Last weekend we went biking in Rocky Mountain National Park and it was amazing. If you would like to see our previous forays into RMNP (including our awesome winter camping trip!) click here.
We took this trip on Mother’s Day ~ it was the treat that C planned for me, and it couldn’t have been more perfect. I love biking, and I really love biking with C and the boys, but I don’t find it fun or relaxing if we’re biking on roads busy with cars. Fortunately, as I’ll explain, this ride was perfect because it was car-free and the scenery was breathtaking. More pics and tips ahead!
Trail Ridge Road
Our entire ride took place along Trail Ridge Road. This is the one road that goes through the park from east to west, climbing high up above the tree line and staying there for over 10 miles and providing views of the Rockies that can’t be beat. We drove the entire road during our fall camping trip, and and I often reminisce about those views, so I was really excited to go back and see the same mountaintops covered in snow.
During the early spring, Trail Ridge Road is closed to car traffic, but open to bikers and hikers/walkers. The status of all roads in RMNP is available at this site; it specifies whether the roads are open to cars, bikes, and walkers (with leashed pets).
As the road status website states, it’s crucial to keep up-to-date information about the weather and any possible changes in road conditions in the park. The weather in the mountains can experience extreme changes in less than a day. For example, our area just experienced an unusually heavy mid-May snowstorm last week. We were hit with well over a foot of snow in the foothills, meanwhile the high mountains received much more, and now many areas of the park are under extreme avalanche alert. Fortunately, the skies were blue and sunny and the roads were clear last weekend for our trip.
Biking Trail Ridge Road
For this trip, our set-up was pretty basic. I biked solo while C towed the boys in the bike trailer.
We biked for about 15 miles roundtrip, climbing from approximately 10,500 feet altitude to over 12,000 feet. While the climb may seem strenuous, especially for someone that doesn’t bike regularly, Trail Ridge Road’s grade is relatively mellow, usually averaging 5% and not exceeding 7%.
It was amazing to start biking among the trees, and then see the landscape change as we gained altitude. There was a stretch where the snow was well above our heads, and then there were other windswept and sunny areas free of snow (and trees!).
The total trip didn’t take more than two hours, yet it was one of those adventures that was so much fun and so extreme that it seemed like it lasted all day!
Biking with Kids
There are two main components to biking with kids in a trailer : 1. can someone pull them, and 2. can you keep them happy.
A trip like this may seem extreme with two kids in tow (total weight of 60lbs!). Honestly, there’s no way I could have pulled them up the mountain, but since C bikes in the mountains regularly, it made this trip harder for him, but not *too* hard, just a good workout. Also, he demanded that I say that he beat me to the top of the mountain.
When it comes to keeping the boys happy, we have a few tricks :
- temperature control & comfort : as you know, if kids get too hot or too cold, there’s going to be complaining. Layers are awesome, and blankets are an easy on/off layer. For this trip, we let them wear pjs (yay for cozy clothes!), and we threw in a blanket and a couple of winter hats to use when needed.
- snacks : we keep it super simple with just a water bottle and animal crackers or some other easy finger food that they won’t devour too quickly. We put the crackers in the little pockets on each side of the trailer. The boys can easily reach them and there’s no fighting over sharing.
- toys : sometimes they will each bring a small toy (car, kitty cat, etc.)
- exercise : they can get antsy sitting in the trailer on a long ride. Plan to let the kids get out and run at least once. We packed a picnic lunch, and took a nice and long break at the top of the mountain to let the boys run around. After that, they were happy to get back in the trailer for the ride down.
- practice : your kids may have to get used to riding in the trailer. Our boys have been out on rides both separately and together. We learned last year that Luc hated the trailer and was not ready for group rides, but this year (at age 2), he loves it!
Of course, even with those tips and a few rides under our belt, there are still inevitable meltdowns. Sometimes it requires that we stop for a moment to negotiate a fight, to refill snacks, or to adjust the seating. Other times, their complaints may just be a moment of boredom that we have to bike through (think of it just like the boredom that comes with a long car ride).
I’m so glad that we discovered this biking opportunity in RMNP in early spring. I love traditions, and I’m hoping this can become a regular one… although, I’m not sure how that will work the next few years when the boys are too heavy for the trailer, but aren’t quite strong enough to bike up the hill themselves.
In the past we’ve biked up the road/mountain to Maroon Bells with the boys (once with just Alex and another time with just Luc). This is another really enjoyable ride in Colorado because during the summer months the road has traffic restrictions, minimizing car traffic, and leaving plenty of room for bikers. The added bonus is the amazing views at the top! And the hiking if your legs aren’t putty after the ride.
Traveling scenic routes by bike is such an amazing experience. Sort of like walking the city streets that you usually travel by car. Slowing down gives you a chance to really soak in the views, gives you time to reflect, and provides you with a more intimate connection to the place. Give it a