Alpine Loop National Backcountry Byway

The Alpine Loop follows jeep roads through some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in the United States, and was listed by Outside magazine as one of the 10 best rides in the country. During the summer months, you will see spectacular displays of alpine wildflowers, while September is the best time to appreciate the changing fall colors. Another attraction is the variety of historical buildings and mines left over from the mining boom of the late 1800s.

The Alpine Explorer, an excellent 24-page guide to the area is available from the BLM and the Western Colorado Interpretive Association for $4.00 (make checks payable to WCIA).

Access

The Loop can be entered from either Lake City, Silverton, or Ouray. Many side trips are available, but riders must stay on designated routes. Colorado's Columbine Byway signs clearly mark the route. Most bike riders aim for a mountain pass a day, stopping in the towns at night. Overnight camping is available along portions of the route.

Description/Distance/Elevation

  • The road surface is gravel and hardrock
  • Strong intermediate to advanced rating due to length and altitude
  • The route starts at about 9,000 ft. and crosses several passes over 12,500 ft.
  • Total length is 45-55 miles depending on where you enter the Byway
  • Plan on 3-4 days for the entire Loop

Maps

BLM 1:100,000 Surface Management Maps  Photo of mountain bikers on Alpine Loop

  • Montrose
  • Silverton

USGS Topographic Maps

  • Lake City
  • Lake San Cristobal
  • Redcloud
  • Handies Peak
  • Uncompahgre Peak
  • Howardsville
  • Silverton
  • Ironton

Created by the Bureau of Land Management, Colorado
Point of Contact:
Arden Anderson
Last modified: December 30, 2004