- Gravel Adventure Field Guide
- San Luis
Located at the southern end of the valley, San Luis is the oldest permanently settled community in Colorado. Founded in 1851, this town best reflects the multi-ethnic and shifting borders of the Southwest. Originally part of the Sangre de Cristo land grant from Mexico, San Luis retains the pastoral quality of life that drew early settlers. With a small population (700) and little traffic, riding gravel here affords one the chance to experience what residents have for generations.
Distance: 55 Miles
Elevation: +3,086 Ft
Max Grade: 8.3%
Approx: 93/7 %Gravel/Paved
From the town of San Luis this route follows Culebra Creek and takes you into the heart of the SLV to truly understand why the valley holds the sentiments of nourishment and spirituality so closely.
Flowing adjacent to Main Street and C.R. 19 is the San Luis Peoples Ditch, the oldest continuously used community irrigation acequia in the state. It flows through the La Vega Commons, where in 1863, Rio Culebra Basin residents set aside land that stretched to the New Mexico border for traditional, uncultivated wetlands use for the purpose of grazing cattle and horses for 5 months of the year.
On top of the San Pedro Mesa are sweeping views to the east, west and south, including the Los Caminos Antiguos Byway that connects a number of small villages. Pedaling under the Culebra Range of the Sangres, you see and feel the rural communal way of life along the Colorado-New Mexico border.
Distance: 36 Miles
Elevation: +4,518 Ft
Max Grade: 24%
Approx: 91/9 %Gravel/Paved
This loop highlights a unique ecosystem, and you’ll quickly understand why el agua es vida (water is life). The ride starts out in the desert before climbing to higher elevations through a shaded forest of aspen and pine which protects water. While descending down, starting at mile 20, you’ll begin to understand how snowmelt gathers into small pools and streams and flows into the Rito Seco, irrigating valley farms below. This is easily one of the most beautiful rides in the entire SLV.
Don’t let the less than 40 miles ride distance deceive you. This is a tough one, with steep of the climbing in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. You can shorten the distance by starting and ending at Rito Seco Park. Be prepared by carrying plenty of water and snacks because the closest amenities are found in the town of San Luis.