35% of Colorado is National Parks, Forests, Wilderness, Monuments, Grasslands, or designated Recreation Areas. Eliminate the eastern plains from this calculation and the number rockets up.  Turn your gaze west from the front range and much of what lies before you is open for dual sport riding!

Mid-summer snows are common above 10,000′ and high, dirt road passes are only accessible from June through September. Dramatic temperature changes and storms can make for entertaining trips. Plan accordingly with multiple clothing layers, protection from precipitation, proper tools, and an emergency blanket for unplanned nights out. Sunscreen and proper hydration will also improve your mood.

August in the San Juan Mountains.  Be ready for snow while patching a flat!

Where to start?

The Continental Divide is spectacular and multiple roads, some old rail-beds, crisscross the line separating the Atlantic from the Pacific.  Marshall Pass, Hancock Pass, Independence Pass, and Cumberland Pass are a few good ones. There are even motorized trails accessible behind the Monarch Pass gift shop, but I wouldn’t venture down these in a fully laden adventure bike. Plated two-strokes…have fun!

Heather and Richard at Hancock Pass: 12,140′

The San Juan Mountains are rich with mining history and a rugged mix of two-track and loosely maintained roads. This region hosts gems like Engineer, California, Ophir, and Imogene Passes. Towns cater to explorers and can be used as a stop-over or a multi-night base. Silverton, Ouray, Telluride, and Lake City are a few. Each has it’s own flavor and unique history. For a pre-packaged route dripping with beautiful vistas check out the 63 mile Alpine Loop  between Lake City, Ouray, and Silverton.

Heather on the western side of Ophir Pass Road.  Can you spot her?

Western view descending from Engineer Pass

The Front Range and areas near Canyon City, Hartsel, and west to Buena Vista offers shoulder season riding.  With lower elevation these regions are potentially open in late fall or early spring. The Woodland Park and Tarryall areas provide a good mix of dirt, mud, and can be linked together to form dirt loops or an east-west traverse.

Numerous dirt roads between Woodland Park and Buena Vista

Although bustling with tourists the I70 corridor is also host to many dirt roads and trails. Idaho Springs has many dirt options connecting to Black Hawk and other areas North.   Cottonwood Pass Road out of Gypsum is an excellent dirt connector to Carbondale and Aspen (Not to be confused with Cottonwood Pass near Taylor Park).

Taylor Park is open to OHV use and is best visited from June through September.  The central location and abundant, free dispersed camping makes it a great base-camp for dual sport adventures.  Day loops to Crested Butte, Aspen, St. Elmo, Pitkin, and others make this a world-class destination.

View of summer storm from dispersed campsite in Taylor Park

The Grand Lake area and Roosevelt National Forest encompasses the Northern portion of Colorado west of Fort Collins.  Numerous passes and roads provide opportunities for loop rides or gateways to Wyoming.  Abundant timber killed by the mountain pine beetle has marred the look of these mountains, but the underlying terrain is still impressive. Great loops connect Winter Park, Kremmling, Walden, and Steamboat.

Fun at North Sand Hills near Walden, Colorado.  Beware the deep stuff!


Did we miss your favorite?  Share a short description of your favorite Colorado dual-sport riding area and we’ll include it here.


Photos: Richard