Summit County Bike Guide: Keystone Gulch Road (video)
by Phil Lindeman
By the numbers
Distance: 14.8 miles
Time: 3-4 hours
Elevation: 9,240-11,920 ft.
Type: Out-and-back, dirt road
Season: Late June to early October
Extensions: Erickson Mine trail, West Ridge trail
SUMMIT DAILY — Curious to know what The Outback looks like in the middle of the summer? Keystone Gulch Road is your ticket to Colorado’s version of the Australian wilderness, also known as home to Keystone Resort’s nastiest and gnarliest ski terrain in the winter.
The out-and-back dirt road climbs gradually along a lively stream near the base of Keystone’s three main peaks — Dercum Mountain, North Peak and The Outback — weaving past the Santiago Express and Outback Express chairlifts on a 7.4-mile ride deep into the woods. This route offers a number of trail options higher up the drainage, including a challenging climb to North Peak and a loop combining abandoned logging roads and the West Ridge section of the Colorado Trail.
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Begin pedaling up Keystone Gulch Road. Novices will enjoy the first few miles of this well-maintained dirt road. It climbs gradually along a meandering stream and through a shady forest. It winds along the base of the ski area, passing two chairlifts.
At 4.5 miles, near the third chairlift, the road veers left and begins climbing more steeply. Novices might want to turn around here.
To reach North Peak, ascend steadily for a couple of miles. At about 6 miles (just before the top), there’s a fork to the right near a gate. Continue straight to North Peak and the Outpost Restaurant, which is usually open for lunch.
For more exploring, turn right onto the side road. Climb over rocky terrain for a little more than a mile to the scenic Erickson Mine. This historic structure is private and fragile — please view it from a distance. Since the latter portion of the trip is mainly above timberline, be sure the weather is cooperating before you head out.
From Interstate 70, follow Highway 6 east to Keystone. At the stoplight for the Keystone Tennis Center, turn right onto Keystone Road. Turn left immediately, cross the Snake River and turn right onto Soda Ridge Road after about 1/4-mile. Drive another 0.5 miles and turn left into the dirt parking lot on Keystone Gulch Road. Park near the gate.
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