White tent and green hillside

Biking and Private Lands Coexist in NW Colorado

By: Owen Yager

Summer biking events in Northwest Colorado offer public opportunities to ride past many Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust (CCALT) conserved properties and landscapes, with the views being one of the reasons this region hosts several events every year. While CCALT works to primarily protect working agricultural ranches and farms across Colorado, its 2019 merger with the Yampa Valley Land Trust gives it a larger role in the Yampa Valley, which it serves by ensuring Northwest Colorado’s diverse conservation values are honored and cared for.

The Tour de Steamboat bike ride sent almost 900 riders on five rides around the Yampa Valley on July 15th. The Tour began in 2005 as a non-competitive, community event that has since brought cyclists from all over the nation to Northwest Colorado for nearly 20 years. This year’s distance courses included routes that passed nearly thirty CCALT easements, highlighting the exceptional view corridors now protected in perpetuity in Routt County.

I was at the Tour de Steamboat’s Expo, watching cyclists cross the finish line after riding anywhere from 20 to 100 miles. It was a congratulatory and celebratory scene with live music, local beer, and good food: each race finisher’s reward made all the sweeter by how hot the day was. When the riders had recovered and were walking around the Expo, I was able to show them where some of their favorite landscapes were on a combined map of Tour de Steamboat’s rides and CCALT easements. This was a great way to educate the public and bond with them over our shared appreciation of Routt County’s beauty.

bike riders on path with lake and cliff background.
Riders pass by cliffs and ridges on the Sickles West Conservation Easement.
Photo credit: Karen Desjardin
A line of bike riders on a road with mountain background
Tour de Steamboat 2023
Photo credits: Karen Desjardin

Steamboat Springs’ Town Challenge MTB Race Series hosted one of its six races at Oak Creek Mountain Park on July 12th. Oak Creek Mountain Park is a publicly accessible, 140-acre CCALT easement established in 2019 by the Yampa Valley Conservation Partnership. The Town Challenge offered several different courses that wound around all of Oak Creek Mountain Park’s five miles of single-track trails, providing a fantastic opportunity for Routt County locals to directly experience one of the unique easements CCALT holds in Northwest Colorado.

The Oak Creek Mountain Park race took place on a beautiful afternoon and evening, without too many bugs and with an amazing sunset. The youth heats left first, followed by adults at different levels over the next hour. As each rider came down the last incline, they were cheered on by race staff, families, and friends. It was wonderful to see so many people enjoy exploring and recreating on conserved open lands. Despite being much smaller than the Tour de Steamboat, it similarly showcased how the cycling community comes together to celebrate Northwest Colorado’s public and private landscapes.

The largest summer bike race event will be held over a long weekend in mid-August. The upcoming Steamboat Gravel (SBT GRVL), running from August 17th-21st will bring over 3,400 racers from across the nation and world to ride between 12 and 26 miles and upwards of 10,000+ feet in elevation gain. The four SBT GRVL courses will pass by more than 20 CCALT conserved properties with over 50 conserved properties in their view. The race site states. “SBT GRVL courses take you along some of Northwest Colorado’s finest view sheds. From historical ranches to land conservation easements, to legendary peaks, this terrain covers it all.”

See the shout out SBT GRVL gave CCALT on their course map: SBTGRVL Points of Interest: The Greatest Gravel Roads on Earth.