Moderate to Strenuous
56.4 miles/5283ft elevation
There are lots of hills which translates to lots of climbs in Durango and the surrounding area, all of which lead to another gravel ride that riders can mark on their bucket lists – Missionary Ridge Road to Henderson Lake and back. The whole ride is 66% gravel and 34% pavement.
This challenge gives riders some of the most scenic views of all the gravel rides in the region. If you are well conditioned this is the ride for you. A good start point is Bread on the east side of town then take County Road (CR) 250 north to the intersection of CR 253 which will be on the right side, approximately 9.5 miles from town. Don’t be fooled by the first smooth pavement segment, the climbing begins in earnest once on gravel, up to 10,400ft without much respite. On the long switchbacks toward Henderson Lake, it’s hard not to be overwhelmed by the beauty of the Animas Valley and San Juan mountains and wildlife sightings are common. Riders will cross main large and small drainages that flow into the valley that was cut by receding oceans and glaciers millions of years ago. Most of this area was burned to varying degrees in the 2002 and riders will notice how the forest is regenerating. Expect some steep pitches, washboards, loose gravel, hairpins, some light traffic, always keep to the right and follow Rules of the Road. Follow Missionary Ridge Road for 13 lung busting miles and a short descent you will finally hit your destination of the scenic Henderson Lake. Get prepared for the descent back down as it will have the same conditions as on the way up, but much faster. Early in the season you will not be able to make it to Henderson if there is a good snow year so mid-June to fall is the recommended time to take this ride. Enjoy some of the best vistas that Durango has to offer and wear your badge of accomplishment once you complete this incredible journey.