Cycling: Meeker Park to Estes Park

      by Gordon S. Novak Jr.

Cycling from Meeker Park to Estes Park is an interesting and scenic trip that provides good altitude training. Although this route goes down a big hill to Estes, an elevation gain of 600 feet is required to reach Wind River Pass. The route travels north on Highway 7, which connects Allenspark and Estes Park; I usually start in Meeker Park, about 2.5 miles north of Allenspark and about 1 mile north of the Wild Basin entrance to RMNP. Mile points referenced below are relative to the mile markers on small green signs at the side of the road.

At Mile 12 is the Meeker Park Lodge, a historic lodge built around 1920. It's an interesting building and has a small convenience store. Mile 11.5 is a turnoff onto Cabin Creek Road, which leads to a lovely creek, National Forest access, and a good bike route behind Twin Sisters. This section of Highway 7 has been widened, with a striped shoulder forming a good bike lane. Although this road appears flat to those in cars, cyclists will quickly see that it is uphill.

The St. Malo chapel, the "church on a rock", is at mile 11. This quaint, tiny church sits in a dramatic setting at the base of Mt. Meeker and above a beaver-dam lake on Cabin Creek. This creek area is also home to a variety of wildlife. Just past St. Malo's, the road narrows for a couple of miles, so caution is needed.

Eagle Plume's store is located at Mile 10, the store of the late Charles Eagle Plume, a noted raconteur and source of unpredictable ribald remarks and tall tales. The Indian art and artifacts are high-quality and expensive; the store is well worth a visit as a museum.

The road to Longs Peak Campground and trailhead is at mile 9.5, a stiff climb of an additional 500 feet. Although there are a few exhibits at the ranger station, it is probably not worth the climb unless you intend to camp or hike.

Mile 8.5 has a wonderful view of Longs Peak, with the historic Enos Mills cabin and Twin Sisters peaks on the opposite side. This is followed by a block-long climb up to the top of Wind River Pass, after which the welcome downhill section begins. The road narrows again, although since it is downhill the speed differential between bikes and cars is not so large.

Around Mile 7.5 is Lily Lake, formerly private but now part of the Park. There is a nice foot trail around the lake, wildlife, and good catch-and-release fishing. The trail to Twin Sisters starts from up the road across the highway from Lily Lake. A turn off that road leads to the historic Baldpate Inn.

After Lily Lake, the road goes seriously downhill. I usually let cars pass until there is a clear space, then I start down and take the whole lane. I brake only for a few curves, letting the "air brakes" do most of the work and reaching about 40 mph. This is fast enough to keep up with car traffic, so I stay in the middle of the lane until the hill levels out at the bottom; then I move to the side and let cars pass.

At a large lump of rock on the right, there are two alternate routes into Estes. One route is simply to stay on Highway 7; there is another hill steeply down and back up a small valley, after which there is a bike path off the road if you want to use it. The other route is to turn left and go past Mary's Lake; this route is slower and has less traffic, plus you get to see the lake, often some elk, and various llamas. The road is flat around Mary's Lake, then heads steeply down. I usually go down fast (keeping an eye out for side traffic) but slow down near the bottom, which often has gravel around the river crossing. A right turn takes you into Estes on a good marked shoulder that is easy and downhill. Total distance about 12 miles in 45 minutes.

Rocky Mountain National Park: The High Peaks