Summit County Bike Guide: Ten Mile Rec Path (video)
By the numbers
Distance: 7.2 miles miles
Time: 30 minutes (one way)
Elevation: 9,075-9,700 feet
Type: Two-way rec path
Season: Late May or early June to October
SUMMIT COUNTY — One of the most popular rec paths in Summit County cruises within a few hundred feet of Interstate 70 for nearly 8 miles. And you’d hardly ever know.
The lower portion of the 14.2-mile Vail Pass route, dubbed the Ten Mile rec path, is a favorite haunt for runners, cyclists, hikers and longboarders. Unlike the steep upper sections of the Vail path, it follows a mild downhill grade the entire way from Copper Mountain to Frisco, ending on the west end of Main Street just outside of the Mount Royal trailhead. From there it connects with the remaining 60-plus miles of rec path, including the lengthy Frisco to Breckenridge route and the scenic loop around Lake Dillon to Swan Mountain Road.
But the Ten Mile rec path is something wholly different than the rest. It’s a more-or-less straight shot along the I-70 corridor, hidden from the hustle and bustle by thick stands of lush aspen groves. It occasionally pops into sight when the pavement runs directly beneath avalanche chutes and past flood ponds, but most riders are too distracted by 15-foot boulders and the craggy, nearly vertical western face of the Tenmile Range to notice long-haul trucks zooming past.
[iframe width=“100%” height=”360” src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/2CE9whhiN68” frameborder=”0” allowfullscreen]
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Know before you go
This trail is very busy, especially on summer weekends and during holidays. Anticipate a large number of other bikers, runners, hikers and longboarders on this section of the path. Also expect to encounter people stopped along the trail and fishing at the small ponds in the first 3-4 miles. Do not ride at excessive speeds in the Officers Gulch area about 2 miles outside of Copper, where sight distances are often reduced by thick trees and curved turns. Check weather forecasts before starting your ride. Weather changes quickly in Tenmile Canyon. Occasional snow is even possible into June, and the path is often closed due to avalanche debris and flooding until late May or early June.
The Ten Mile rec path features a mellow downhill grade, making it perfect for an out-and-back ride. (It’s also served by the Summit Stage bus — a rare perk for any mountain rec path.) Begin at the Mount Royal parking lot and connect with the paved rec path leading southwest toward Copper. Like I-70, the path follows what was once the Denver, South Park and Pacific narrow gauge railroad grade through Tenmile Canyon and Officers Gulch to the Copper Mountain Conoco. Once there, turn around and head back to Frisco.
From I-70, take Exit 201 east onto Main Street Frisco. The Mount Royal trailhead lot is on the right-hand side immediately after exiting the interstate. Parking is also available at any of the Copper Mountain free summer lots. The Summit Stage also runs a bus route from Frisco to Copper. It stops hourly between 6:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. at the bus shelter found directly across Main Street from the Mount Royal lot. This is a perfect option for families and other cyclists riding downhill from Copper to Frisco.
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