Colorado Cols Bike Tour, Lizard Head Cycling Guides
101 Bobtail or Box 855, Ophir, CO 81426 Phone: 970.728.5891

Colorado Cols

As Colorado locals we believe this is the finest Colorado Bike Tour offered – the Colorado Cols. This carefully crafted cycling adventure spins a stunning route through the picturesque San Juan, West Elk and Sawatch mountain ranges. The San Juan Mountains in particular are our home range and in our opinion are Colorado’s most sensually spectacular with cool waterfalls, big mountain vistas and wildflower filled alpine meadows.

Elation, beauty, laughter, self-knowledge, timelessness, satisfaction, discovery – expect this and more on every Lizard Head tour. – Jim Antal

Colorado Cols Bike Tour: Highlights

Riding pass Molas Lake

The Uncompahgre Gorge

Autumn in the Colorado Rockies

Double rainbow in Colorado back country

it is about a week we are back home from a fantastic trip to Colorado. We had the best time ever and I am pretty sure I want to come back to North America to ride my bike again. We were lucky to have a great weather day by day, the itinerary was perfectly set up, we enjoyed all kind of landscapes, we had a nice bunch of cyclists and there was always a warm and friendly atmosphere in the group and with the guides. We took home a huge number of beautiful pictures but those most memorable are written deeply into our memories. This trip exceeded my best expectations and my thanks go to all of you organizers. – Tomas

“Wheeling Through Colorado’s High Country”

Southwestern Colorado is the most remote area of the state and therefore has the least amount of vehicular traffic. Although this Colorado bike tour is advanced, it’s not as hard as it may sound. The median age of Lizard Head Cycling’s guests is right around 50 years.

Lizard Head Cycling’s owner, John Humphries, “quite selfishly” created the Colorado Cols to ride the mountain passes in Colorado that he found most appealing. He guarantees the challenging roads and beautiful and hospitable small towns on this tour will thrill cyclists.

John calls the Colorado Cols “Lizard Head Cycling’s signature Colorado mountain tour”.

Read an article by Chris Solomon on the Colorado Cols tour:


Colorado Cols

The Colorado Cols offers amazing sights

Red Mountain Pass

Red Mountain Pass Switchbacks

Wolf Creek Pass

At the top of Wolf Creek Pass

Colorado Cols Bike Tour: Dates

Potential tour dates are listed below and not all tour dates will run. Lock in your preferred tour date early as unopened tour dates will be closed. Please see the Spring/Autumn Tour Calendar and the Summer Tour Calendar for confirmed departures. Any unopened date can be a Custom Week (9 riders required). Please contact us via email or call 970.728.5891

2018 Summer Tour Dates:

2018 Autumn Tour Dates:

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Colorado Cols Bike Tour: Overview

NOTE: Two versions of this tour exist with different itineraries. The Standard Colorado Cols Itinerary as outlined below and the Durango to Colorado Springs Itinerary which follows Week 2 of the Spanish Peaks/Colorado Cols Epic tour.

Reptile Rewards

Tour Length: 7-Days (6-Days Cycling & 1 Rest Day)/6-Nights Lodging

Meeting & Ending Town: Grand Junction, Colorado

Total Miles: 300 to 485 miles, with options for additional miles. (Can I keep up on this tour?)

Daily Mileage Range: 60 to 132

Ability Level: 4 (Challenging). Strong intermediate to advanced cyclists. Traffic-free roads over high altitude are included on this tour.

Group Size: 6 to 18 cyclists

Tour Cost: $2,850 per person. Group discount of $200 per person for groups of 4 or more.
Please see our Tour Discounts Policy.

$200 Early Bird Discount for 2018 Tour Registrations Made Prior to November 1, 2017!
Must mention or use Discount Code EARLYBIRD2018 when making your reservation.

Single Room Supplement: Add $575 to the Tour Cost for a private room each night of the tour (6 nights).

Road Bike Rental: Lizard Head Cycling Guides is proud to rent Scott CR-1 Pro and Scott Solace carbon road bikes with full Shimano Ultegra components for only $250/week, or $150 for 3 or 4 day tours. Both the CR-1 and Solace models are sub- 17 lb comfortable, high performance bicycles geared for climbing hills. In addition we also have electric bikes available for rental at $375/week. And finally we have a selection of straight bar road bikes and kids bikes in our rental fleet. Just let us know what you need and we can probably find it.

Please also see this blog post for more information on bike rentals.

Electric Bike Rental: We now have a limited selection of SCOTT electric bikes that can be reserved for our tours. These are road bikes with straight bars that make the slowest rider the fastest rider in the group. Rental Price is $375/week.

Couples Bike Rental Discount: Sign up as a couple and receive one free bike high performance rental per couple ($250 value).

Tandems and Recumbents: Lizard Head Cycling Guides happily accommodates both tandem and recumbent bikes on its tours.

Tour Includes: Six days of meals, six nights of lodging, all taxes, entrance fees, daily lunch en route, energy food, liquid refreshments, shuttles, guide service, Lizard Head Cycling Riding Kit and mechanical support. * Alcoholic beverages for an additional cost.

Lodging: (subject to change)

Meals On Tour

Lunches: Lizard Head Cycling Guides prepares healthy lunches to keep you going. We will serve you fresh organic fruits and veggies, salads, hummus, sandwich fixings, nuts, gourmet cheeses and of course plenty of salty/sweet snacks such as chips and cookies. We pride ourselves on being able to cater to specific dietary requests, so rest assured that you will be able to get the nutrition that works for you during the week. Gluten Free, Dairy Free or a someone who loves it all – we will keep you well fed during the tour!

Dinners: Lizard Head Cycling sources our favorite restaurants in each town that we visit. Our guides focus on establishments that offer fresh and local ingredients. Guests choose whatever they desire to eat off the menu: including appetizer, salad, entree and of course dessert... yum! :) Also, while on tour if a guest wants to dine early before the group and go to bed, this is fine. We understand that on some days sleep is the most important post-ride element.

I have been on many cycling tours and this was by far one of the finest I have experienced to date. Day 3 up Slumgullion Pass riding 130+ miles on the Cannibal Classic in rain and sleet was perhaps the best day on a bike that I have ever had… simply epic! I think it could only be surpassed only by another Lizard Head tour and I hope that we can all meet up again someday to experience more cycling adventures together. – Peter G.

Overall Route Map: Standard Grand Mesa to Gateway Itinerary

This is the standard version of the Colorado Cols tour as outlined in the itinerary below.

Overall Route Map: Durango to Colorado Springs Itinerary

This version of the Colorado Cols follows the itinerary for the second week of the Spanish Peaks/Colorado Cols 14-Day Epic tour which starts in Durango, Colorado and ends in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Guests will fly into Durango–La Plata County Airport (DRO) for the start of the tour and depart from Colorado Springs Airport (COS) at the end of the tour.

Riding on the Colorado Cols Bike Tour

The Details

This exciting Colorado Bicycle Tour is a vehicle supported, lodge-to-lodge, road cycling tour through the San Juan Mountains.

You’ll climb the state’s alpine cols (aka passes), sweep across wildflower studded meadows, and descend into valleys each afternoon. Finally, relax in historic accommodations while savoring delicious dining.

Colorado’s high country offers a beautiful short and sweet summer. This tour takes you away from it all, leaving you euphoric for your efforts.

Participants on this tour have described the awestruck feeling of descending into the winding valleys housing the headwaters of the Rio Grande, Gunnison and San Juan Rivers.

Highlights include Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, the Million Dollar Highway, Red Mountain Pass, the San Juan Skyway and the historic mining towns of Crested Butte, Creede, Pagosa Springs, Durango and Ouray.

What About the Altitude?

Cyclists from lower elevations ride in Colorado each year, and most have no problems. All it takes is some preparation, patience and a little more hydration than you’d normally have.

Yes, you’ll likely ride slower, and your heart rate will increase, but these are the Rockies, after all.

Even though the elevation on the Colorado Trail MTB ranges from 8,000 to 13,000-feet, and the average levels on the tour are between 7,500 and 8,500-feet, the views alone will make your heart beat faster!

The Weather

The Rockies have some of the most changeable summer weather in the country. One moment, it’s sunny and warm with clear intensely blue skies. The next, massive clouds race across the horizon and bring a downpour and thunderstorms.

As Coloradans who know a thing or two about this stuff, we’ll make sure you’re completely safe from this intense but brief weather and the lightening that often accompanies it.

Why Choose this Tour?

Lizard Head Cycling Guide’s Colorado Cols (CC-7) tour route highlights the most scenic and car free roads in Colorado’s high country. It’s designed for both cyclists relatively new to multi-day tours and for riders who possess previous long distance touring experience.

Ability Level: Can I Ride This Tour?

How Fit do I Have to Be?
If one month prior to the tour, you can ride 2 to 3 times a week equalling a total of 75 or more miles a week, you'll do just fine. We like to jokingly say that "one is ready for a Lizard Head Cycling Tour when they are finished with tour" and this is true! The only way to simulate a week long bike tour is to go on a week long tour.

Our average rider age is 55 years. These are bike tours, not races so we take our time to stop, take pictures and see the sights. We have all day to reach our destination and most riders take "bumps" at some points. We offer reduced mileage options for each day. Of course if someone wants to ride E.F.I. (Every Freaking Inch), we love to show them all the extra climbs, loops and hidden canyons that can be included!

Do the Bump!
Daily mileage options allow cyclists of varying abilities to enjoy this tour. One of our favorite options is to give cyclists a "bump" via the support vehicle, or a 10 to 20 mile lift down the road representing an hour of pedal time. After the bump the rider is "off the front" and riding at his or her own pace without feeling they are being left behind the group. They'll then have time to linger and take in the spectacular scenery. All cyclists come together in time for lunch. Afterwards, cyclists can take another bump and/or continue riding.

Seamless Mileage Options
Lizard Head Cycling Guides designs multiple mileage options for each tour – something we're well known for in our business. This technique is similar to heliskiing in that one does not ski everything, they ski the best. :-)

Slow or Fast?
Many cyclists who sign up for our tours have worried themselves silly about not being able to keep up, but then they're surprised to find that all the worrying was about nothing. They do just fine! Slow and Fast only exist relative to other cyclists. Speed does not matter as long as one is moving on the bike. As long as one is moving, they are truly going fast enough.

If you have questions about your ability to ride this tour, please contact our office via email or call us at 970.728.5891 - we'll more than happy to guide you!

Please also see this blog post for more information.

Colorado Rocky Mountain High

Colorado Rocky Mountain High

Colorado Cols Bike Tour: Itinerary*

*Tour itineraries are subject to change and modification based on the group, available accommodations and other unforeseen circumstances including weather, wildfires, flooding, hurricanes, landslides and/or other acts of nature. Please view this itinerary as an outline as to what to expect on this tour.

Day 1: The Grand Mesa Scenic By-Way
70 Miles with 6,700′ of climbing and 6,200′ of descending; 50 Mile option available

Your epic Colorado bike tour starts with a 5,000-ft. climb from Mesa, Colorado to the 10,000-foot high Grand Mesa. Descend back to the Gunnison River and into the beautiful vineyards and peach groves.

Although Grand Mesa is a long climb, the grade is moderate, the views remarkable, and the descent is smooth and fast. This is considered one of the best climbs in the state and a good opening day ride for a mountainous bike tour… not too hard, not too easy. The long steady climb has allowed previous cyclists to gain a good rhythm for the rest of the bike trip.

At tonight’s lodging you’ll enjoy a full course home-cooked meal featuring fine wines made from the locally grown grapes.

Grand Mesa Climb

Start of the Grand Mesa Climb

Grand Mesa

Aspen’s atop Grand Mesa

Dinner at Leroux Creek Vineyards

A well deserved dinner

Elevation Profile: +6712 ft / -6702 ft

Elevation Profile: +6712 ft / -6702 ft

Day 2: Crawford, Colorado to Crested Butte, Colorado
111 Miles with 8,400′ of climbing and 5,200′ of descending; 77 Mile option available

Day Two’s “North Rim Ride” is a spectacular ride through a rolling landscape below the West Elk Mountains bordering America’s newest National Park, Black Canyon National Park. On this nearly traffic-free back road route, you’ll almost feel like you’re pedaling through the Swiss countryside.

Near the end of the ride, you’ll descend the rim of the Black Canyon for jaw dropping views into the abyss. Upon intersecting Highway 50, pedal a relatively flat 25 miles along Blue Mesa Reservoir (Colorado’s largest body of water) through the Gunnison Gorge to the town of Gunnison, Colorado. Watch out for the strong tailwinds, even if they help you along the route.

From this point, the final 30 miles turn north and ascend a 1% to 2% grade to the alpine paradise of Crested Butte.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Riding above the Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Crested Butte, Colorado

Crested Butte is a beautiful Colorado mountain town

Elevation Profile: +8422 ft / -5163 ft

Elevation Profile: +8422 ft / -5163 ft

Day 3: The Cannibal Classic! Crested Butte, Colorado to Creede, Colorado
133 man-eating-miles with 8,700′ of climbing and 8,800′ of descending; 70 Mile option available

Crested Butte to Creede (8,500’) is a Crested Butte local’s favorite known as the Cannibal Classic.  It has become a test of endurance for Crested Butte’s hard body locals.

The Cannibal Classic is the “Queen Stage” of the Colorado Cols – the part with the most climbing and the most challenge. It earned its name from the infamous Alfred Packer, a miner who became snowbound on an ill-fated journey into the San Juan Mountains in the late 1800’s. Come spring, Packer was the only remaining miner alive from his party of six, looking pretty healthy. He had literally eaten his compatriots!

The start of the ride in Crested Butte, Colorado (9,000-feet) is surrounded by the scenic Elk Mountains. After a gradual 40-mile descent, you’re tested by a 45-mile section with multiple ups and downs that could drain the strength from your legs.

At approximately mile 85, take on one of the steepest paved mountain passes in Colorado, Slumgullion Pass at an elevation of 11,530 feet. This monster is a 7-mile climb that ascends nearly 3,000 feet; its average 7% to 9% grades feels particularly brutal coming at mile 90 of the Cannibal Classic.

At the top, you’ll descend 4 miles and then climb another 4 miles at a mere 4% grade to Spring Creek Pass and the Continental Divide. From Spring Creek, it’s just about a 30-mile descent to the wild west town of Creede.

Creede, Colorado

Creede, Colorado

Lizard Head Support Van

The Mothership is Always Near

Colorado Cols

Keep looking UP to relieve the suffering

Elevation Profile: +8715 ft / -8784 ft

Elevation Profile: +8715 ft / -8784 ft

Day 4: Creede, Colorado to Pagosa Springs, Colorado
65 Miles with 3,400′ of climbing and 5,200′ of descending; 44 Mile option available

Riding south from Creede, you’ll pedal across the remote headwaters of Rio Grande watershed. The largest wilderness area in Colorado, the Weimuniche Wilderness, borders this lush region. After climbing the impressive Wolf Creek Pass (10,863’) near the end of the day, you’ll have climbed over the Continental Divide for the second time in two days.

Thrill to a 4,000′ descent from Wolf Creek to Pagosa Springs, Colorado along the headwaters of the San Juan River. We’ll be in close proximity to New Mexico and get a whiff of the state’s famous and fragrant green chile. Tonight, we’ll dine on New Mexican home cooking, then enjoy a much-needed and deserved soak in towns hot springs at the renowned Springs Resort & Spa.

Clear Creek Falls

Clear Creek Falls Near Creede, Colorado

Wolf Creek Pass

Wolf Creek Pass, Descent to Pagosa Springs

Elevation Profile: +3407 ft / -5173 ft

Elevation Profile: +3407 ft / -5173 ft

Day 5: Layover in Pagosa Springs, Colorado
0 miles or ?

On the layover day, you can recuperate some more in the hot springs and lounge along the banks of the San Juan River. Additional activities include hiking, horseback rides, hot air ballooning or even a ride of the border into New Mexico.

Native American tribes knew of the healing powers of Pagosa’s hot mineral waters long before the arrival of the white men. Today, the 23 terraced pools over looking the San Juan River range in temperature from 83 to 114 degrees F. Enjoy this!  You’ve earned a true “rest day” at The Springs Resort & Spa.

But if you’re looking to cycle, take the twin 10,500-foot passes of Cumbres and La Manga lay just east of Chama, New Mexico. If there’s enough interest, a shuttle will take you over the state line.

Tonight, you’ll be on your own for dinner to sample one of Pagosa Spring’s many dining establishments.

Pagosa Springs Resort

Days 4 and 5: Rejuvenation Time at Pagosa Springs Resort

Day 6: Durango, Colorado to Ouray, Colorado
71 Miles with 7,700′ of climbing and 6,600′ of descending; 52 Mile option available

Outside Durango, pedal into the high San Juan Mountains on this penultimate leg of the tour. These peaks are the steepest and highest range in the state with more land mass above 10,000 feet then anywhere south of Alaska.

The route following the San Juan Skyway north presents three major cols; Coal Bank Pass at 10,640’, Molas Pass at 10,915’ and finally Red Mountain Pass at 11,018’. The entire road surface was re-surfaced between the summers of 2009 and 2011 and as a result is in fantastic shape.

However, if you’ve had your fill of riding, you can also hitch a ride on the Silverton-Durango Narrow Gauge Railroad to meet the group for lunch in the town of Silverton, Colorado.

After surviving the San Juan Skyway, the tour finishes at the Ouray Hot Springs Pools and then to our accommodations for the evening in Ouray, Colorado.

Durango, Colorado

Wild West Hub Of Durango, Colorado

Red Mountain Pas

Red Mountain Pass

The Uncompahgre Gorge

The Uncompahgre Gorge (a.k.a. The Million Dollar Highway)

Elevation Profile: +7705 ft / -6562 ft

Elevation Profile: +7705 ft / -6562 ft

Day 7: Ouray, Colorado to Gateway, Colorado
120 Miles with 4,600′ of climbing and 7,900′ of descending; 99 Mile option available

The Mountains to the Desert stage descends nearly 8,000-feet from Ouray, Colorado to Gateway, Colorado! This is an inspiring ride over Dallas Divide and through the intimate confines of the Dolores River Canyon. The Dolores River Canyon has been called by previous Lizard Head Cycling guests as the “most beautiful ride ever”. Come see for yourself! We call it is the most spectacular and least known road rides in Colorado.

Well Done!

The Colorado Cols tour ends at the Gateway Canyons Resort has to be seen to be believed. There are few places in the world that can provide an experience and location such Gateway Canyons Resort. John Hendricks of the Discovery Channel built the resort in 2005. His love of Redrock Canyon country has created a destination that guests of Lizard Head Cycling Guides adore. Read reviews from Gateway Canyons.

NOTE: After arriving in Gateway, the tour ends with a shuttle back to Grand Junction. If cyclists are interested in staying at Gateway Canyons post tour, inquire with Lizard Head Cycling about a discounted rate.

Riding in the Dolores River Canyon

Riding in the Dolores River Canyon

Finishing in Gateway, Colorado. Well done!

Finishing in Gateway, Colorado. Well done!

Elevation Profile: +4620 ft / -7852 ft

Elevation Profile: +4620 ft / -7852 ft

Colorado Cols Bike Tour: Logistics & FAQs

Meeting Location: On Day 1 cyclists meet the guides and support vehicle at 7:00am at the Marriott on Horizon in Grand Junction, Colorado. The Marriott offers an airport shuttle.

Ending Location: The tour ends at the Marriott after Day 7’s ride and return shuttle.

Pre and Post Tour Lodging: Riders are responsible for their own lodging for nights before and/or after the tour as needed at any Grand Junction area facility of their liking.

Tour Months: The tour is offered during the months of June, July, August & early September

Dining: Cyclists dine each evening at uniquely local dining establishments chosen by Lizard Head Cycling. All meals are included with the costs of the tour.

Ride Difficulty: The Colorado Cols tour is rated as an upper intermediate to advanced cycling tour. Both cyclists new to multi-day touring and advanced cyclists who pedal over 3,000-miles annually have enjoyed the Colorado Cols Tour. The tour is similar to riding Ride the Rockies or Cycle Oregon. Daily shuttle options allow cyclists of varying abilities to enjoy the Colorado Cols tour through customization of their mileage options.

If you have questions about your ability to ride this tour, please contact the Lizard Head Cycling office (970.728.5891 or

How the Shuttle Works: The Colorado Cols tour offers cyclists a challenge while at the same providing easily accessible mileage options for cyclists of varying fitness levels and desires. Lizard Head Cycling’s tour leaders offer advice and provide cyclists with profiles of each day’s stage. Cyclists customize their experience by reducing overall mileage and choosing to avoid or focus on climbing the big hills of any given day. The system works through a support vehicle that jumps ahead rather then sags to set up aid stations. This allows cyclists to linger at the back and then take a ten-mile, fifteen-mile or whatever mile “bump” forward to catch-up with or get ahead of the group.

Tour Support: The tour is supported by a 15 passenger van and trailer which carries all luggage and equipment.

The Daily Schedule: Cyclists ride at their own pace. Tour riders depart each morning as early as they choose and can use the support vehicle when they desire. The tour is designed to provide mileage options depending on cyclist’s fitness level and desire. The support vehicle provides a shuttle option from aid stations along the route. Plan to depart early each morning to allow time for siesta and swimming.

Daily Support Schedule:

  • 20 to 25 mile mark: liquids, energy food, & fruit
  • 40 to 50 mile mark: lunch on the trail: fresh sandwiches, fruit, salad, & soft drinks
  • 75 mile mark: liquids, energy food, & fruit

Daily Mileage and Evening Towns:

  • Day 1: 35 to 50 miles to Leroux Creek Vineyard or Black Canyon Lodge on Gunnison River
  • Day 2: 66 up to 83 miles to Crested Butte, Colorado
  • Day 3: 55 or 132 miles to Creede, Colorado
  • Day 4: 64 miles to Pagosa Springs, Colorado
  • Day 5: 0 miles (rest day)
  • Day 6: 39 up to 49 miles to Durango, Colorado
  • Day 7: 50 up to 72 miles to Ouray, Colorado

Elevations: Range from 4,500′ (Grand Junction) to 11,530′ (Slumgullion Pass).

Bike Shipping

Lizard Head Cycling recommends shipping with Bikes can be shipped either to our partner bike shop in each meeting town for professional assembly or directly to the meeting hotel for self-assembly. Bike boxes can generally be left at the meeting hotel during the tour. Bikes shipped across the continental US should be shipped 8 days prior to your tour.

General Tour & Cancellation Policies

Please take a moment to familiarize yourself with all of our tour and cancellation policies, which can be found by clicking here.

Travel Insurance

Lizard Head Cycling Guides highly recommends clients purchase Travel Insurance through MH Ross Travel Insurance. A policy can be purchased individually through the sales link below or Lizard Head Cycling Guides can also set-up a policy for its clients.

The estimated cost for a 50-year old buying insurance for a $2,500 tour ranges from $100 (standard plan) to about $200 (cancel for any reason plan).

Lizard Head Cycling Guides Custom Sales Portal Link is:

  • The best options for our clients are either the Asset or Bridge plans.
  • The Asset-Plus & Complete plans both include a Cancel-For-Any-Reason option.
    • As a result these plans cost more.
    • The Cancel-for-Any-Reason option is only available when insurance is purchased within two weeks of initial deposit.