a U.S. Geological Survey - Ride The Rockies with USGS
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Ride The Rockies

Ride The Rockies 2018

Ride The Rockies 2018 logo

Tour Map (png, 620KB)

Elevation Profile (png, 56KB)

The Denver Post Ride The Rockies is an annual bicycle tour that takes 2,000 cyclists selected by lottery on a 6- to 7-day ride on roads through Colorado's Rocky Mountains each June. The route varies each year, but always climbs a few challenging mountain passes and showcases Colorado's spectacular scenery. Daily rides can be as short as 35 miles or as long as 100 miles, but generally average 60 to 65 miles.

Our 2018 tour will be a 6-day loop, starting and ending in Breckenridge; we take a clockwise route to Edwards, north to Steamboat Springs, then east to Grand Lake and Winter Park. Returning to Breckenridge, the total distance is 418 miles.

USGS scientists share their passion for geology, hydrology, geography, and biology while pedaling the route and presenting brief talks during the cycling seminars sponsored by Wheat Ridge Cyclery[1]. Cyclists appreciate how the geology impacts the terrain across which they ride.

The ancient Paleoproterozoic basement of the Colorado Rockies contains metamorphic rocks which have been deformed and intruded by massive Mesoproterozoic granitic plutons. Through much of the Paleozoic, the area was buried in sedimentary rocks as seas came and went, interrupted in the Pennsylvanian by uplift of the broad, flat ancestral Rocky Mountains. The region remained above sea level through the middle Mesozoic until a shallow inland seaway flooded Colorado during the Cretaceous. As the seaway receded near the end of the Cretaceous, volcanism and thrust faulting that persisted through the Eocene formed the Laramide uplifts and basins which define the outlines of the modern mountain range. Large scale volcanism in the Oligocene was followed by extensional faulting in the Neogene which further modified the landscape, creating the high elevations we see today. Most of the important mineral deposits within the mountain region were generated during these Cenozoic tectonic and volcanic episodes. Repeated major alpine glaciation through the Plio-Pleistocene carved the jagged peaks and deep canyons that give Colorado its dramatic beauty.

Day-by-Day Geology Highlights

Photos accompanied by brief descriptions of the geology you will see along the ride route follow.

Sunday, June 10th – Breckenridge to Edwards

USGS scientists at Fremont Pass. USGS photo.
USGS scientists at Fremont Pass. USGS photo.

As we pedal over the Continental Divide at Fremont Pass (11,318 ft; 3,450 m), we pass the Climax Mine, which reopened in 2012, producing molybdenum, which is used in an alloy of steel. The ore bodies formed 22 million years ago when magma intruded the Precambrian rocks below the surface in three episodes.

Tennessee Pass. Claire Zelie photo, used with permission.
Tennessee Pass. Claire Zelie photo, used with permission.

We ascend the headwaters of the Arkansas River valley, below Mt. Elbert, Colorado's tallest peak (at 14,433 ft; 4,399 m), which is the lone peak to the south of the broad-shouldered Mt. Massive (14,429 ft; 4,398 m).

Pando Valley and Camp Hale. USGS photo.
Pando Valley and Camp Hale. USGS photo.

Northeast of Tennessee Pass (10,424 ft; 3,177 m), a tabular granitic intrusion of Laramide age (about 50 million years old) forms a high ridge.

Near Minturn. USGS photo.
Near Minturn. USGS photo.

Just past the Redstone bridge and at Battle Mountain, sills of the Pando porphyry (69 to 68 million years old) are intruded into the Minturn Formation. We ride through Paleozoic sedimentary rocks as we pedal down the Eagle River valley.

Monday, June 11th – Edwards to Steamboat Springs

Highway 131 and State Bridge. Jerry Nolan photo, used with permission.
Highway 131 and State Bridge. Jerry Nolan photo, used with permission.
Finger Rock. USGS photo.
Finger Rock. USGS photo.
Volcanic necks. USGS photo.
Volcanic necks. USGS photo.

As we make our way north, spires or "fingers" of rock can be seen protruding from the landscape. These are volcanic necks, the hardened remains of former vertical conduits of Tertiary volcanoes, exposed when their volcanic flanks were removed by erosion. Finger Rock, a particularly prominent spire close to the highway, is 6–4.5 million years old. We skirt the eastern edge of the White River Plateau. Uplifted during the Laramide orogeny (about 70 to 50 million years ago), the area was formerly a lowland that accumulated nearly 8,000 ft (2,440 m) of Paleozoic sedimentary rocks and 7,000 ft (2,135 m) of Mesozoic rocks.

Tuesday, June 12th – Steamboat Springs Loop

20 Mile Road. USGS photo.
20 Mile Road. USGS photo.
20 Mile Road. USGS photo.
20 Mile Road. USGS photo.
20 Mile Road. USGS photo.
20 Mile Road. USGS photo.
US Highway 40. USGS photo.
US Highway 40. USGS photo.

Most of today's ride is through undulating topography of Upper Cretaceous sandstone, shale, and coal of the Mesaverde Group (82 to 72 million years old), material that was deposited near the shore of an ancient seaway. Both underground and open-pit mines extract coal from seams in this area. The Flat Tops, the aptly named mountains to the southwest, are capped by volcanic lava flows of Tertiary age (13 to 11 million years old).

Wednesday, June 13th – Steamboat Springs to Grand Lake

Yampa River Valley. USGS photo.
Yampa River Valley. USGS photo.

Faulting along the western side of the Park Range makes for a steep ascent out of Steamboat Springs. These faults serve as conduits to bring superheated water to the surface, forming hot springs for which the town is named.

USGS scientists at Rabbit Ears Pass. USGS photo.
USGS scientists at Rabbit Ears Pass. USGS photo.
Rabbit Ears Peak. USGS photo.
Rabbit Ears Peak. USGS photo.

Enduring Precambrian-age rocks form the crest of the Park Range as we traverse the Continental Divide at Rabbit Ears Pass (9,426 ft; 2,873 m). As you leave the pass, to the north you'll see the distinctive double towers of Rabbit Ears Peak. The peak is made up of volcanic material that erupted between 30 and 28 million years ago from the Rabbit Ears Range to the east. Later erosion sculpted the peak into the "rabbit ears" we see today.

Wolford Mountain. USGS photo.
Wolford Mountain. USGS photo.

Easily erodible shale forms the valley as we descend through more durable Mesozoic rocks. Passing Wolford Mountain Reservoir, the top half of the mountain to the east has trees growing on coarse Precambrian granite, which has been thrust westward over barren Cretaceous shale and sandstone below.

Colorado River. USGS photo.
Colorado River. USGS photo.

East of Kremmling, we pedal up the Colorado River valley into Middle Park, the middle of three relatively featureless basins in the high mountains of Colorado, and then into a canyon cut through a variety of rock types sliced by faults. The hot springs of Hot Sulphur Springs are along a fault system at the eastern side of Byers Canyon.

Thursday, June 14th – Grand Lake to Winter Park (with an option to Berthoud Pass)

Evidence of glaciation that occurred tens of thousands of years ago in the form of glacial moraines (ridges made up of mixtures of rock material of various sizes and shapes) create hummocky terrain near Winter Park. Glacial outwash (deposits of sand and gravel carried by running water from a melting glacier) form terraces in the Fraser Valley.

USGS scientists at Berthoud Pass. USGS photo.
USGS scientists at Berthoud Pass. USGS photo.

If you decide to take the optional ride to the top of Berthoud Pass (11,307 ft; 3,447 m), you'll have the opportunity to visit the Continental Divide for the fourth time on the tour and pedal through the northeast-southwest-trending Colorado Mineral Belt. The Colorado Mineral Belt is world famous for its many deposits of gold and silver. You may notice some abandoned and a few still-active mines on the hillsides above our route.

View from Berthoud Pass of Indian Peaks Wilderness. Andrew Peters photo, used with permission.
View from Berthoud Pass of Indian Peaks Wilderness. Andrew Peters photo, used with permission.

Friday, June 15th – Winter Park to Breckenridge (via Ute Pass)

In the Williams Fork River Valley, we pass the railroad embankment where ore is transported along a 15-mile conveyor belt through an old train tunnel from the Henderson Mine, the largest primary producer of molybdenum in the world, on the other side of the Continental Divide. The Henderson Mine also lies within the Colorado Mineral Belt.

Shale and sandstone form the rounded topography of the Williams Fork Mountains. This is the western edge of the Front Range, where a thrust fault has pushed Precambrian-age gneiss and granite (1.8 to 1.4 billion years old) over easily erodible Upper Cretaceous Pierre Shale (82 to 70 million years old). Durable sandstone forms Ute Pass (9,190 ft; 2,802 m); across the valley to the west are the jagged glaciated peaks of the Gore Range.

Gore Range. USGS photo.
Gore Range. USGS photo.
Lake Dillon. Rian Houston photo, used with permission.
Lake Dillon. Rian Houston photo, used with permission.

Traveling past Frisco, we skirt the north shore of Lake Dillon, the largest water-storage facility for the Denver metropolitan area. A tunnel moves water from Lake Dillon under the Continental Divide to Denver.

Postcard
Front of postcard (10 MB PDF) Back of postcard (151 KB PDF)

Selected Reading

Chonic, Halka, and Williams, Felicie, 2002, Roadside Geology of Colorado (2nd ed.):  Mountain Press Publishing Co., Missoula, Mont., 399 p.

Foutz, D.R., 1994, Geology of Colorado Illustrated:  Your Geologist, Grand Junction, Colo., 184 p.

Green, G.N., 1992, The digital geologic map of Colorado in ARC/INFO format:  U.S. Geological Survey, Open-File Report 92-507, scale 1:500,000.

Hopkins, R.L., and Hopkins, L.B., 2000, Hiking Colorado’s geology:  The Mountaineers, Seattle, Wash., 239 p.

Kent, H.C., and Porter, K.W., (eds.), 1980, Colorado geology:  Rocky Mountain Association of Geologists, Denver, Colo., 258 p.

Matthews, Vincent, KellerLynn, Katie, and Fox, Betty, (eds.), 2003, Messages in stone—Colorado’s colorful geology:  Colorado Geological Survey, Denver, Colo.

Pearl, R.M., 1972, Colorado Gem Trails and Mineral Guide:  Swallow Press, Ohio University Press, Athens, Ohio, 222 p.

Raup, O.B., 1996, Geology along Trail Ridge Road—A self-guided tour for motorists, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado:  Rocky Mountain Nature Association and Falcon Press Publishing Co., Helena and Billings, Mont., 73 p.

Reed, Jack, and Ellis, Gene, 2009, Rocks above the clouds—A hiker’s and climber’s guide to Colorado mountain geology:  The Colorado Mountain Club Press, Golden, Colo., 240 p.

Tweto, Ogden, (compiler), 1979, Geologic map of Colorado:  U.S. Geological Survey, scale 1:500,000.

Voynick, S.M., 1994, Colorado Rockhounding:  Mountain Press Publishing Co., Missoula, Mont., 371 p.

[1] Any use of trade, product, or firm names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.

Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices

Take Pride in America logo USA.gov logo U.S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
URL: http://www.usgs.gov/events/ridetherockies/index.html
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Page Last Modified: 11-Jun-2018, 16:28

U.S. Geological Survey - Ride The Rockies with USGS
USGS - science for a changing world

Ride The Rockies

Ride The Rockies 2018

Ride The Rockies 2018 logo

Tour Map (png, 620KB)

Elevation Profile (png, 56KB)

The Denver Post Ride The Rockies is an annual bicycle tour that takes 2,000 cyclists selected by lottery on a 6- to 7-day ride on roads through Colorado's Rocky Mountains each June. The route varies each year, but always climbs a few challenging mountain passes and showcases Colorado's spectacular scenery. Daily rides can be as short as 35 miles or as long as 100 miles, but generally average 60 to 65 miles.

Our 2018 tour will be a 6-day loop, starting and ending in Breckenridge; we take a clockwise route to Edwards, north to Steamboat Springs, then east to Grand Lake and Winter Park. Returning to Breckenridge, the total distance is 418 miles.

USGS scientists share their passion for geology, hydrology, geography, and biology while pedaling the route and presenting brief talks during the cycling seminars sponsored by Wheat Ridge Cyclery[1]. Cyclists appreciate how the geology impacts the terrain across which they ride.

The ancient Paleoproterozoic basement of the Colorado Rockies contains metamorphic rocks which have been deformed and intruded by massive Mesoproterozoic granitic plutons. Through much of the Paleozoic, the area was buried in sedimentary rocks as seas came and went, interrupted in the Pennsylvanian by uplift of the broad, flat ancestral Rocky Mountains. The region remained above sea level through the middle Mesozoic until a shallow inland seaway flooded Colorado during the Cretaceous. As the seaway receded near the end of the Cretaceous, volcanism and thrust faulting that persisted through the Eocene formed the Laramide uplifts and basins which define the outlines of the modern mountain range. Large scale volcanism in the Oligocene was followed by extensional faulting in the Neogene which further modified the landscape, creating the high elevations we see today. Most of the important mineral deposits within the mountain region were generated during these Cenozoic tectonic and volcanic episodes. Repeated major alpine glaciation through the Plio-Pleistocene carved the jagged peaks and deep canyons that give Colorado its dramatic beauty.

Day-by-Day Geology Highlights

Photos accompanied by brief descriptions of the geology you will see along the ride route follow.

Sunday, June 10th – Breckenridge to Edwards

USGS scientists at Fremont Pass. USGS photo.
USGS scientists at Fremont Pass. USGS photo.

As we pedal over the Continental Divide at Fremont Pass (11,318 ft; 3,450 m), we pass the Climax Mine, which reopened in 2012, producing molybdenum, which is used in an alloy of steel. The ore bodies formed 22 million years ago when magma intruded the Precambrian rocks below the surface in three episodes.

Tennessee Pass. Claire Zelie photo, used with permission.
Tennessee Pass. Claire Zelie photo, used with permission.
Pando Valley and Camp Hale. USGS photo.
Pando Valley and Camp Hale. USGS photo.
Near Minturn. USGS photo.
Near Minturn. USGS photo.

We ascend the headwaters of the Arkansas River valley, below Mt. Elbert, Colorado’s tallest peak (at 14,433 ft; 4,399 m), which is the lone peak to the south of the broad-shouldered Mt. Massive (14,429 ft; 4,398 m). Northeast of Tennessee Pass (10,424 ft; 3,177 m), a tabular granitic intrusion of Laramide age (about 50 million years old) forms a high ridge. Just past the Redstone bridge and at Battle Mountain, the Pando porphyry (69–68 million-year-old sills) are intruded into the Minturn Formation. We ride through Paleozoic sedimentary rocks as we pedal down the Eagle River valley.

Monday, June 11th – Edwards to Steamboat Springs

Highway 131 and State Bridge. Jerry Nolan photo, used with permission.
Highway 131 and State Bridge. Jerry Nolan photo, used with permission.
Finger Rock. USGS photo.
Finger Rock. USGS photo.
Volcanic necks. USGS photo.
Volcanic necks. USGS photo.

As we make our way north, spires or "fingers" of rock can be seen protruding from the landscape. These are volcanic necks, the hardened remains of former vertical conduits of Tertiary volcanoes, exposed when their volcanic flanks were removed by erosion. Finger Rock, a particularly prominent spire close to the highway, is 6–4.5 million years old. We skirt the eastern edge of the White River Plateau. Uplifted during the Laramide orogeny (about 70 to 50 million years ago), the area was formerly a lowland that accumulated nearly 8,000 ft (2,440 m) of Paleozoic sedimentary rocks and 7,000 ft (2,135 m) of Mesozoic rocks.

Tuesday, June 12th – Steamboat Springs Loop

20 Mile Road. USGS photo.
20 Mile Road. USGS photo.20 Mile Road. USGS photo.
20 Mile Road. USGS photo.
20 Mile Road. USGS photo.
20 Mile Road. USGS photo.
20 Mile Road. USGS photo.
US Highway 40. USGS photo.
US Highway 40. USGS photo.

Most of today's ride is through undulating topography of Upper Cretaceous sandstone, shale, and coal of the Mesaverde Group (82 to 72 million years old), material that was deposited near the shore of an ancient seaway. Both underground and open-pit mines extract coal from seams in this area. The Flat Tops, the aptly named mountains to the southwest, are capped by volcanic lava flows of Tertiary age (13 to 11 million years old).

Wednesday, June 13th – Steamboat Springs to Grand Lake

Yampa River Valley. USGS photo.
Yampa River Valley. USGS photo.

Faulting along the western side of the Park Range makes for a steep ascent out of Steamboat Springs. These faults serve as conduits to bring superheated water to the surface, forming hot springs for which the town is named.

USGS scientists at Rabbit Ears Pass. USGS photo.
USGS scientists at Rabbit Ears Pass. USGS photo.
Rabbit Ears Peak. USGS photo.
Rabbit Ears Peak. USGS photo.

Enduring Precambrian-age rocks form the crest of the Park Range as we traverse the Continental Divide at Rabbit Ears Pass (9,426 ft; 2,873 m). As you leave the pass, to the north you'll see the distinctive double towers of Rabbit Ears Peak. The peak is made up of volcanic material that erupted between 30 and 28 million years ago from the Rabbit Ears Range to the east. Later erosion sculpted the peak into the "rabbit ears" we see today.

Wolford Mountain. USGS photo.
Wolford Mountain. USGS photo.

Easily erodible shale forms the valley as we descend through more durable Mesozoic rocks. Passing Wolford Mountain Reservoir, the top half of the mountain to the east has trees growing on coarse Precambrian granite, which has been thrust westward over barren Cretaceous shale and sandstone below.

Colorado River. USGS photo.
Colorado River. USGS photo.

East of Kremmling, we pedal up the Colorado River valley into Middle Park, the middle of three relatively featureless basins in the high mountains of Colorado, and then into a canyon cut through a variety of rock types sliced by faults. The hot springs of Hot Sulphur Springs are along a fault system at the eastern side of Byers Canyon.

Thursday, June 14th – Grand Lake to Winter Park (with an option to Berthoud Pass)

Evidence of glaciation that occurred tens of thousands of years ago in the form of glacial moraines (ridges made up of mixtures of rock material of various sizes and shapes) create hummocky terrain near Winter Park. Glacial outwash (deposits of sand and gravel carried by running water from a melting glacier) form terraces in the Fraser Valley.

USGS scientists at Berthoud Pass. USGS photo.
USGS scientists at Berthoud Pass. USGS photo."

If you decide to take the optional ride to the top of Berthoud Pass (11,307 ft; 3,447 m), you'll have the opportunity to visit the Continental Divide for the fourth time on the tour and pedal through the northeast-southwest-trending Colorado Mineral Belt. The Colorado Mineral Belt is world famous for its many deposits of gold and silver. You may notice some abandoned and a few still-active mines on the hillsides above our route.

View from Berthoud Pass of Indian Peaks Wilderness. Andrew Peters photo, used with permission.
View from Berthoud Pass of Indian Peaks Wilderness. Andrew Peters photo, used with permission.

Friday, June 15th – Winter Park to Breckenridge (via Ute Pass)

In the Williams Fork River Valley, we pass the railroad embankment where ore is transported along a 15-mile conveyor belt through an old train tunnel from the Henderson Mine, the largest primary producer of molybdenum in the world, on the other side of the Continental Divide. The Henderson Mine also lies within the Colorado Mineral Belt.

Shale and sandstone form the rounded topography of the Williams Fork Mountains. This is the western edge of the Front Range, where a thrust fault has pushed Precambrian-age gneiss and granite (1.8 to 1.4 billion years old) over easily erodible Upper Cretaceous Pierre Shale (82 to 70 million years old). Durable sandstone forms Ute Pass (9,190 ft; 2,802 m); across the valley to the west are the jagged glaciated peaks of the Gore Range.

Gore Range. USGS photo.
Gore Range. USGS photo.
Lake Dillon. Rian Houston photo, used with permission.
Lake Dillon. Rian Houston photo, used with permission.

Traveling past Frisco, we skirt the north shore of Lake Dillon, the largest water-storage facility for the Denver metropolitan area. A tunnel moves water from Lake Dillon under the Continental Divide to Denver.

Postcard
Front of postcard (10 MB PDF) Back of postcard (151 KB PDF)

Selected Reading

Chonic, Halka, and Williams, Felicie, 2002, Roadside Geology of Colorado (2nd ed.):  Mountain Press Publishing Co., Missoula, Mont., 399 p.

Foutz, D.R., 1994, Geology of Colorado Illustrated:  Your Geologist, Grand Junction, Colo., 184 p.

Green, G.N., 1992, The digital geologic map of Colorado in ARC/INFO format:  U.S. Geological Survey, Open-File Report 92-507, scale 1:500,000.

Hopkins, R.L., and Hopkins, L.B., 2000, Hiking Colorado’s geology:  The Mountaineers, Seattle, Wash., 239 p.

Kent, H.C., and Porter, K.W., (eds.), 1980, Colorado geology:  Rocky Mountain Association of Geologists, Denver, Colo., 258 p.

Matthews, Vincent, KellerLynn, Katie, and Fox, Betty, (eds.), 2003, Messages in stone—Colorado’s colorful geology:  Colorado Geological Survey, Denver, Colo.

Pearl, R.M., 1972, Colorado Gem Trails and Mineral Guide:  Swallow Press, Ohio University Press, Athens, Ohio, 222 p.

Raup, O.B., 1996, Geology along Trail Ridge Road—A self-guided tour for motorists, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado:  Rocky Mountain Nature Association and Falcon Press Publishing Co., Helena and Billings, Mont., 73 p.

Reed, Jack, and Ellis, Gene, 2009, Rocks above the clouds—A hiker’s and climber’s guide to Colorado mountain geology:  The Colorado Mountain Club Press, Golden, Colo., 240 p.

Tweto, Ogden, (compiler), 1979, Geologic map of Colorado:  U.S. Geological Survey, scale 1:500,000.

Voynick, S.M., 1994, Colorado Rockhounding:  Mountain Press Publishing Co., Missoula, Mont., 371 p.

[1] Any use of trade, product, or firm names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.

Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices

Take Pride in America logo USA.gov logo U.S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
URL: http://www.usgs.gov/events/ridetherockies/index.html
Page Contact Information: Ask USGS
Page Last Modified: 11-Jun-2018, 16:28