Scenic Motorcycle Rides in Colorado near Vail, CO


Welcome to ThinkVail! We hope you find this article about scenic motorcycle rides near Vail, Colorado helpful.  Motorcycling in Colorado is a demanding, but amazing adventure you won’t want to miss out on. Most every road in Colorado 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.



See Also: The Best Adventure Touring Motorcycle Accessories

Scenic Motorcycle Rides in Colorado

#1 Scenic Colorado Motorcycle Rides – 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.  

Map of the Top of The Rockies Scenic & Historic Byway



#2 Scenic Colorado Motorcycle Rides-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.

Map of Independence Pass



#3 Scenic Colorado Motorcycle Rides-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.

Map of the Mount Evans Scenic Byway



#4 Scenic Colorado Motorcycle Rides – 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.


Map of Glenwood Canyon Route



#5 Scenic Colorado Motorcycle Rides -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.

Map of Wolcott to Steamboat Springs Route



#6 Scenic Colorado Motorcycle Rides-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.

Map of State Road Route



#7 Scenic Colorado Motorcycle Rides-Colorado-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.

Map of COBCDR  Route



Motorcycle Route Maps

G1 Colorado Motorcycle Map

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



Colorado Backcountry Discovery Ride Map

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


Rocky Mountain Map Collection

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.


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View Comments

  • Hello and thank you for this great post about bike rides in Colorado.  I will be visiting your area for two weeks this fall on my way to Arizona.  I am taking my RV and plan to spend a couple of weeks in Colorado relaxing, riding and hiking.  I hoping to be there right around the time the leaves change, in the autumn, I love Colorado at that time of year.  Thanks for these ideas, I will see where I land and decide which rides to take but this article has given me lots of ideas.

    • Hi Henderson, thank you for your kind comments.  So happy you will be in the area soon, and yes, it is gorgeous in Colorado in the autumn, enjoy!  If you are here, in the area, with your RV you may be interested in reading the post The Best RV Parks in Vail, Colorado to help you plan your trip as many parks require reservations or close as winter approaches.  Also, keep in mind that although it is beautiful that time of year, the weather can change on a dime so be prepared and have lots of warm and waterproof clothing just in case. Have fun while you are visiting the Centennial State.

  • Informative info on scenic motorcycle rides in Colorado.  I live in Wyoming and do most of my riding there although I do, on occasion, make trips down to Colorado to explore. Although many of these routes you wrote about do seem pretty cool, I am really excited about the Rocky Mountain Map Collection for Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Idaho and Montana.  This is all my area and I would love to have a little guide for great rides so I can plan trips easier.  This is fantastic, thanks so much. 

  • Great article about scenic motorcycle rides in Colorado.  I live in Denver and am always looking for great rides for me and my boyfriend. We have ridden a couple of these routes and can attest that the Mount Evans scenic byway ride is really cool and so beautiful.  Just make sure you go on a day that is nice, it can get a little scary when it starts raining (or snowing) up at the top of the mountain. It is an amazing ride.  Another favorite is through Glenwood Canyon, those cliffs are just breathtaking and then you can go soak in the world's largest natural hot spring! But new to  me is the the State Road CO133 ride.  We have been wanting to go to Aspen for some time and I think this ride could dovetail with that adventure perfectly since this ride winds pass the Maroon Bells and Carbondale.  I think it could be a spectacular weekend ride this fall.  Thanks for sharing these really cool motorcycle roads.

    • Hi Mariam so glad that you found this post about scenic motorcycle rides in Colorado interesting.  Yes, with Denver as your jumping off point you have lots of options for amazing motorcycle rides. Since you and your boyfriend do a lot of riding together ou may be interested in a bluetooth headset, this amazing piece of technology lets the two of you communicate easily from bike to bike, or lets you listen to music or even answer a cell phone. It is a real game changer and will give you added confidence when you are riding challenging routes. Also you may want to look into the Butler Colorado Map Collection which maps and describes all the best paved motorcycle routes in Colorado. Thanks so much for reading and for sharing your thoughts.

  • Awesome post about some really cool, scenic motorcycle rides in Colorado. I have been riding motorcycles for 35 years.  I have owned 16 motorcycles.  I love touring and have always wanted to do the Colorado Backcountry Discovery Route (COBRA). For my 50th birthday me and 4 friends are going to do this incredible ride, and I can't wait.  We have already begun planning the trip, but the Butler COBRA maps seem like such a great find, they are exactly what we have been looking for, because since we are from out of town we need directions as well as insider information on where to go for gas, food, mechanic shops and points of interests.  We have just ordered these maps and can't wait for them to come in.  We are still planning and need some more gear for a trip of this calibre but your website has certainly helped get us pumped.  Thanks again.

    • Hi Aaron, I am so happy you found this article about scenic motorcycle rides in Colorado helpful.  What a great 50th birthday idea.  "An epic ride for an epic event." You may want to also read the post Best Adventure Touring Motorcycle Accessories to pick up some additional essentials that you will need for a serious ride like the Colorado Backcountry Discovery Route.  COBRA stretches from the southern border of Colorado all the way to the Wyoming state line-it is an incredible journey, have fun!


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