Colorado National Monument’s classic 33-mile loop will challenge your lungs and legs—but with a modest (by Colorado standards) total vertical gain of 2,300 feet and topping out at just 6,640 feet, it won’t totally wreck you. That means you can better enjoy the views. Traffic along Rim Rock Drive is typically light and people drive slowly and are respectful of cyclists, but still be aware, especially as you cruise through the dark tunnels near both entrances. Depending on how fast you ride and how much exploring you do via side hikes, allow three to five hours.
1. Park and Ride
Drive 3 miles south of Fruita on Highway 340 and park just outside the West Entrance (one option is the nearby Dinosaur Trailhead). Gear up and begin pedaling along the nicely paved Rim Rock Drive toward the entrance (the fee is just $5 for cyclists). Now, embrace your granny gear as you work up Fruita Canyon.
2. Balanced Rock View
Catch your breath here and take in the dramatic landscape that stretches out before you. You’ve only just begun, but already you can see why this ride got the name “Tour of the Moon” by riders who traversed its rippling and alien landscape in the famous 1980s Coors Classic races.
3. Visitor’s Center
Cruise through two tunnels, and then climb a few fun hairpin turns. Continue climbing steeply to reach the Visitor’s Center, which is worth a stop if you want to top off water bottles, use the restroom and check out its updated and informative interpretive displays. You can also make a detour to check out the Book Cliffs.
4. Coke Ovens Overlook
From the Visitor’s Center, continue cruising along Rim Rock Drive, which turns into a bit of a roller coaster with ups and downs that make this ride an exhilarating blast. The monument’s splendor begins to really shine through: You are rewarded with endless dramatic views of red rock plateaus, steep canyons and stone pillars. Pinyon pines and junipers dapple the fiery landscape with bits of green. Overlooks abound on this route so take your time and pause anytime you want to snap a pic or just soak in the solitude. Grand View is appropriately named, featuring views north and east into Monument Canyon and toward the Bookcliffs across the valley. The Coke Ovens Overlook serves up a great view of the Ovens.
5. High Point
Continue cruising through this high-desert wonderland and keep your eyes peeled for bighorn sheep, coyotes, lizards and golden eagles. Shortly after the Ute Canyon Trailhead, you’ll reach the highest point on Rim Rock Drive at 6,640 feet. You can now enjoy the mostly downhill ride. But, don’t get too comfy, after Cold Shivers Point, the switchbacks are steep and there is still one tunnel.
6. Monument East Entrance/Exit
Here you leave the monument and wind your way down local roads to complete the loop. Devils Kitchen Picnic Area just inside the monument is a good spot to hit the restrooms.
7. Head Back
Shortly after leaving the monument, make a left turn on South Camp Road. Follow South Camp for a while, then South Broadway and then Broadway. These back roads can get confusing so you might want to write down exact directions or map it out on your phone beforehand.
8. Home Stretch
Intersect with Broadway/Highway 340. Follow it for a short stretch back to your car.
Pearl Izumi Elite RD IV
Our favorite road shoe offers up a fully bonded upper that conforms to your unique foot shape to help eliminate hot spots and improve your cycling efficiency. A Boa closure dials in your ideal fit (even mid-ride). Mesh vents let air in, but keep moisture out. It even comes with a replaceable heel bumper.
Pearl Izumi W’s Symphony Shrug
This original design revolutionalized the way we dress for rides. Pull it over a tank, and the sporty shrug provides added warmth for cool mornings or steep descents in a tiny, lightweight package that you can toss in a pack, cram into a pocket or tie around your waist.