The Tour of the Flat Tops is a multi-day tour that provides a complete circumnavigation of the Flat Tops mountains in northwest Colorado. The long loose climbs and descents, the rough forest roads, hike-a-bike section and generally demanding conditions found on this tour have earned it a 50c minimum tire size rating from The Dirty Roads, meaning that it is time to break out the mountain bike especially if you planning on doing this tour self-supported. There are no options for re-supply along the route and much of it is beyond cell phone coverage so you will need to be prepared for all contingencies and emergencies.
Starting and finishing in the town of Yampa “Gateway to the Flat Tops” the Tour of the Flat Tops dishes out 172 miles and 15,678 feet of climbing and descending on a spectacular and sparsely populated tour that includes Routt, Eagle, Garfield and Rio Blanco counties as well as the White River and Routt National Forests. Riding the tour in a clockwise direction from Yampa the route starts out on Highway 131 for a brief section before climbing onto the mesa, crossing Egeria Creek and continuing over to the Sunnyside road, which may be impassable when wet, and down into the town of Burns on the Colorado river where you will follow the river downstream to the Coffee Pot road and begin the epic climb up to Heart Lake and then on to Bison Lake where the 640 road takes a turn for the technical. The 640 road is mostly a pile of rock. Much of it is rideable, even on a loaded cyclocross bike as I have done, but some sections are libel to leave even a skilled mountain biker walking which is perfect practice for the following ascent to the top of Blair Mountain which is a mandatory hike-a-bike. The summit of Blair Mountain and the ridgeline afterwards are very exposed and you should make sure you have a good weather window before hiking to the top. After a series of rough forest roads you come to the New Castle-Buford road and make a right turn to climb over the top and begin a long smooth descent into Buford. From Buford you will climb gradually along the White River on pavement until the route turns back to dirt after ten miles and then turns upward after another seven miles when you reach the base of Ripple Creek Pass. The Ripple Creek Pass includes some great views of the Flat Tops and after the long descent you will immediately begin the ascent of Dunckley Pass which also includes some great views and provides a long gradual descent back to the Yampa Valley where a few miles of pavement is all that separates you from your triumphant return to the town of Yampa.
While camping opportunities between Yampa and the Coffee Pot road are sparse and the stretch between Buford and Ripple Creek Pass limits camping to developed campgrounds, the rest of the tour provides excellent camping in the national forest. A fully supported tour will require a drive around Blair Mountain but both the Coffee Pot road and the New Castle-Buford road are driveable with a 2-wheel drive vehicle. A 2-wheel drive vehicle may want to skip the Sunnyside road but both Ripple Creek and Dunkley Pass are driveable.