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Top 10 Peaks to summit by bike

There are few experiences more gratifying than climbing a mountain peak. Looking back down on the world below, the ridges, valleys, and cirques represent memories: god and bad. Maybe in a certain gully you and your buddies fought to keep your tent up in a July snowstorm. Or what about that ridge, where the world’s highest spitting contest was held? Things like that make a summit mission about more than just a view or bragging rights. Looking down, you can see a timeline of the struggles, triumphs, and transformations encountered along the way. It’s not about the fact that you got there; it’s about how you got there and the resulting personal growth and life experience gained.

Climbing a peak with a mountain bike is even more satisfying. Not only do you get the pleasure of self-reflection, but you can enjoy a tangible reward: barreling down thousands of feet of scenic alpine terrain. In addition, using a mountain bike makes more remote peaks accessible because even in the harshest, most oxygen-deprived environments, bikers can often travel double the distance of their hiking counterparts.

Despite all the pleasure that can come from conquering a peak, very few bikers get any exposure to such an undertaking. Due to the brutal nature of the first half of these adventures, these are not for the faint of heart. But these 10 mountain bike summits are among some of the most rewarding riders will find in the world!

Mount Elbert

If you want to get your summiting career off to a roaring start, Mount Elbert, a Colorado 14er and the highest point in the Rockies, is a great choice. From the trailhead, a smooth ribbon of dirt slowly winds its way from a semi-arid landscape into large stands of aspen. Roaring creeks, sculpted turns, and a an occasional view will help ease your pain on this portion of the climb.

Eventually, the real climb starts to set in with rock gardens and steeper grades becoming more prominent. The trail, meandering at first, straightens out above the treeline. At this point the trail becomes even steeper as views of North Park and the Upper Arkansas River Valley unfold, with the only consolation being that the rock gardens disperse. However, that doesn’t mean the rocks disappear. They are just more evenly spaced once riders reach the far upper slopes of the mountain.

Finally, after a long, arduous journey, riders make it to the top. Take a couple summit photos, soak in the views of the Collegiate Peaks, and get ready to rip a completely rideable (and incredibly entertaining) plummet from the summit!

The Details

  • Elevation: 14,439′
  • Net elevation gain to summit: 5,179′
  • Distance: 9.9 miles
  • Nearest town: Leadville, Colorado
  • Nearest campground: Twin Peaks Campground 
  • Best post-ride restaurant: High Mountain Pies
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