There can be too much of a good thing sometimes. Long sunny days are great until you get sunburn, good friends need to leave at some point and free beer is fine until you fall over. In order to provide a “just enough” serving size of the Colrado Route we have broken it up into a northern tier and a southern tier reducing the entirety into two more manageable portions. Each portion includes the same wide open backcountry splendor broken up with bursts of civilization and as much of Colorado’s best gravel road riding as we could splice together.
By connecting both routes through Glenwood Springs where the route arcs back close to itself you will have the opportunity to ride the stupendously scenic Glenwood Canyon bike path between Glenwood Springs and Dotsero and the mildly unpleasant experience of riding the shoulder of I-70 between Glenwood Springs and New Castle. In order to detour around that section of I-70 you could, on the northern tier use the Tour of the Flat Tops route between the New Castle-Buford road and Dotsero on I-70 using the Coffee Pot road and going over Blair Mountian, which is a demanding mountain bike worth section of terrain. To avoid I-70 on the southern tier requires an extensive detour over some impassable when wet forest roads which needs further reconnaissance before we would recommend it. The shoulder of I-70 isn’t really that bad through there, having ridden it before, it just represents the antithesis of what set out to do with The Dirty Roads which is to provide great rides and route far from the interstate highway system, but sometimes you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do.
The updated map starts and finishes both routes right by the Glenwood’s Hot Springs but you should feel free to start and finish the route wherever is most convenient for you. Both routes can be ridden in either direction, there is no recommend direction they are equally difficult/rewarding regardless of direction. The northern route is longer and has more vertical gain but the southern route is by no means “easier” it is merely shorter in length and vertical, the southern tier maintains a higher elevation and includes the highest point of the entire tour at the summit of Hagerman Pass (elev. 11,925 ft.). Resupply options are similar for both routes come in fairly frequently except for the long stretch between Panonia and Salida on the southern tier and the even longer stretch between Fort Collins and Hayden on the northern route. You should be prepared to carry multiple days worth of food. There is ample water along the way to filter, but not always where you need it, so be able to carry a lot of water too. You will be out of range for cell phone service for much of the route, don’t count on cell service for navigation, communication or emergencies.