One of the best parts of riding is the places that you would otherwise never see or experience but for your attachment to a two wheeled tour guide. The St. Vrain Canyon area, northwest of Boulder, CO, is one of those places I would never have thought to check out had it not been for my bike and a few insistent riding partners. There is seldom reason in Boulder, after a night binge drinking, to spend the next day spinning up a sun baked canyon with little in the way of food or water stops. Thank God for friends.
St. Vrain Canyon is located outside of the town of Lyons, CO and winds up to the Peak to Peak Highway that runs through the mountains south of Boulder to Rocky Mountain National Park. Appropriately, St. Vrain does a wonderful job of working your legs while climbing up to the highway, traversing some gorgeous terrain on its way. The canyon is long and narrow, with large rock outcroppings and sheer walls that gradually turn into large, tree filled meadows abutting the mountains of the Front Range. At the beginning of the canyon we usually take a couple of the side streets that parallel the main road; avoiding a bit of the traffic.
The St. Vrain ride is one in which you will find yourself gawking at the scenery, trying not to swerve off the road. While there is a lot of climbing involved, this ride is great as a longer, base building ride. The canyon’s climb is gradual, similar in grade to Jamestown and Ward, but more difficult simply because of its overall length. Once on to the Peak to Peak Highway, the road becomes more rolling, with a lot of fun descents. From Ward on, the ride is downhill until the last climb over Lee Hill on the edge of Boulder.
You should alott a decent amount of your day for this ride, as it is long and you’ll want to stop once or twice to eat and restock water bottles. There are numerous stopping points along the ride, including a little convenience store in Raymond, and the general store in Ward. Generally, there is a fair amount of traffic on Peak to Peak, but there are usually a lot of riders so people are aware of the spandex set.
Distance: 67 miles round trip.
Directions: From downtown Boulder, take 9th Street north to Pine Street and take a right. Head east and take a left on 20th Street, which will wind up a hill to a stop sign and turn into 19th Street. Take 19th Street north for 2.25 miles until it dead-ends into Yartmouth Ave., and take a left until Yartmouth intersects with Broadway. Take a right on Broadway which will bring you to Highway 36/N. Foothills Hwy, where you will bear left and take 36 North towards Lyons (busy road, but lots of shoulder room). 36 will intersect with 66/Ute Hwy, where you will take a left into the town of Lyons. Continue on 66 until it intersects with Hwy 7/S. St. Vrain Drive, where you will take a left. Hwy 7 is the road that runs through St. Vrain Canyon, which you can stay on for most of the ride. Typically, we take the side roads that parallel Hwy 7, the first of which is Old St. Vrain Road/Boulder County 84, which is accessed by taking a left, about a 1/4 of a mile after turning onto Hwy 7.
Old St. Vrain/Boulder County 84 will run back into Hwy 7. Take a left and churn for about 9.25 miles before taking a left onto Riverside Drive. This road will take you all the way into the town of Raymond, where you can refill water and buy food. Continuing past the convenience store, the road will eventually intersect with the Peak to Peak Highway, where you want to take a left (south). Continue on Peak to Peak all the way to the town of Ward (about mile 41.60. where you will take a left on to Nelson/Utica St./Indiana Gulch Road, which winds through Ward and on to Lefthand Canyon Drive, where you will bear left and head East, back towards Boulder.
At Lee Hill Drive take a right on to Lee Hill Drive (about mile 52.25), which you will take into Old Stage Road. Take a right on to Old Stage and which will bring you out to Broadway, where you take a right, and then your first left on to Yartmouth, returning back to downtown Boulder the way you came.