Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Best Twisty in Colorado (West Elk Loop, CO 92)

 << Ride along with the video at the bottom >>

West Elk Loop
The West Elk Loop in Colorado is a State Scenic Byway of over 200 miles of magnificent landscape. This video is along a short southern section on CO 92, just off Hwy 50.  

On the west end is the Black Canyon of the Gunnison and south it is bordered by the Blue Mesa Reservoir and Gunnison Colorado. At 20 miles long and with 96 miles of shoreline, Blue Mesa Reservoir is the largest body of water in the state of Colorado.

Pat and her bike at Blue Mesa Reservoir
The Dillon Pinnacles at Blue Mesa

The south west portion of this loop is one of my favorite all time twisty roads.  I’ve had friends from the east coast, who regularly ride the Smokey’s and “The Dragon” tell me this short section of Hwy 92 is either as good or better than Tail of the Dragon.  

Detail Map of the Ride

One of the spots to pull over
One beautiful road

One thing is for sure, the view is greater as at points on the road you can peer into the rugged San JuanMountains south towards Ouray and Durango.  As you look cross the gorge of the Black Canyon, you see these spectacular mountains.  The San Juans are a result of extensive volcanic activity.  You can see Wetterhorn Peak a now collapsed volcano (or caldera) and also Uncompahgre Peak which is 14,309 and the sixth highest point in Colorado. 
At Hermit's Rest Looking South
The northern part of the loop is the gravel road that crosses Kebler Pass (135) and for Dual Sports it is an outstanding ride, especially in the Fall.  Many biking clubs ride this loop and base out of Paonia, CO on CO 133.  The northern section takes you over McClure Pass and into Redstone, CO.  Another amazing ride.

Kebler Pass and McClure Pass
On this short video I want to take you just about 20 miles up 92 from the diversion tunnel on the west end of Blue Mesa Reservoir up to Hermit’s Rest area.  This short ride takes you on some of the sweetest twisty turns, breathing taking aspen stands and up to several overlooks where you can look into the Gunnison River. There are two rest stops along this short section with easy to moderate hikes on each if you like.  Both rest stops have restrooms.

I am at the Curecanti Overlook
Pat at Hermit's Rest Overlook

The first you will see is called Pioneer Point and overlooks the Curecanti Needle.  This is a nearly vertical pinnacle of quartz that rises 700 feet above Morrow Point Lake.  It was featured on the first emblem used by the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad in 1884 when they promoted themselves as the “Scenic Line of the World.  There are several picnic tables and fire grates here and a great place to stop with your packed lunch.  

Curecanti Needle
The next is at the top of the climb and is called Hermit’s Rest.  Same name but quite different than the Hermit’s Rest at Grand Canyon.  The hike down to Hermit’s Rest is 6 miles round trip with an almost 2,000 foot elevation change so it is pretty strenuous.

This short section of 92 does not take long to ride and if you are on Hwy 50 heading east or west through Colorado, you can easily overlook it, or just think you don't have time and cruise past the turn off.  If you do, you'll be missing one of Colorado's little treasures.  You will see the signs near the dam on the west end of the reservoir. 

Don't Miss It!
I hope you enjoy this short section of the West Elk Loop or Colorado 92 and you have a chance to ride this road very soon.  You will have a smile on your face for the entire ride. 

Till next time, shiny side up!

"Road Dog" 


  1. Jim, how did you video that? helmet cam?, 2 up? I need to get out there next year for sure. Tony

  2. Hi Tony: I use two Contour cams and place them in several different positions to get different angles and views. Riding the twistys and operating the cameras at pretty good speed takes a lot of concentration. Come see us! I'll show you some great roads.

  3. Yessss Sirrrrr. One of my favorite rides in Colorado. It is almost as good as some of the roads in the Smokies! Ha ha.