincoln Washington Monument.
There is one motorcycle-accessible campground on this route, Redstone Campground, just north of the town of Redstone.
Colorado Backcountry Discovery Route (COBDR)
“The Best Ride in the Country”
The Colorado Backcountry Discovery Route is a “Must-Do”, multi-day off-road adventure that winds through the dramatic and varied landscapes of Colorado. The route spans the entire state and begins at Four Corners National Monument in southern Colorado and finishes 675 miles away at the Wyoming border.
This is a demanding and adventurous route that utilizes a variety of unpaved roads with rocks, mud, sand and water crossing to make it fun and challenging for those with the skills and determination to make it through. It is recommended for intermediate to advanced riders and can be ridden on most street legal dual-sport and adventure motorcycles.
Colorado boasts some of the tallest mountains that can be navigated by motorcycle in the US and several mountain passes over 12,000 feet, including Ophir, Corkscrew, Hurricane, California, Cinnamon, Cumberland, Cottonwood, Weston and Hagerman pass are tackled on this trip. These peaks offer stunning views of the surrounding areas from up upon high- so enjoy!
You will ride through many iconic Colorado towns including Telluride, Steamboat Springs, Buena Vista, Cortez, and Ouray.
You will pass the San Juan Mountains, cross the Continental Divide and view the Colorado River.
This ride takes approximately 5 days and travels almost 700 miles.
This seasonal route is best attempted July through September.
Motorcycle Route Maps
This Colorado edition highlights the best paved motorcycle routes in the state. Including 25 rides that stand out in a category all their own, or as Butler Maps describes it, the Gold Standard Rides (G1)
- G1 Colorado rides are characterized as dramatic, combining extremes such as rapid elevation change, thrilling road action and a close proximity to cliffs and canyons.
- These Colorado routes include an element of danger that demands attention and skill.
- Map includes GPS coordinates and elevation lines
- Detailed elevation profiles, milepost locations, specific ride characteristics and motorcycle shop directory.
- Waterproof, tear resistant construction
- Size 4-1/4″ x 9″ folded
The perfect map for a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. Venture off the beaten path with the Colorado Backcountry Discovery Routes (COBDR) Collection.
- A collection built for large adventure bikes that highlights an epic ride across the entire state of Colorado using public dirt roads.
- The BDR is a community-based effort dedicated to establishing and preserving off-highway routes for adventure motorcycles and dual-sport travel.
- Waterproof, tear-resistant construction
- QR Codes to pull up-to-date information
- Seasonal weather and elevation profiles.
- Dual-sport trails included.
- GPS waypoints.
- Size 4-1/4″ x 9″ folded
Butler Maps’ inclusive collection of all the BEST motorcycle rides in the Rockies. If you’re thinking of riding in the peaks of Colorado and surrounding states, you need these maps.
- Includes the best rides in Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.
- Waterproof, tear resistant construction
- Includes QR codes to pull up-to-date information
- Dual-sport roads included
- Seasonal weather profiles so you know what’s open and what’s not before you get there.
- Also includes a free Rocky Mountain Regional Planning Map and canvas Wolfman Map Case.
- Every great motorcycle road in the Rockies in one collection at your fingertips.
- Size 4-1/4″ x 9″ folded
Butler Motorcycle Maps
Planning a motorcycle trip in Colorado can be hard work. Butler maps makes it so much easier, it highlights the best paved roads in the country so you don’t have guess which roads are the good ones.
They personally ride and rates every paved road featured on their maps, hundreds of thousands of miles, in fact, so you will know the most exciting and dramatic stretches.
The map also includes written descriptions, elevation profiles, points of interest, photos, and a bunch of useful information to help plan your journey.
We hoped you found this article about scenic motorcycle rides in Colorado (near Vail) helpful. What is your favorite motorcycle route in Colorado and why? Who do you ride with and what do you take with you to make your ride a success? We would love to hear your comments, thoughts and favorite motorcycle stories. Thanks for reading.
See Also: Best Sunscreen for High Altitudes