Keystone Bike Guide: Keystone Gulch Road (video)
Distance: 14.8 miles round trip
Time: 3-4 hours
Elevation: 9,240-11,920 ft.
Type: Out-and-back, dirt road, gravel biking
Season: Late June to early October
Connectors: West Ridge (Colorado Trail), Keystone Aqueduct, Dillon dump trails
Parking: Off of Soda Ridge Road turn left into the dirt parking lot near the gate on Keystone Gulch Road.
While the start is a relatively tame trail, Keystone Gulch Road provides a mellow ascent as long as you follow the path. Make the turn off to climb up to West Ridge and be prepared for a long slog. But once you do finally reach the top and the Colorado Trail, have your mind made up to choose between two of the best descents in the county. Turn north/west for long, fast switchbacks and south/east for a tighter, steeper descent. Staying on the Gulch Road and simply turning around when you are ready still provides a great ride and one of the quieter trails in summertime. — Taylor Shelden
Curious to know what The Outback looks like in the middle of summer? Keystone Gulch Road is your ticket to Colorado’s version of the Australian wilderness, even if the two only share a name.
The out-and-back dirt road climbs gradually along a lively stream near the base of Keystone Resort, weaving past the Santiago Express and Outback Express chairlifts on a 7.4-mile ride deep into the woods past classic ski runs: Mozart, Cat Dancer, Spillway and Bighorn. 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.
When traveling inside the Keystone Resort boundary, stay on routes designated for bike travel and expect to encounter vehicles on Keystone Gulch Road, including regular employee and truck traffic from June to August. Camping is allowed in designated areas along the road. The route is closed in May and early June for elk calving. Don’t travel if the gate at the base is shut.
Begin pedaling up Keystone Gulch Road. Novices, and those on gravel bikes, 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 (Outback Express), the road veers left and begins climbing more steeply. Novices, and those on gravel bikes, may want to turn around here.
To reach North Peak, ascend steadily for 2 more 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, which is sometimes open for lunch during the summer season.
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 later portion of the trip is mainly above timberline, be sure the weather is cooperating before you decide to extend the ride.
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