Cycling Independence Pass and the Million Dollar Highway

Independence Pass

Aspen, CO to Twin Lakes, CO – 33.8 miles 4,202 ft elevation

Picking up from our adventure after summiting the highest point in Texas we headed north. The heat of the day struck as we made the long drive to Colorado where we planned for 3 days of acclimation at Sam and Kim’s new place (more on that in a future post) before attempting to cycle at high altitude.

When planning the trip the original highlights were Pikes Peak or Mt. Evans for some 14’er cycling, but due to a late season snowfall before Memorial Day weekend both of these rides had to be delayed for the future.  No worries as there is plenty of other cycling in Colorado. In fact, the queen stage from the USA Pro Challenge and often referred to as the closest cycling mountain pass the USA has in comparison to the Tour de France is Independence Pass.

Logistics – We opted to camp just outside of Aspen at either Maroon Bells campground or Government Campground and cycle from West to East as I had read this was the steeper route.  Ultimately I opted for Government Camp campground due to finding the campsites at Maroon Bells to be a little over crowded and on top of each other. The other issue is it required riding through town before the start of the climb. Government camp, on the other hand, is less populated and literally starts at the bottom of the climb.

Just watch for bears 🙂

1 - Independence Pass Ride Profile

The Million Dollar Highway

Silverton, CO to Ouray, CO – 23.8 miles 2,128 ft elevation

Before visiting the Ouray area I had long heard of it’s beauty, but it wasn’t until I was on a Bike Forum did someone mention it is also the location of the Million Dollar Highway. Legend has it that for the stretch in the gorge it cost a million dollars a mile to build it back in the 1920s.  I can confirm the highway lived up to it’s name when I found myself alone on a beautiful stretch and unexpectedly let out a hoot and holler as I grinned from ear to ear in delight of cycling in the mountains.

Logistics – Driving from Durango to Silverton I left my car at the visitor center parking lot as you arrive into town. The lady behind the desk assured me it was no problem parked away from the main entrance. I unloaded the bike and made the ride over Red Mountain pass to Ouray.  You can cycle right back for a round trip, but I was fortunate to meet up with EmSue, Kim, and Sam for lunch at the Ouray Brewery, followed by some sightseeing.

14 - Million Dollar Highway Ride Profile


1 - Maroon Bells
Maroon Bells just outside of Aspen, CO
2 - Government Camp
More glamping at Government Camp campsite

3 - Leaving Aspen

4 - Pointing at Independence Pass

5 - Independence Pass Elevatino Gain
Mind the Gap – in elevation change
6 - Indepence Pass Summit
Thankfully they were able to clear the pass just days before the Memorial weekend seasonal opening of the road
7 - Independence Pass
Sporting the Steiner Ranch Cycling gear at the top of Independence Pass (it was too cold for the bib shorts 🙂 )

8 - Independence Pass Backcountry

9 - Independence Downhill to Twin Lakes

10 - Independence Downhill to Twin Lakes
EmSue caught up to me on the ride down the pass to Twin Lakes

11 - Independence Downhill to Twin Lakes

12 - Independence Downhill to Twin Lakes
Check another one off the bucket list!

13 - Twin Lakes

14 -Red Mountain Pass
Cycling the Million Dollar Highway from Silverton to Ouray you leave San Juan county as you climb over the Red Mountain pass and enter into Ouray county

15 - Million Dollar Highway

16 - Cycling the Million Dollar Highway

17 - Million Dollar Highway

19 - Dirty Bike Tow Behind
One downside of hauling your bike behind your car on dirt roads from Texas to Colorado; luckily my 2005 carbon road bike has a lot of miles already on it (note the XT rear derailleur; worried about the big climbs I temporarily swapped out the rear cassette to a 11-34 which required borrowing the derailleur from my touring bike)

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