June is a wonderful month for a Salida vacation. Not only is the weather beautiful but there are a number of fun activities and events going on all month long. This year, Salida will be the final stop on the 32nd Annual Ride the Rockies bicycle tour. As a lovely coincidence, the end of the ride will take place during the FIBArk Whitewater Festival, one of the town’s signature and most popular events. Ride the Rockies concludes in town on June 17th, while the FIBArk Whitewater Festival is scheduled for June 15th to the 18th. So if you’ve been thinking about visiting this magnificent mountain town, a mid-June trip will give you a great opportunity to see a little of what makes it so special.
History of Ride the Rockies
Ride the Rockies began in 1986 with 1,500 riders from across the country. Its six-day tour took riders through six mountain towns (finishing in Denver) and it was so popular that registration was increased to 2,000 riders the following year. Shortly after that, a lottery system was enacted to ensure that all interested riders had equal chances to participate. Now, the ride lasts six or seven days, covers up to 545 miles, and features riders who represent every state in the country as well as several foreign countries. The route changes every year but always includes several beautiful, but difficult, mountain passes. All proceeds from Ride the Rockies go to the Denver Post Community Foundation, which in turn distributes funds to nonprofit organizations throughout the state that focus on education, human services, the arts, and youth.
This Year’s Route
For 2017, Ride the Rockies takes participants on a 447-miles ride from Alamosa to Salida that includes over 32,000 feet of elevation gain.
June 11th – Day 1: Starting in Alamosa, riders will travel 92.8 miles through the scenic San Luis Valley and finish in Pagosa Springs. This leg of the tour includes Wolf Creek Pass, which sits at 10,856 feet above sea level.
June 12th – Day 2: On the second day, riders finish up in Durango after 68 miles and over 4,000 feet in elevation gain. They’ll travel over Yellowjacket Pass, which offers a moderate challenge of 7,785 feet at peak elevation.
June 13th – Day 3: The third day takes riders on a 38.7-mile loop that begins and ends in Durango. The second half of the ride is mostly downhill, giving participants an easy end to the day.
June 14th – Day 4: Day Four is sure to be a challenging one as it covers 83 miles and three mountain passes. Riders will finish in Ridgway after traveling over Coal Bank (10,640′), Molas (10,910′), and Red Mountain Passes (11.017′). While this leg is difficult, it’s also incredibly scenic.
June 15th – Day 5: On the fifth day, riders have two routes from which they can choose: the regular 32.4-mile tour route from Ridgway to Montrose or the Government Springs Out-and-Back Challenge, which clocks at in 51.9 miles. The regular route is almost all downhill, making it a great rejuvenating ride, while the Challenge features 2,365 feet of elevation gain.
June 16th – Day 6: Day Six takes cyclists from Montrose to Gunnison. The route is 65 miles long with 6,691 feet of elevation gain up to the top of the Blue Mesa Summit.
June 17th – Day 7: The final day of the tour takes riders from Gunnison to Salida. This leg is 65.9 miles long with 4,360 feet of elevation gain. Riders will travel over Monarch Pass, which sits at 11,312 feet above sea level, before the downhill jaunt into Salida.
The Big Finish in Salida
Salida has been a stop on Ride the Rockies over a dozen times since the race began but this is only the second time the race has finished in town. This year, the race finishes at Thonoff Park, which is located at 142 Crestone Avenue. If you want to celebrate the riders’ grand accomplishment, festivities at the park will last from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. There will be food, drink, entertainment, and quite the lively atmosphere.
On the morning of June 17th, you won’t have to go far at all if you want to see the riders. They’ll be traveling right down Highway 50, which is directly in front of the property! Alternatively, you can also head up to Monarch Pass where you’ll be able to watch the riders complete the last big challenge of the tour. At this point in the race, a little encouragement goes a long way. So feel free to cheer them on! To get to Monarch Pass from Creekside Chalets and Cabins, head west on Highway 50 for about 11.5 miles. The trip should only take about 15 minutes and there’s parking available at the top.