The Ride: Steamboat Springs to Lake Catamount
Distance: 22 miles round-trip
Time: 1.5 hours
This undulating, two-lane route hugs the edge of the Yampa Valley and delivers sweeping views of cowboy country: Horses and cattle graze grassy meadows, weathered barns shelter tractors, and Mt. Werner looms large above the plains. From downtown Steamboat Springs, cross the Yampa River at Fifth Street and turn left onto River Road (CR 14). The first quarter mile idles through a series of stop signs in Brooklyn, a residential neighborhood and a former red-light district during pioneer times. The houses and auto traffic disappear as the route squeezes between the Yampa and its steep bluffs, climbing gradually on an upstream course into ranchland.
The intersection of Mt. Werner Road (which joins CR 14 from the left) signals the start of the rolling hills. A short descent provides the ride’s first burst of speed as the panoramas widen on your left: Irrigation channels spider across pastures of silky green grasses that turn gold come midsummer. At this point, the rollers have your engines working at a respectably high rpm. Veer right at the junction where CR 14F joins 14, then turn left and cross the railroad tracks to follow Hudspeth Lane (CR 14E), a buttery-smooth contrast to River Road’s bumpy chip seal. Here, hilly meadows swell around you, hiding all traces of development and letting you dissolve among the grass, summits, and big sky. Jog left onto Highway 131 (where cars zoom at 65 mph), ride about a mile, and turn right onto CR 18, which leads to Lake Catamount, a placid, cattail-rimmed pond shimmering at the foot of the Park Range. Songbirds and herons distract you along the gradual two-mile climb to the water’s edge and your turnaround point. —Kelly Bastone
Craving more than just waterside views? Catamount Ranch & Club operates the Lake House Grille, and although it doesn’t advertise (you won’t see any mention of this restaurant in Steamboat’s Dining Guide), it’s open to the public—and serves killer fish tacos. The lakeside dining room offers lunch daily in the summer from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., but the choicest seats are on the open-air deck that overlooks blue waters ringed by green mountainsides. 970-871-9229, catamountranchclub.com
Emerald Mountain Circuit (Moderate)
The 35-mile Emerald Mountain circuit is a longer, steeper, hillier challenge for intermediate-level cyclists. From Steamboat Springs, cross the river at 13th Street and follow Twentymile Road (CR 33) along the edge of the Yampa Valley, savoring views northward toward Hahns Peak and Sleeping Giant (in the spring, their snowy slopes contrast prettily with the wildflower-filled ranch meadows you pass). Turn left onto Cow Creek Road (CR 45) and follow its dirt course up a series of aspen-covered hills. Veer left onto CR 41, descend to the Hilton Gulch schoolhouse, and turn left onto paved CR 35 for a thrillingly fast, curving descent back into the Yampa Valley (pick up River Road/CR 14 to return downtown).