Taste-test the Rockies on a Vail Pass bike shuttle with friends, family and kids
Special to the Daily
With minimal uphill pedaling required and some of the best views in Summit County, it’s no wonder that coasting down Vail Pass on a bicycle is one of summer’s great activities.
The conveniences associated with this high-alpine ride makes it easy for the entire family, with some children as young as 2 years old in tow with their parents for the adventure, said Brent Ford, general manager at Pioneer Sports in Frisco.
“It’s really an activity that everyone can do,” he said. “You’re pretty much just cruising down for 14 miles. There’s not much energy needed, the whole family and kids can go, there are good views of Colorado, and you’re getting out of your car and you’re putting in some effort.”
Thousands of locals and visitors make the trip every summer, and while most riders can do the trip in less than two hours, there’s no need to hurry when so many fun stops along the way make for an exciting all-day experience. Here’s how to make the most of your ride from 10,662 feet back down to Frisco’s 9,075 feet.
1. Get dropped off
This probably goes without saying, but pedaling up the hill for nearly 14 miles isn’t all that fun. It’s fine for local endurance athletes and cyclists who like to earn their descent, but anyone visiting this elevation for a week likely won’t have time to build up to that. Hitch a ride with Pioneer Sports (or a number of other local outfitters), which buys brand-new bikes every season so you can ride down safely in style on a bike that hasn’t been beat up for years.
2. Stop in Copper and stay a while
About 30 minutes into the downhill ride, you’ll arrive at Copper Mountain. There’s a lot to see and do here, such as chairlift rides to the top of the mountain, a zipline, climbing wall, go-kart track, bungee jump, disc golf and a mini-golf course. There’s also the brand-new, “Ninja Warrior”-style Wrecktangle. Anyone looking to get in a little more exercise can check out one of the many scenic hikes on the mountain, too. The best part is that any purchase in the village for $12 earns a free lift ticket ride to the top of the mountain.
3. Officer’s Gulch
A little further down the bike trail between Copper and Frisco is Officer’s Gulch Pond, a popular spot for folks to hike and stop for a picnic. The hike is easy and only about 1.7 miles roundtrip. The team at Pioneer Sports likes to send its riders to a secret spot near the pond to see a cool rock garden, where rocks have been stacked to form about 20 different animal shapes. Anyone who prepared ahead by either packing a lunch or picking up food at Copper Mountain can stop here and enjoy a picnic near the pond.
4. Enjoy the town of Frisco
From the summit of Vail Pass to Frisco takes about two hours, but those who don’t stop and pedal a little harder can make it down in about an hour and 15 minutes, Ford said. Once in Frisco, take a stroll along Main Street and enjoy some of the shopping, restaurants and parks in town, all accessible by the Frisco rec path system.
5. Appreciate the lake
To cap off the day, head down Main Street toward Lake Dillon and follow the bike trail around the lake for a new perspective on one of the highest, largest reservoirs in the United States.
“The loop around the lake is a great way to add in some pedaling and a little more energy exertion,” Ford said.
You can first check out the Frisco Bay Marina and enjoy a snack or a cocktail at the Island Grill. For anyone feeling more adventurous, try a stand-up paddleboard or kayak rental. Brent recommends riding the 5 or 6 miles around to the Dillon Marina, and then taking the ferry back across the lake to Frisco as another way to enjoy the water. Riding all the way around the lake isn’t typically recommended after the Vail Pass ride, since it adds on another 18 miles and involves some strenuous uphill pedaling at Swan Mountain.
Those who enjoy all of these stops along the trail and finish out their day on the lake should expect the day to take anywhere from 6 to 8 hours — a perfectly full day in the Rocky Mountains.
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