Published with permission from the guide book: The Local’s Adventure Guide to Singletrack & Tarmac – Mountain Bike Trails and Road Rides in the Upper Arkansas River Valley by Nathan Ward.
Buena Vista to Leadville follows US 24 straight up the north end of the Arkansas River from Buena Vista to Leadville. It’s a classic road ride that climbs gradually but steadily the whole way. Along the route, you parallel the Arkansas River past farms, through a small canyon with views of the old stage coach route, into open sagebrush prairie and finally into Leadville, the highest town in the USA. The two highest peaks in Colorado, Mt. Elbert (14,433 ft.) and Mt. Massive (14,421 ft.), stand like broad sentinels over the ride and fill the western horizon with their jagged summits. It’s a beautiful ride through wide open spaces.
Options: To make this ride into a high-altitude century, combine this with the Turquoise Lake Loop and the Mineral Belt Trail, then ride back to Buena Vista. The way back from Leadville to BV is almost all downhill, though afternoon winds can kick up and make things challenging.
Trailhead Access/Facilities: This ride requires a shuttle. Drive one car to Leadville and park near the Tabor Opera House downtown on Harrison Avenue (the main street). Drive back to Buena Vista to start the ride. The shuttle takes about 75 minutes round trip. Back in BV, park downtown. The ride starts at the corner of US 24 and CR 306/Main Street.
Location: Buena Vista
Distance: 34.1 Miles – One Way
Riding Time: 3 Hours or More
Riding Surface: Good Pavement
Aerobic Level: Intermediate/Difficult – Altitude
Elevation in Feet: Low 7,973; High 10,148; Climbs 2,707, Descends 532
Notes: Ride early in the day to avoid the afternoon winds. Be aware that Leadville is high and the weather often changes for the colder before you get to town. Toilets and basic food can be found on the way in the village of Granite, if the store is currently open.
0.0 Turn right (north) on US 24. Stay on the highway as it heads north.
16.7 The small town of Granite. This is a good turnaround point if you want a shorter ride. Just before Granite, look across the river to see the remains of the old stage coach route. Hopefully this will be turned into a bike trail some day soon.
19.2 Continue straight on US 24
29.4 The huge peaks to your left are Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive.
32.2 This is Stringtown, right before Leadville. If you’re starving, there may be a small restaurant or two open here.
34.1 The main street of Leadville at 10,148 feet! This ride ends at the Historic Tabor Opera House. It’s a great town and worth exploring.
The Colorado backcountry is popular – bikers, hikers, motorcycle riders, hunters and equestrians use the trail system in the Arkansas Valley, and everyone wants a private piece of heaven. Even if you don’t agree with everyone’s motives or methods of travel, please treat them in a courteous manner.
If you require search and rescue services, it can be costly. Buy a Colorado Outdoor Recreation Search and Rescue (CORSAR) card to protect yourself. Funds from the CORSAR program go into the Colorado Search and Rescue (SAR) Fund. If a CORSAR card holder becomes lost or injured in the backcountry, the Colorado SAR Fund pays eligible search and rescue expenses.
Bicycle riding is a physically strenuous activity with many risks and dangers. Hazards, natural or man made, whether noted in this book or not, can be encountered at any time under any situation. As a cyclist, we assume you know your personal abilities and limitations. This book represents nothing more than a guide to the trails and roads and is not meant to replace your common sense, your ability to navigate in the wilderness or in traffic, or your ability to ride a bicycle safely.
In addition, the mileages and routes listed in this text are only suggestions. There may be variances and you may get lost. We recommend everyone uses a GPS and topographical map to navigate. Most routes in this text are located on public land, but some trails pass through or adjacent to private land. Respect the land owner’s rights and obey all signs regarding trail use. The same goes for wilderness areas which prohibit mountain bike riding. Neither the author, nor the publisher, nor anyone else mentioned in this book are responsible or liable in any way for any accident, injury or any action brought against anyone traveling any route listed in this book. All cyclists and their companions assume responsibility for themselves. Ride at your own risk.
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