Colorado Cols Bike Tour, Lizard Head Cycling Guides
107 Aurum St, Box 855, Ophir, CO 81426 970.728.5891

Colorado Cols

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Colorado Cols: Grand Junction Loop: Highlights

As Colorado locals, Lizard Head Cycling Guides, believes this is among the finest Colorado Bike Tour offered – the Colorado Cols. This carefully crafted cycling adventure spins a stunning route through the picturesque Grand Mesa, Gunnison, and White River National Forests plus over some iconic mountain passes (called “cols” in Europe) including Kebler Pass, Cottonwood Pass (newly paved), Independence Pass, and McClure Pass. We also visit and spend time in both Crested Butte, Colorado and Aspen, Colorado – two different, but equally enchanting Rocky Mountain towns.

How Hard is the Colorado Cols?

In comparison to the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Blue Ridge Parkway is a much more challenging ride since the route is always climbing or descending. In the Colorado Rockies there are massive passes and the oxygen is scare, but the terrain between the passes is more gentle and the climbing grades are not as steep.

High mountain lakes in the Rockies

Colorado is home to beautiful geography

Autumn in the Colorado Rockies

Double rainbow in Colorado back country

“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

Outdoor cooking

Colorado Cols Bike Tour: Testimonials

Read what previous guests on our Colorado Cols Bike Tour have been saying…

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

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

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

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

NOTE: Whoever opens a tour first selects either the 5-Day Ultimate High Country Loop or the Standard 7-Day version

2021 Tour Dates

  • June 26 to July 2, 2021 (Book Now!) – TOUR OPENED 3 riders needed to make GO
  • July 11 to 17, 2021 (Book Now!) – TOUR A GO!
    NOTE: A 6-Day option is available if riders can meet the tour on Night 1 in Paonia, CO.
  • July 18 to 24, 2021 (Book Now!) – TOUR OPENED
  • August 1 to 7, 2021 (Book Now!) – TOUR OPENED 4 riders needed to make GO
  • August 15 to 21, 2021 (Book Now!)
  • August 22 to 28, 2021 Week 1 of the Colorado EPIC (Book Now!) – TOUR A GO!
  • August 29 to September 4, 2021 (Book Now!)

2022 Tour Dates

Tour Status Notes: NO STATUS = Date set, no riders have signed up. TOUR OPENED = Tour opened, rider minimums not met. TOUR A GO! = Rider minimums met, tour is GO! SOLD OUT = Rider maximums met, tour full.

Colorado Cols Bike Tour: 5-Day Ultimate High Country Loop!

NEW for 2021! The 5-Day Colorado Ultimate High Country Road Loop offers a not to be forgotten Colorado Rocky Mountain High! This locally crafted tour spins a loop through the highest passes and quietest roads in our home state. We spend two nights in Crested Butte, our favorite town in the Centennial state and climb two 12,000-foot passes (Cottonwood and Independence pass). Since this tour is in our backyard, we share our wild swimming spots for a refreshing dip, go to our favorite restaurants and show cyclists our favorite back country roads.

The bottom line is that if you are looking for cool mountain temperatures, wildflowers, above tree line views and quiet roads, this is your tour.

When is it Offered? Since the highest passes on this tour are not clear of snow until late June, this tour is offered from late June through early September each summer.

Tour Meeting and End: Paonia, Colorado at the Bross Hotel.

Itinerary: The 5-Day tour follows the itineraries for Days 2, 3, 4, 5, and 7 below.

Camping Option: Upon request by groups, the Ultimate High Country Loop can be run as a camping tour. The guides set up camp and cook meals with an outdoor river kitchen.

Overall Route Map (5-Day Tour)

Colorado Cols Bike Tour: Overview

Reptile Rewards

Colorado Cols Grand Junction Loop Tour Length: 7-Days Cycling/6-Nights Lodging -or- 5-Days Cycling/4-Nights Lodging

Meeting & Ending Town: Grand Junction, Colorado (7-Day Tour) -or- Paonia, Colorado (5-Day Tour)

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: Advanced (3/4)  to Expert (4) 
Strong intermediate to advanced cyclists. Traffic-free roads over high altitude are included on this tour.

Group Size: 6 to 18 cyclists

Tour Cost: $3,095 per person (7-Day Tour) -or- $1,995 per person (5-Day Tour). A 5-Day Tour with a camping option is available for $1,495 per person – please inquire. Group discount of $200 per person for groups of 4 or more.
Please see our Tour Discounts Policy.

Non-Riding Spouses & Partners on Tour: If a non-riding spouse or partner would like to join you on tour and they have their own transportation, they can stay in your room for the cost of the tour's single room supplement. Non-Riding spouses and partners can join a tour's meal plan of three meals a day for $85 per day.

Single Room Supplement: Add $575 to the Tour Cost for a private room each night on the 7-Day Tour (6-Nights) -or- Add $395 to the Tour Cost for a private room each night on the 5-Day Tour (4-Nights)

Road Bike Rentals

The Scott Addict 10 Disc was designed from the ground up with those longer days in mind. With geometry that is less focused on racing and more on enduring, the Addict 10 will be your go to when you’re looking to put the miles in.

The Scott Addict 10 Disc features: Carbon Frame and Fork, Shimano Ultegra 2x11 Drivetrain, 34x32 Compact Gearing, 30mm Tires, and Hydraulic Disc Brakes. Approx. Weight: 16.89 lbs / 7.66 kg (without pedals)

Learn More: Click Here to learn more about our Road Bike Rentals including pricing.

Road E-Bike Rentals: Click Here for more information on our Road E-Bike Rentals including pricing.

Take Your Rental Bike Home! Click Here for more information.

Couples Bike Rental Discount: Sign up as a couple and receive one free Road Bike Rental per couple for a one week tour. ($250 value. Pedal bikes only. E-Bikes excluded.)

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

If you have any further questions, please read more on our Rental Bikes FAQ page. You can also email us at or call us at 970.728.5891

7-Day Tour Includes: 6 nights of lodging, 5 dinners, 4 breakfasts, 6 lunches, all taxes, entrance fees, energy food, liquid refreshments, shuttles, guide service, mechanical support, and a special cycling gift. * Alcoholic beverages for an additional cost.

Lodging for 6-Nights: (subject to change)

ICE Blog: Here is an inspiring story about Wes Young who has ridden our hardest tours including the Colorado Cols

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.

Overall Route Map (7-Day Tour)

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 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?

Definition of Ability Levels
= Intermediate (2/3) Rides and/or takes spin classes 1 to 3 times a week for a total of 50 or more miles.
= Upper Intermediate (3) Rides and/or takes spin classes 2 to 4 times a week for a total of 75 or more miles.
= Advanced (3/4) Rides and/or takes spin classes 3 to 5 times a week for a total of 100 or more miles. Has ridden multi-day tours and done a century ride.
= Expert (4) Rides 4 or more times per week totaling 150 or more miles. Rides E.F.I. with regularity. Has done numerous multi-day tours, century rides and races.

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: Grand Mesa Scenic Byway
45 Miles with up to 5,700 feet of climbing

AThe Colorado Cols bike tour starts with a 5,000 foot climb along the Grand Mesa Scenic Byway from Mesa, Colorado to the 10,000 foot high Grand Mesa, the largest flat-topped mountain in the world. This mesa is 40-miles from end to end with over 400 lakes. From the summit it’s a fast descent back to the Gunnison River and into the beautiful verdant farmlands with it’s many 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.

Elevation Profile: +6712 ft / -6702 ft

Day 2: Paonia to Crested Butte via Kebler Pass
48 Miles with up to 5,310 feet of climbing

Day Two’s Kebler Pass ride is a spectacular journey into the West Elk Mountains and up a beyond category (HC) climb through pine and aspen forests. Along the way we ride below the immensely beautiful Marcellina Mountain and then up to Kebler Pass. Most of the ride up to the pass is smooth gravel and on this nearly traffic-free remote back road route, you’ll almost feel like you’re pedaling through the Swiss countryside.

From the top of Kebler Pass it’s then a quick seven miles into Crested Butte and to our lodging at the Elk Mountain Lodge.

Elevation Profile: 48 mi +5310 ft / -2055 ft

Day 3: Layover Day in Crested Butte, Optional Road and Mountain Biking
Longer Road Ride – Crested Butte Loop via Ohio Pass: 53 miles with up to 2,700 feet of climbing
Shorter Road Ride – Crested Butte to Gothic and Back: 17 miles with up to 1,250 feet of climbing
Mountain Bike Ride – Slate Creek, Paradise Divide, Baldy Mtn, & Gothic Valley

On this layover day there are options for two road rides, a singetrack mountain bike ride, or if you simply want to relax and enjoy Crested Butte, that’s fine too as it’s a really cool town to explore! The optional rides include a road bike ride along the Crested Butte Loop over Ohio Pass, a shorter out and back road ride to Gothic, Colorado, or if you want to take a day off from the road, then a singletrack mountain bike ride high above Crested Butte which includes Slate Creek, Paradise Divide, Baldy Mtn, and Gothic Valley.

Crested Butte Loop – Elevation Profile: +2700 ft / -2700 ft

Crested Butte to Gothic – Elevation Profile: 17 mi +1250 ft / -1250 ft

Day 4: Crested Butte to Buena Vista via Cottonwood Pass
70 miles with up to 4,865 feet of climbing

After breakfast the riding begins from Crested Butte along the Slate River through the cool morning mountain air. Taking a turn east and at the halfway point for the day we meander around the southern and eastern shores of Taylor Park Reservoir before we tackle the biggest climb of the day, a beyond category (HC) 13-mile assault to Cottonwood Pass at 12,126 feet.

From the top of Cottonwood Pass it is a screaming 20-mile descent to Buena Vista, Colorado losing nearly 4,300 feet in elevation with zero gain – what a ride! The day ends at the Surf Hotel for post-ride relaxation and a well deserved dinner.

Elevation Profile: 70 mi +4865 ft / -5890 ft

Day 5: Buena Vista to Aspen via Independence Pass
66 miles with up to 5,205 feet of climbing

While today’s mileage is a little less than the previous day, the climb to Independence Pass at 12,095 feet certainly presents a challenge. Starting from Buena Vista we travel north along the Arkansas River valley and soon turn west. After passing Twin Lakes the climb up to Independence Pass begins in earnest and the views along the ascent are simply magnificent offering perhaps some of the best vistas in all of Colorado.

After a quick descent from Independence Pass, we end the day in Aspen, Colorado to check into The Inn at Aspen and then hit the town for a well earned dinner. What a beautiful day of riding!

Elevation Profile: 66 mi +5205 ft / -5230 ft

Day 6: Layover Day in Aspen, Maroon Bells and Castle Creek
Optional: Rides of 30 or 46-Miles with up to 2,000 to 3,500-feet of climbing

While today’s ride is certainly optional after the huge efforts of the previous day, we think this is a ride you will truly enjoy as we first ride up to the simply drop dropping gorgeous Maroon Bells where we will spend a little time to take in all the beauty and glory of this iconic Colorado location. Then it’s back down towards Aspen, but with a right hook up Castle Creek Road to the tiny village of Ashcroft. The final 13 miles of the day are all downhill as we return back to our lodging where you can relax for the remainder of the day.

Elevation Profile: +3870 ft / -3870 ft

Day 7: Aspen to Paonia via McClure Pass
88 miles with up to 4,065 feet of climbing

Here comes the “Queen Stage” of the week which is typically the day during a multi-day tour that presents the most climbing, the longest distance, and/or is the most challenging. While there is climbing on tap for today, the distance will be the longest for the tour, but after 5 days in the Colorado Rockies, you will feel strong and ready to take on the challenge.

Starting from Aspen, our route takes us along the Rio Grande Trail for 26 car-free miles. Departing the trail in Carbondale, we pedal into the White River National Forest along the Crystal River and soon find ourselves climbing a 3-mile Cat 2 climb up to McClure Pass. The pass tops out at over 8,800-feet in altitude and from here we enjoy a nearly 34-mile run into Paonia, Colorado passing the Paonia Reservoir along the way.

Elevation Profile: 88 mi +4065 ft / -6275 ft

Colorado Cols Bike Tour: Logistics & FAQs

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 TripAssure. 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.
  • For information on Coronavirus, please click here.

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