Memorable Rides on the Upper Colorado Plateau
    Where the road less traveled is neither a poetic metaphor nor a pedestrian platitude.
Many interesting and beautiful roads in western Colorado and eastern Utah are widely known and frequently visited but roads don't have to be famous and popular to be worth traveling. Most roads mentioned here are lesser known, sometimes even to local riders. These roads not only feature stunning scenery but are often lengthy, remote and lightly traveled. Many include long unpaved sections ideally suited to adventure-touring motorcycles with large fuel tanks and all-day comfort. All but a few of the unpaved roads are easy going, suitable for newer riders, cautious older riders or anybody wanting beautiful scenery. It should be understood the following descriptions represent snapshots in time. Unpaved mountain and desert roads vary from season to season and may even be impassable after major storms.
My Motorcycles of choice for the roads below: Kawasaki KLR650 and Suzuki DL650 V-Strom. I've ridden most of the roads below multiple times on a variety of motorcycles. All these roads are easy on a KLR650 although a few may require an experienced off-pavement rider. Most of these roads are easy on a DL650 V-Strom. The few roads I have not ridden a DL650 on, and perhaps would choose not to, I've been with other riders who did ride DL650's although to be fair they were experts. Assuming suitable ground clearance, it's the rider more than the machine—the heavier the motorcycle, the more skill and confidence required. — Verle Nelson, Cedaredge CO


Weather information:
NOAA/National Weather Service  |   Road conditions Colorado CDOT  |   Road conditions Utah UDOT
 

Western Colorado:
thumbnail imageBlack Ridge Road Gunnison River canyon overlook, side trip on "Inspiriation Loop" below.
7.3 miles of 2-track primitive, easy when dry.
thumbnail imageGateway to Delta Across the Uncompahgre Plateau, mostly unpaved.
Mostly easy adventure touring / a mile of deep sand / a few steep, tight, loose-rock hairpins favoring dualsports.
thumbnail imageHighway 141 A popular loop with 100 miles of pretty canyons.
Paved / any kind of motorcycle, especially sportbikes.
thumbnail imageInspiration Loop 140 miles of twisty pavement, fast gravel and dirt roads.
Paved / unpaved / easy / any kind of motorcycle.
thumbnail imageLos Pinos Camp A primitive camp near Los Pinos Pass.
Paved / unpaved / tricky 300 yards to camp site, doable with care on big adventure touring bikes.
thumbnail image9 passes 1 day Nine unpaved passes, all in one day, a modest endurance ride.
Easy.
thumbnail image13 passes 1 day Thirteen unpaved passes, all in one day, a serious endurance ride.
7 passes easy / 6 passes 4WD trails favoring good riders on dualsports.
thumbnail imageRoad to Nowhere Unpaved road way up north in Western Colorado.
Easy.
thumbnail imageUncompahgre Over 100 miles of unpaved Divide Road with no towns or houses.
Easy.

Fifteen easy unpaved mountain passes in Western Colorado, west of or crossing the Continental Divide.
Gravel / dirt / small rocks, loose or embedded in clay / seasonal soft sand or powdered dirt / normally suitable for most motorcycles with good clearance / condition can vary depending on weather and road maintenance / may be impassable when wet / all closed by winter snow / muddy from spring thaw.


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Western Colorado and Eastern Utah:
thumbnail imageDolores River River road north out of Gateway along the Dolores River.
Unpaved / short (15 miles to end) / easy.
thumbnail imageMoab-Telluride A 450 loop, 250 miles unpaved.
Mostly easy adventure touring / a mile of deep sand / a few steep, tight, loose-rock hairpins favoring dualsports.
thumbnail imageParadox Trail Unpaved roads between Paradox and John Brown Canyon.
Easy.

Eastern and Southern Utah destination or focal point:
thumbnail imageAquarius Plateau A beautiful high plateau between Escalante and Bicknell.
unpaved / easy
thumbnail imageBullet Canyon Not all that remote but pretty and private overnight camp.
Easy / good gravel.
thumbnail imageBurr Trail Mostly Paved but still beautiful route between Boulder and Bullfrog.
Easy / seasonal soft sand or powdered dirt.
thumbnail imageButler Wash Road A short, sandy ride along east side of Comb Ridge.
Unpaved / easy / seasonal soft sand.
thumbnail imageCanyonlands 450 mile mostly unpaved circumnavigation of Canyonlands NP.
Easy enough on a dual sport / experts do it on big adventure bikes.
thumbnail imageCapitol Reef areaThousand Lakes Mountain, Cathedral Valley, Aquarius Plateau, Hell's Backbone, Burr Trail.
 Paved / unpaved / easy except for seasonal soft silt and sand on Notum Road. Cathedral Valley roads (see report).
thumbnail imageCathedral Valley Cathedral Valley, Cainville Wash Road.
Upaved / moderate until washed out at 22 miles in (see report).
thumbnail imageCave with a View What to do when it rains and you don't have a tent.
Pavement / 100 yards of soft sand to cave / easy but may be private property.
thumbnail imageBaxter & 9 mile Baxter Pass, 9-mile canyon, UT72 and a seasonal master chef in Torrey.
Paved / unpaved / easy / seasonal soft powdered dirt.
thumbnail imageComb Wash A short, sandy ride along west side of Comb Ridge.
Unpaved / easy / seasonal soft sand.
thumbnail imageCottonwood Canyon Canyon-rim view of Cottonwood and Dolores canyons.
Unpaved / easy on a dual sport / experts would do it on big adventure bikes.
thumbnail imageGrand Staircase Escalante National Monument, south-central Utah.
Paved / unpaved / easy on a dual sport / experts can do it on big adventure bikes / soft sand / one rocky climb.
thumbnail imageHells Backbone Boulder Mountain, Burr Trail.
Paved / unpaved / easy / seasonal soft sand.
thumbnail imageHovenweep A National Monument off the beaten path.
Paved.
thumbnail imageMesa Arch Island in the Sky, Canyonlands.
Paved, (unpaved alternate Island in the Sky descent).
thumbnail imageMonument Valley Winter trips to Navajo land.
Paved.
thumbnail imageMuley Point Overnight camping with a distant view of Monument Valley.
Easy / 4 miles unpaved / seasonal soft sand.
thumbnail imagePucker Pass A 2-day loop ride beginning with Baxter Pass.
Paved / unpaved / mostly easy / Pucker Pass varies from easy to difficult depending on maintenance and storms.
thumbnail imageSan Rafael Desert Well over 100 unpaved miles to Hite from Green River.
Easy for dual sports / experts do it on big adventure bikes / seasonal soft sand.
thumbnail imageSnow Flat An interesting road from UT261 to Comb Wash.
Easy on a dual sport / experts could do it on big adventure bike.
thumbnail imageUtah Highway 72 One of my favorite little-known highways in Utah.
Paved.

Alternate Routes:
thumbnail imageJohn Brown Canyon Gateway CO to Moab UT via John Brown Canyon
Easy.

Elsewhere:
thumbnail imageDeals Gap Smoky Mountain Ride, twelve states, 4133 miles.
Paved.
thumbnail imageDeath Valley Extraterrestrial Highway.
Paved.