These Towns Are High: Getting Up & Away From It All
“It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961, a resident of Sun Valley, Idaho)
Rocky Mountain High
Summer is a great time to visit the mountain towns of the west where you’ll find cooler temperatures, beautiful wildflowers and lots of mountain bike trails, and often, great road biking routes as well. Aspen, Park City, Sun Valley, Lake Tahoe, and Jackson Hole are all popular vacation towns with lots to do and they have one thing in common: they are all fairly high in elevation—at least 6000 feet!
These high altitude towns are popular with the outdoor adventure lover and are great places to bring your bike. If packing your bike along isn’t an option, cycling is so popular that many of the bike shops in these towns offer bike rentals for mountain bikes and often road bikes as well. (See the links below.) Many of the bike shops in those towns offer local trail maps or are happy to point out the best places to ride. Some are more ready for the bike-loving tourists than others: Park City adds so many new mountain biking trails that they update their trail maps yearly and like Aspen, is becoming criss-crossed with paved bike/ped trails. Even if they don’t have the latest maps, just ask. While on my travels, I once stopped in at a local bike shop where the guys cheerfully took a red pencil to my map of to show me the top 3 must-do road biking routes.
Another option is to download a bike route from Google maps. While I have found that is not fool-proof, it is getting better. (But with the links below you will find what you need for trail and route info. for Tahoe, Aspen, Park City, Jackson & Sun Valley.)
Getting High Without Getting Dehydrated
At 6000 feet above sea level you exhale and perspire twice as much as you do at sea level. The water loss doesn’t come from merely breathing and sweating, but the lower air pressure also leads to a more rapid evaporation of moisture from the skin’s surface. If you are drinking the way you might at sea level, that won’t be enough to make up for an extra liter of water loss or more from your body.
If you are enjoying your first day or two of vacation in a mountain community and are not used to the elevation yet, make sure you stay well hydrated while enjoying mountain biking, cycling, or other activities. Visitors who develop headaches, dizziness or fatigue may think they have altitude sickness, when actually, they may merely be suffering from dehydration. If this sounds like you or one of your friends, the remedy is simple: sit down and sip some water and take it easy for a little bit. (More on hydration while cycling.)
Altitude sickness is more likely to be a problem at altitudes of over 8000 feet. If you will be taking your mountain bike up to much higher elevations for the day and have recently come from lower elevations, take the advice of my brother-in-law, who completed the Leadville Trail 100 MTB Race, and don’t stop for long on the mountain top. Get to a lower elevation on the trail before you take a break. That may help you to avoid altitude sickness.
Aspen is an idyllic mountain town on the western slope of the Rockies. In summertime, it becomes a Mecca to many world-class athletes who get their workouts on the local trails and rivers. (Lance Armstrong is a part-time resident.) If you like to climb with your road bike, you’ll find lots of winding mountain roads with incredible scenery. Mountain bikers of all skill levels will love the endless mountain trails. You can also rent a cruiser and ride the paved bike trails to go into town for lunch or shopping. Aspen is so whole-heartedly taking to cycling that they celebrated with their first annual Aspen Cycling Festival in May (2010.) (The elevation of Aspen is 7,890 ft above sea level.)
Where to rent a bike in in Aspen:
For finding your way around Aspen’s great bike trails and routes go here.
Aspen Cycling Events & Organzations
Weekly Women’s Group Ride in Aspen: This summer it’s every Tuesday at 6pm, meeting at The Hub of Aspen (315 East Hyman)
Aspen/Snowmass Ride for the Cure – August 21, 2010
Annual 12 Hours of Snowmass – Sept. 11 An exciting endurance race with competitive mountain bikers alike, this 12 hour race on Snowmass mountain raises awareness and funds for the Aspen Youth Center; a local non-profit program which provides after school and outreach programs for local kids. A nationally renowned competition, this course proves to be both fun and challenging. Registration is free!
The Aspen Cycling Club sponsors weekly races, road and off-road, and welcomes everyone from experienced racers to complete beginners, with different levels of competition, as well as age and gender divisions.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Jackson (a.k.a. Jackson Hole), Wyoming is a major gateway town for both Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park. It’s “Cowboy Country” where cyclists will feel at home. Mountain bike trails for all skill levels abound in the Greater Teton-Yellowstone area and trails wind all through Jackson Hole Valley, cruising right by sites such as the Antelope Flats Cabin. On a road bike you can pedal mountain passes and push your endurance level. Cyclists can enjoy the Grand Teton National Park Inner Road during the month of April before cars are given access and enjoy the magnificent views! If you wish to take your bike out for a leisurely ride, try the 28-miles of paved bike paths or go “local” and bike into Jackson. Many residents give their cars a break and use their bikes for the summer. (Jackson’s altitude is 6,237 feet.)
Where to rent a bike in Jackson (check out these links):
- Fitzgeralds Bicycles
- Grand Targhee
- Hoback Sports
- Jackson Hole Mountain Resort
- Teton Mountain Bike Tours
- Teton Village Sports
Annual Biking Events in Jackson
Bike In Movies – August 10-31, 2010: Fitzgeralds Bicycles presents great movies outside on the lawn at Jackson Hole Center for the Arts. See more information from Fitzgeralds’ calendar.
Wydaho Biking Redezvous: A beautiful trail race in the Big Hole Mountains of Teton Valley, Idaho. Both the 10K and the 20K courses take you through coniferous forests. July 23-25, 2010
Beautiful, blue Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in North America and is nestled in the Sierras on the California-Nevada border. There are hundreds of mountain biking trails all around the lake which take advantage of the gorgeous lake and mountain scenery. There are several mountain biking parks to enjoy and plenty of trails which will offer a way to get away from the crowds even on the weekends. A must-do mountain biking trail is the famous 165-mile Tahoe Rim Trail which circumnavigates the lake. Tahoe also boasts several paved off-road bicycle paths making it easy to get around by bike. (Lake Tahoe’s surface elevation is 6,225 ft above sea level.)
Where to rent a bike and find trail information in Lake Tahoe:
At Lake Tahoe’s website you can get a complete listing of trails and information on bike shops where you can rent bikes from cruisers to road bikes to full-suspension mountain bikes.
Tahoe Bike Races
America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride – Participants will circumnavigate the Lake, Sunday, June 6, while soaking in one of the most scenic and awe-inspiring rides for the 19th annual America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride. This competition promotes Lake Tahoe Bikeway, the plan to build and interconnect bike lanes/trails around Lake Tahoe, and is the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s National Team In Training spring fundraiser.
Tour de Tahoe Bike Big Blue Race – Another chance to circle Tahoe’s 72-mile shoreline is during the 8th annual Tour de Tahoe Bike Big Blue Race, Sunday, Sept. 12, celebrating the end of summer on the roadways with spectacular scenery.
Triathlon in Tahoe Aflac Iron Girl Triathlon – For ladies only, work all you got. The Aflac Iron Girl Triathlon, Sunday, Sept.19, includes an 800 meter swim, a 24 kilometer bike to Cave Rock with return to the casino corridor and a 5 kilometer run through the streets of Nevada and California toward the state line. (This is also listed on our page of Women’s Only Triathlons.)
Park City, Utah
Park City is up in the cooler air of the Wasatch Mountains above Salt Lake City. Park City was named by Forbes Traveler Magazine among one of the 20 ‘prettiest towns’ in the United States but it is also proud of its designation as a “Bicycle Friendly Community” and does what it can to encourage cycling. Visitors and residents can take advantage of the free public transportation that will accommodate their bicycles to get them into town or to a resort trail. With 400 miles of trails including a “rail trail” and about 20 miles of paved bicycle paths, it is easy to get around. In town there are marked bike lanes and accessible bike parking. If you aren’t up on your mountain biking skills, nearby Deer Valley Resort offers visitors biking lessons so you’ll soon be comfortable on the trails. Most bike shops offer trail maps which are updated every spring. (Park City elevation is about 7,000 feet above sea level.)
Where to rent a bike in Park City:
During the summer try Women’s-Only Guided Mountain Bike Rides on Tuesday Nights (Free) at White Pine Touring. (It goes from 6-8pm.–but come at least 30 minutes early.)
For more information on cycling in and around Park City, check out their Link on Biking and Hiking.
Park City offers a premier cycling event with multiple distance rides for two weekends in July with its Tour de Park City.
Sun Valley, Idaho
The resort city of Sun Valley is right next to Ketchum, Idaho. It is a popular year-round playground for many of the rich and famous over the years. Ketchum is also the hometown of world-champion mountain bike endurance racer, Rebecca Rusch and for good reason; the same conditions that created world-class skiing have also made for world class mountain and road biking. In June, Sun Valley celebrated their bicycling culture with Rhythmn and Ride which included music, rides, kids’ rides and crits. Sun Valley offers cyclists 435 miles of single-track, 32 miles of multi-use paved bike paths, miles of scenic road biking and “state of the art pump parks.” The elevation of Sun Valley (at the Lodge) is 5920 feet.
Where to rent a bike in Sun Valley:
You can go to this link to download a Summer 2010 Trail Guide to use.
Local Bike Groups:
Thanks to Rebecca Rusch for her great photos of Sun Valley!