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

Colorado Cols – Grand Junction Loop

Please click here to jump to the Overview section with all tour details including pricing.

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 and over the Centennial state’s 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, Buena Vista, Paonia and Aspen, Colorado – all different, but equally enchanting Rocky Mountain towns.

How Hard is the Colorado Cols?

Yes, you can do it!  Colorado in the high summer is where you want to be. The air is clean, the wild flowers are bursting with color and wild swimming opportunities abound. In the Rockies, yes, there are massive passes and the oxygen is scare, but the terrain between the passes is gentle and overall the climbing grades are not steep at 4% to 7%. In addition, our Colorado bike tour has two layover days in which to take it easy and recover in the beauty of Colorado’s Rocky Mountain High. In comparison to the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Blue Ridge Parkway is a more challenging ride since the route is always climbing or descending.

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

Colorado Cols Bike Tour: Testimonials

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

I wanted to let you know that Marky, Billy, Isaac and I had a fantastic trip. Hayden and Leslie were wonderful. I have not had better guides on any cycling trip I have been on. Hayden has a knack for anticipating our needs. He also is passionate about riding. Leslie is a maestro at logistics and always fine tuning the day to optimize our experience. She is very thoughtful. The riding was great. Thank you for recommending this trip. – Kurt

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

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

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

To easily register for a particular tour, please click the Book Now! link after the tour date listed below. This will select the tour name and the appropriate date on the registration form.

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

2024 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! = Tour is Go, rider minimums met. SOLD OUT = Tour Full, rider maximums met.

Why Should you Sign-Up Now and OPEN a Tour Date?
This is the proverbial chicken and the egg conundrum! We need our cyclists to first commit to the date that works for them so that we can commit to that date.

For starters, when you OPEN a date you get to pick your preferred departure date, and there is no penalty if the tour does not run. Once you pick your tour date, Lizard Head closes nearby dates and funnels all additional riders to your chosen date until the tour meets its 6 rider minimum.

BONUS: As an added bonus, we can also hold a spot for you on another tour date of your choosing. There is no fee to switch to another tour date.

In conclusion, if you want a tour to run, we need you to sign up and not wait for others to do the same! Waiting for others may mean that a tour date takes longer or does not confirm. Just Do It! Once a few riders jump into the proverbial waters, others will follow!

Colorado Cols Bike Tour: 7-Day Standard Tour Overview

Reptile Rewards

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 445 miles, with options for additional miles. (Can I keep up on this tour?)

Daily Mileage Range: 35 to 80

Ability Level: Advanced (3/4)  to Expert (4) 
Strong intermediate to advanced cyclists. Light traffic on roads over high altitude are included on this tour.

Group Size: 6 to 15 cyclists

7-Day Tour Cost: $3,690 per person with shared accommodations. Add $575 per person to this Tour Cost for a private room each night of the tour (6-Nights).

Tour Discounts: Please see our Reptile Rewards & Tour Discounts page to learn more about Reptile Rewards, Tour Discounts, and Group Discounts. Tour discounts are not stackable with any other discounts or promotions – only the highest valued discount is provided. Please note that for discounts to apply the tour minimum must be met.

7-Day Tour Includes: 7-Days guide service, 6-Nights of lodging, 3 dinners, 4 breakfasts, 6 lunches, all taxes, entrance fees, energy food, liquid refreshments, in-tour shuttles, and mechanical support. Alcoholic beverages, bike rental, and massage (if available) are additional.

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. Please note that non-riders cannot check into hotels prior to guide arrival as the guides need to manage the check-in process. Checking in a large group can be challenging and take longer than normal, so non-riders need to hang back and be patient. Non-riding spouses and partners are welcome to join the Lizard Head meal plan which includes breakfasts and dinners for $75 per day. Note: Lunches are not included for non-riders driving their own vehicles due to the inherent variability of both lunch timing and locations. It is best for non-riders to plan to explore each day.

Lodging for 6-Nights: (subject to change)

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

This locally crafted version of our long running 7-day Colorado Cols tour, offers a Colorado Rocky Mountain High!  This 5-Day 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.

5-Day Tour Cost: $2,690 per person with 4 nights of shared lodging. Add $395 per person to this Tour Cost for a private room each night of the tour (includes 4-Nights).

Tour Discounts: Please see our Reptile Rewards & Tour Discounts page to learn more about Reptile Rewards, Tour Discounts, and Group Discounts. Tour discounts are not stackable with any other discounts or promotions – only the highest valued discount is provided. Please note that for discounts to apply the tour minimum must be met.

NOTE: For group bookings (4 or more), an optional 5-Day tour with 3 of 4 nights of camping  (1 night of lodging) is available for $1,895 per person – please inquire. Please see our Reptile Rewards & Tour Discounts page to learn more about Reptile Rewards, Tour Discounts, and Group Discounts.

Itinerary: The 5-Day tour follows the itineraries for Days 2, 3, 4, 5, and 7 of the standard Colorado Cols tour 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.

Road Bike Rentals

NOTE: The make, model, and specifications of rental bikes may differ from what is described below. Please contact us if you have any specific needs for a rental bike or have any questions about rental bikes.

Lizard Head Cycling Guides is proud to rent Scott Bikes. 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 about our Rental Bikes and Equipment

Road E-Bike Rentals: Click Here for more information on our Road E-Bike Rentals including pricing. Please note that E-Bikes are not available for certain tours including those that involve camping. Please contact us for more information before registering for a tour. NOTE: E-Bikes are great, but our tours are designed to be ridden without motorized assistance. We offer "bumps" along the road so that everyone can stay together.

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

Meals On Tour

Lizard Head Cycling Guides provides most meals on all tours (unless otherwise noted) including breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Guides will prepare a daily lunch en route for nearly every tour, both road and off-road, as well as provide nutritious snacks at periodic aid stations during the day.

Most of our road tours utilize local restaurants for all meals and occasionally guides may prepare a dinner or two during a tour. Due to the nature of being "off the grid", most of our off-road tours feature guide prepared meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. FUN NOTE: When guides prepare a meal in camp and the guests sit around and watch, this is called "Guide TV". :)

We also pride ourselves on being able to cater to specific dietary requests and needs, so rest assured that you will be able to get the nutrition that works best for you during your tour. Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Vegan, or a someone who loves it all – we will keep you well fed during the 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.

Dinners: On our road tours, Lizard Head Cycling sources our favorite restaurants in each town that we visit. Our guides focus on establishments that offer fresh and local ingredients and guests choose whatever they desire to eat off the menu including: appetizer, salad, entrée, 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

Below is an example of the daily routes for this tour and are subject to change based on season, available accommodations, road closures, and other factors. The actual routes will be made available to registered participants before their tour, so please view these routes as a general outline as to what to expect.

Colorado Cols: 7-Day Grand Junction Loop

Durango to Colorado Springs

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 equaling 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*

*PLEASE NOTE: Tour itineraries are subject to change and modification based on the group, available accommodations, road construction, road closures, and other unforeseen circumstances including weather, wildfires, flooding, hurricanes, landslides and/or other acts of nature. Also, the distances and elevation profiles shown below may not reflect the actual distances and elevations while on tour as these are provided here to give an idea as to the anticipated mileage and terrain. Please view this itinerary, the distances, and elevation profiles as a general outline as to what to expect while on this tour.

Day 1: Grand Mesa Scenic Byway
52 Miles with up to 1,540 feet of climbing

The Colorado Cols bike tour starts from the top of Mesa Grande on the Grand Mesa Scenic Byway. The Grand Mesa is considered the highest & 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 down to the Gunnison River and into the beautiful verdant farmlands with it’s many vineyards and peach groves.

Elevation Profile: 52 mi +1540 ft / -6710 ft

Day 2: Paonia to Crested Butte via Kebler Pass
48 Miles with up to 4,610 feet of climbing

On day 2 take a spectacular journey into the West Elk Mountains and over Kebler Pass Col. The route climbs through spruce, fur and aspen forests. Along the way we ride below the immense and beautiful Marcellina Mountain. Twenty of today’s miles are on smooth gravel (magnesium chloride) on a lightly and remote backroad. The route feels akin to 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 +4610 ft / -2055 ft

Day 3: Layover Day near 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 singletrack mountain bike ride, or if you simply want to relax and enjoy Crested Butte, that’s fine too as their is nearby wild swimming and CB’s a 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
69-miles with up to 4,465 feet of climbing

After breakfast the riding begins from Crested Butte along the Slate River through the cool morning mountain air. After taking a turn east at the halfway point for the day, we meander around the southern and eastern shores of Taylor Park Reservoir before tackling Cottonwood Pass at 12,126 feet, a beyond category (HC) 13-mile ascent to above Colorado’s tree-line!  Cottonwood Pass was nearly paved in the summer of 2020.

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 nearly 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 +4465 ft / -5890 ft

Day 5: Buena Vista to Aspen/Snowmass via Independence Pass
66 miles with up to 4,990 feet of climbing

Day 5 serves up what we consider the most beautiful Col climb in Colorado. The climb to Independence Pass at 12,095 feet presents a magnificent challenge. Starting from Buena Vista we travel north along the Arkansas River valley and soon turn west. After passing Twin Lakes, the ascent of Independence Pass begins in earnest with magnificent vistas that inspired John Denver.

After what Lizard Head Cycling’s owner John Humphries considers the most most beautiful and curvy descent in Colorado we end the day into the Roaring Fork Valley for a stay in Aspen or nearby Snowmass. What a beautiful day of riding!

Elevation Profile: 66 mi +4990 ft / -4690 ft

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

A layover day in Aspen’s Roaring Fork valley. This is a day of active recovery as we offer a ride up to the drop dropping gorgeous Maroon Bells, where we will spend a little time to take in all the beauty and summer glory of this iconic Colorado location. Then it’s back down towards Aspen. If you are up for it, we’ll hang a right hook up Castle Creek Road to the tiny village of Ashcroft.

Elevation Profile: +3870 ft / -3870 ft

Day 7: Aspen to Paonia Reservoir via McClure Pass
68 miles with up to 3,570 feet of climbing

Today’s stage is a wonderful wind down to the week with the first 30-miles which are slightly downhill and then the final 13-miles which is a very fast and fun descent.

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 alongside the wild Crystal River and soon find ourselves climbing a short 3-mile Cat 2 climb up to McClure Pass. The pass tops out at over 8,800-feet in altitude where we enjoy lunch (if the weather is accommodating). From the top we enjoy a 13-mile net loss run to end at the northern end of Paonia Reservoir.

Elevation Profile: 68 mi +3570 ft / -5885 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

If you have not already, now would be a great time to consider adding travel insurance to your tour. You are welcome to use any travel insurance company you would like. We recommend Generali/Trip Mate.

Generally, if contracting COVID causes clients to cancel or interrupt their tour, trip insurance companies would treat it as any other illness as long as it is contracted after the insurance was purchased. Please check your individual plan documentation for details. Please note that quarantine is usually only covered if clients are actually sick with COVID. If a state requires quarantine upon arrival because of standardized state law, coverage is generally not covered. Again, check your individual plan documentation for details.

American Guests - use this link:

  • The Premium Plan is the only plan which offers Pre-Existing coverage so long as the plan is purchased prior to Final Payment.
  • The Premium Plan is the only plan that offers an optional Cancel For Any Reason - the policy must be purchased within 24 hours of initial trip deposit, the full trip cost must be insured, and if they cancel for Any Reason, it must be 48 hours prior to departure, and the reimbursement for an Any Reason claim is 60% of pre-paid, insured, non-refundable trip cost.
  • Customer Service can be reached at 1-800-874-2442 for coverage questions and policy modifications or to purchase by phone. Agency Code: LIZA0855

Canadian Guests - use this link:

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