Yes, this is a Byways Tours blog, but I figured I’d point out the fact that I took this route by sport bike, just in case anyone out there has a sport bike, but isn’t sure they can handle a dirt road on their sport bike.
This tour begins at the tail end of my Trail Ridge Road tour on the same day. So, my riding buddies were still with me and after a yummy lunch and short walk by Grand Lake, we were off onto our next adventure.
Just when the Trail Ridge Road Byway ends, the Colorado River Headwaters Byway begins. But, just because this is where the byway begins, does not mean this is the exact start of the headwaters. The headwaters actually begin back up into Rocky Mountain National Park. The Grand Canyon Explorer website gives a little more of the river’s origin.
The ride from Grand Lake southwest to the hwy34 and hwy40 junction is quite scenic with sweeping landscapes of lakes and mountains. There are three lakes to note along this route: Grand Lake (Colorado’s largest natural lake), Shadow Mountain Reservoir (connected to Grand Lake through a channel) and Lake Granby.
After you turn west onto hwy40 and pass through Hot Sulfur Springs, you enter into Byers Canyon, which is a short canyon of about five miles of twisting road flanked by the Colorado River and railroad tracks. At the end of the canyon is a turnout where fly fishermen can test their river fishing skill along the meandering Colorado River. Just a few miles later, you enter the town of Kremmling where the route head south a mile or so until the dirt road turn-off at County Road 1. This route is very visibly marked, too. The dirt road is about 23 miles of dirt with about two miles of pavement in the middle. The dirt is of the hard-packed variety with a few spots of loose gravel in a few of the turns. It’s a wide road, albeit, steep, twisty (in some spots), scenic, and any motorcyclist can ride the posted speed of 45mph easily.
This route has a bit of Colorado History connected to it, which is evident along the dirt route (Moffat Road), as well as in the town of Sulfur Springs.
The Moffat Road sign stands in a pull-out along the paved section of the dirt road route. The sign tells of the history of the road between Denver and Salt Lake City, as well as its origins. The point where this sign sits along the road, is pretty awesome. As I rode down the short paved section, I was riding amongst tall aspen and hills all around. As I approached a curve in the road which went left around a huge rock wall, the scene opened up before me and the road just dropped away sharply downward for several hundred feet. My photos in the gallery below, don’t really do this section any justice.
Something more about the dirt section of this byway is that not only does the landscape change from alpine forests, to high mountain semi-arid desert, but the temperature change is quite drastic as well. The western section of this route is in a very warm part of Colorado and as I rode along this section, I came across a few young women walking along the roadside in their bikinis. Yes. I said bikinis. There are two riverside resorts: State Bridge and Rancho Del Rio at the west end of the byway that people frequent for not only the fresh, clear-water tubing and rafting activities, but also kayaking, surfing (yep, surfing), and of course, fishing.
The other place you can find a lot of history in is Hot Sulfur Springs. This little town is nestled along the eastern end of Byers Canyon. The town not only boasts a wonderful hot springs resort, but also has, in my humble opinion, one of the best small town museums around. This museum, the Grand County Museum, is on the eastern edge of town and you have to be careful to look out for it on the south side of the road, or you may just pass it. The museum building is flanked on both sides by history, with old pioneer period buildings to the west and two period railroad railcars to the east.
Inside the Grand County Museum, you are greeted by a museum volunteer, tall ceilings and the entrance to the museum. When you walk through the doorway, you feel like you enter the past with the creaking floors beneath you and the historic museum pieces at every turn. I would have stayed much longer, but I came five minutes before closing time. When I asked the museum volunteer if the museum had a fee, he mentioned it was a free day because of the National Get Outdoors Day. He let me continue even though it was close to closing time. So, I made quick work of my tour and chose to photograph the pieces that spoke to me.
- Edward Berthoud – Berthoud Pass is named for this Colorado pioneer
- Morris Long – who ran the German POW camp in Fraser, Colorado and was considered an honest to goodness nice man. I had to mention that because of the story I overheard the museum volunteer telling two other patrons about.
It’s always a treat to get out on a ride and tour the Colorado country side. What’s even better is touring with good friends. I’ve got quite a few great riding buddies and many of them don’t mind tagging along for the longer rides. Byways #6 and #7 had a total round-trip tally of 369 miles for me. So, this wasn’t a particularly long ride, but I enjoyed every moment, not only for the scenery and history, but for the company and laughs along the way.
Check out my blog titled, A Pictorial Byways Tour. My friend, June, took a lot of photos as she was riding, so you get to see what we saw as we rode along byway’s #6 and #7.
Check out the interactive map I created of the route we took this day. I think I found a new way to share my adventures and will create one of these for each byway I take. I’ve identified directions, hikes, photo ops, towns and places to eat.