Author Topic: TransAm Alternate Routes You Would Recommend  (Read 1813 times)

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Offline John Nettles

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TransAm Alternate Routes You Would Recommend
« on: March 08, 2022, 10:12:45 pm »
If you were going to ride TransAm and were willing to go off route somewhat, what detour would you recommend to people.  It can be anywhere along the route so long as it can "reasonably" be done by most riders.  Nicely graded gravel/dirt roads are permitted.  Why do you recommend the detour and what are the pros and cons?  Try to offer a route map if you can. 

I'll start.  I have three. The first alternative goes from Saratoga, WY to Walden, CO via Centennial, WY, over the beautiful Snowy Range Mountains.  Map:  https://ridewithgps.com/routes/38729543 .

This route is about 40 miles longer, has a 10,800' pass, and about 7 miles of graded gravel road. The section around Mirror Lake is, to me, quite majestic.  https://goo.gl/maps/dTFTBoV5JVYCR1aY6 .  The pros are the scenery.  The cons are the extra miles and gravel and a bit of planning for Food and Water between Centennial and Walden but the original stretch between Riverside and Walden is pretty sparse too.

The second alternative goes from Hartsel, CO to Florence, CO, via Florissant and Cripple Creek and Phantom Canyon Road.  Map:  https://ridewithgps.com/routes/38729671  .

This route is about 35 miles longer than the TA route.  The route is for the most part on very quiet county roads with services spaced nicely along the route.  Lots of old Colorado Gold Mining buildings and such.  Beginning in Cripple Creek, it has a 25 mile long steady 3.5% descent (TA eastbound) on the gravel Phantom Canyon Road, an old narrow gauge railroad bed, which features two tunnels and three elevated bridges.  https://goo.gl/maps/YbAbV8ivpyFuDnPh7 (the pic can be rotated 360* by holding the left mouse  down while moving the mouse around).

The pros are quiet roads for the most part and the Phantom Canyon Road which you could almost coast down the entire 25 miles if eastbound.  The cons are about 32 miles of nicely graded gravel/dirt including Phantom Canyon Road, which would not be as fun if you were westbound due to the 25 mile gravel climb up to Cripple Creek.  Plus you would miss the quirky town of Guffey along with the Royal Gorge in Canon City.  The high point is about 500 feet higher on the alternate route.

If you wanted to visit Guffey, you could head south on the TA from Hartsel to Guffey and then east on CR-11 to CR-1 then south to Cripple Creek and the Phantom Canyon Road. 

The final alternate suggestion is a short little alternate just west of Canon City. Heck, it may be on the official route now.  Map: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/38729696

This short paved 3 mile route goes up to Skyline Drive just west of Canon City.  It is a one-lane wide ridge top road.  https://goo.gl/maps/FVk2f8UJrdbnZRxV9 . The pros are the scenery.  The cons are the extra 200' climbing in only a few miles.  You can see the highway the TA takes in the picture. Note the route is one-way for cars but bikes can ride both directions.

What alternate routes do you recommend?
Tailwinds, John
« Last Edit: March 08, 2022, 10:18:02 pm by John Nettles »

Offline BikeliciousBabe

Re: TransAm Alternate Routes You Would Recommend
« Reply #1 on: March 09, 2022, 12:10:28 pm »
Pioneer Mountains Scenic Byway east of Big Hole Pass in MT, skipping Badger Pass and the town of Dillon:

https://ridewithgps.com/routes/38733520

I have started from Jackson twice and camped at Divide Bridge Campground.  The gradual ride up the Grasshopper Valley through Polaris is pretty.  You pass by Elkhorn Hot Springs, where there is lodging and camping.  The climb to the summit is not that bad despite its altitude.  The long descent is terrific and includes a stunning alpine meadow section.  The scenic byway is part of the GDMBR.  It was unpaved until around 2008 or so. The dirt road leading to Divide Bridge is at mile 54.6 on the map.  There is a big restaurant and a small but decent mercantile in Wise River for supplies.  The 9 miles from through the canyon from Wise Rive to Divide Bridge is sweet. 

The unpaved section between Melrose and Twin Bridges is doable with good tires, but there is some climbing involved.  Well worth it, though.  You're likely to see more free range cattle than cars.  I have ridden it 3 times on 37c tires.  Rough in places, but so much fun.  If one is absolutely opposed to gravel one can stay on 91 from Melrose (restaurant, motel and camping there) to Dillion to get back on route, but then you have to deal with the shoulderless stretch of highway (12 miles, IIRC) between there are Twin Bridges.  There is a shoulder later on, but it's relatively narrow.

The Bike Camp at Twin Bridges is a nice place for a rest day.  Although small, the town has everything, including a coin-op laundry.  The camp itself is right along the Beaverhead River.

Another is a short stretch of easy dirt/gravel between Sheridan and Laurin, MT.  It avoids about 8 miles of shoulderless highway than can have truck traffic.  Encountered two vehicles when I rode it in 2016.  Very peaceful back there with nice views of the surrounding mountains.  The link to the map may still be included in the relevant map addendum:

https://ridewithgps.com/routes/14735499

Offline John Nettles

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Re: TransAm Alternate Routes You Would Recommend
« Reply #2 on: March 09, 2022, 12:18:40 pm »
Yep the Pioneer Mountains Scenic Byway between Polaris and Wise River is a wonderful ride.  Thanks for posting!

Offline BikeliciousBabe

Re: TransAm Alternate Routes You Would Recommend
« Reply #3 on: March 10, 2022, 09:19:50 am »
It's the Melrose to Twin Bridges off road option that is a bit of a challenge, but one that I think is worth it.  And I forgot to mention that I have seen pronghorns and sandhill cranes while frontage road south from the end of MT 43 on the way to Melrose.

If someone want to go more far afield you can ride the frontage road north and then a bit of I-15/I-90 and visit Butte.  The Uptown Section of the city has a lot of history and cool architecture.  Nice place to treat yourself to a motel room (the motor lodge section of the Hotel Finlen is a total throwback) and a good steak out Cassagranda's).  From there you ride Pipestone Pass (MT 2) and then MT 41 to Twin Bridges.  Pipestone east to west is the easier direction.  I have gone west to east 3 times.  Based on the climb, I think the descent would be quite fun.

https://ridewithgps.com/routes/38740037

Those doing one option of the L&C route can stay on MT 2 and pick the route back up in Whitehall.

Offline BobG

Re: TransAm Alternate Routes You Would Recommend
« Reply #4 on: March 10, 2022, 04:18:43 pm »
Should you not want to take the Blue Ridge Parkway section in VA (Bad weather? Need a break from climbing? Eastbound and want to avoid the climb up from Vesuvius?), the valley roads between Waynesboro and Vesuvius are quiet and lovely. Westbound just continue over Rockfish Gap to Waynesboro and wind around through Lyndhurst and Sherando to Vesuvius!

Offline John Nettles

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Re: TransAm Alternate Routes You Would Recommend
« Reply #5 on: March 10, 2022, 04:35:18 pm »
I always like the western valleys below the BRP.  Thanks, John

Offline John Nelson

Re: TransAm Alternate Routes You Would Recommend
« Reply #6 on: March 10, 2022, 05:41:54 pm »
First of all, let me state that I'm fundamentally opposed to alternatives that are simply designed to cut off hills or distance. I understand why you might want to do so if you're very pressed for time, but otherwise, most of those alternatives are more dangerous.

The alternative I recommend you consider is to use Ute Pass between Silverthorne, CO and Parshall, CO. I hate highway 9 coming into Kremmling from the south. I think it's dangerous for cyclists. I'm also not too fond of US 40 between Kremmling and Parshall. Taking Ute Pass eliminates most of this. The route over Ute Pass is 8.9 miles shorter than the standard ACA route through Kremmling, but it does add almost 1400 feet of climbing. It also has 13.5 miles of dirt, but it's the best dirt you can imagine. Ride The Rockies uses this pass from time to time and most of those riders are on 23mm or 25mm tires. The route over Ute Pass is much more scenic than the route through Kremmling, and considerably safer. One disadvantage is that is misses Kremmling, which you might need for services. The route over Ute Pass is 40 miles with no services from Silverthorne until you get to Hot Sulphur Springs.

Offline John Nettles

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Re: TransAm Alternate Routes You Would Recommend
« Reply #7 on: March 10, 2022, 06:22:43 pm »
It also has 13.5 miles of dirt, but it's the best dirt you can imagine. .....The route over Ute Pass is much more scenic than the route through Kremmling, and considerably safer. One disadvantage is that is misses Kremmling, which you might need for services. The route over Ute Pass is 40 miles with no services from Silverthorne until you get to Hot Sulphur Springs.
I have done the route between Parshall and Silverthorne twice.  I agree that it is very nice dirt riding and is more scenic than the highway.  I really prefer dirt over gravel as it is frequently much smoother than gravel.  Anyway, there is a dollar store in Granby only less than 3 miles and a grocery store ~2 more miles off route if they need some grocery foods in between Walden and Silverthorne. Additionally, there is a basic forest service CG (Vault toilet & drinking water only) beside a nice river about 15 south of Parshall I would recommend so the route is not totally devoid of services. 

As a side note, this is also the Great Divide Route.


Offline BobG

Re: TransAm Alternate Routes You Would Recommend
« Reply #8 on: March 11, 2022, 06:57:04 am »
John (Nelson), I could have used your Ute Pass suggestion in 2009, the last time I led an ACA TransAm group!

Originally the route from Kremmling to Walden was US 40 north > CO 14 north, 61 miles (blue route on screenshot). In 2009 the "official" route became US 40 east > CO 125 north, 78 miles (grey route on screenshot). This was to address safety issues on 40 north.

Some of our group that year were not keen on doing the 78 mile new route to Walden. They took the old "prohibited" route and the rest of us took the new longer route.

Had we turned right on the Ute Pass road the previous day from Breckenridge, we could have bypassed Kremmling altogether and stayed at Hot Sulphur Springs. That would have set us up for a 61 mile ride to Walden taking the safer CO 125!
« Last Edit: March 11, 2022, 07:53:05 am by BobG »

Online staehpj1

Re: TransAm Alternate Routes You Would Recommend
« Reply #9 on: March 11, 2022, 08:15:11 am »
First of all, let me state that I'm fundamentally opposed to alternatives that are simply designed to cut off hills or distance. I understand why you might want to do so if you're very pressed for time, but otherwise, most of those alternatives are more dangerous.
I wonder if we might often disagree on those choices.  I frequently wonder why AC routes go out of their way to climb an extra hill or two on a detour that is longer and doesn't seem to me to be any more scenic.  I tend to take more direct routes when I know what the two options actually are, but follow the AC route when I don't.  Later when I see what the more direct option was I am likely to be puzzled why they avoided it.  I have often just followed the AC maps on tour and later explored the areas on other trips and experienced this.

I am usually pretty stingy about doing extra miles off route when on a tour where there is a point to point goal like going coast to coast or something.  I am more likely to be okay with going off route if it is an alternate route, not some much to go out and back off route.  The exception might be if it was something that I really wanted to see may may not get back to again for a long time or maybe ever.  I am willing to hop on a bus or even rent a car (I have't actually done this) for a side trip that goes too far off route.  We toyed with the idea of renting a car for a side trip to Glacier while on the TA and I kind of wish I had.  I should have had my wife fly out and rent a car to join us to see the area.  These years later we still haven't been to Glacier and it would have been nice to include my wife in a bit of the trip even though she didn't want to ride.

Offline jamawani

Re: TransAm Alternate Routes You Would Recommend
« Reply #10 on: March 11, 2022, 10:07:47 am »
Shall we unsheath the sabers and get out the pikes?

When the TransAm came out in 1976, there were only paper maps.
With electronic mapping, it is much easier to offer alternative routes.
Blue Ridge Parkway or the 600-numbered county roads in the valleys?
Simply offer both choices.

I'm pretty darn opposed to interstate riding. So, I don't like the I-80 section in Wyo.
But the alternative from Rawlins to Saratoga involves dirt roads and route finding skills.
Not to mention that Sinclair is a fascinating company town.

Offline John Nettles

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Re: TransAm Alternate Routes You Would Recommend
« Reply #11 on: March 11, 2022, 10:18:32 am »
Oh come on John, you can do better than that!  You are probably one of the top 3 if not top in route experience.  You always offer nuggets of interesting side trips.  How bout letting us know what your favorite would be for the TA?

Offline jamawani

Re: TransAm Alternate Routes You Would Recommend
« Reply #12 on: March 11, 2022, 12:23:11 pm »
Oh come on John, you can do better than that!  You are probably one of the top 3 if not top in route experience.  You always offer nuggets of interesting side trips.  How bout letting us know what your favorite would be for the TA?

But the sabers and spears, I fear, are sharp, my lord.

Offline BobG

Re: TransAm Alternate Routes You Would Recommend
« Reply #13 on: March 11, 2022, 12:40:41 pm »
When the TransAm came out in 1976, there were only paper maps.
With electronic mapping, it is much easier to offer alternative routes.
Blue Ridge Parkway or the 600-numbered county roads in the valleys?

I found those 600 numbered routes with my paper maps after an aborted tour down the BRP! I joined an anonymous group for a north to south tour down the Parkway. As I recall I met them through an ad on the paper ACA magazine. After two days I found them too fast and racy for my style and decided to drop out and return to my starting point near Fredericksburg. I picked up the TransAm near Roanoke and looped back northeast. When I got to Vesuvius I found myself for the first time in my cycling history on the wrong eastbound side of their DREADED HILL! No way I was going to climb it back to the BRP! I continued linking the lovely 600 routes to Waynesboro.  ;D

Offline John Nettles

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Re: TransAm Alternate Routes You Would Recommend
« Reply #14 on: March 11, 2022, 05:29:25 pm »
As I recall I met them through an ad on the paper ACA magazine.
I really miss the old "magazine" when it was printed on newspaper print!  I think they should print the next milestone anniversary magazine on the newspaper print again.  ACA sure has come a long way since the old BikeCentennial early days.