7 - 8
FATMAP difficulty grade
Two of the most visually-stunning gravel roads near Canon City—Phantom Canyon and Shelf Road—can be combined into an incredible 70-mile loop ride that just might qualify as world-class gravel riding! The route mapped here runs from downtown Canon City, while avoiding traffic with the use of the gravel path band backroads.
Soon, it begins climbing Phantom Canyon.
Phantom Canyon Road climbs all the way through Victor to Cripple Creek, where you'll take a left onto shelf road and descend back down to Canon City.
Of course, you can ride this loop in the opposite direction as well, and even tack on additional gravel roads to push this to a certifiable century-length ride. After leaving Canon City, the climb up Phantom Canyon is stunning from the get-go.
After entering the canyon through a narrow slot in the soaring rock walls, you'll wind your way up along a beautiful creek, pedaling through old railroad tunnels while enjoying views of soaring rock formations.
The road climbs gradually but gains elevation consistently.
While Canon City is renowned as a mid-winter riding destination, this, unfortunately, isn't a mid-winter ride.
The route mapped here tops out over 9,700 feet above sea level, with about 6,400 feet of elevation gain over the course of the entire ride.
This means that during the winter, you're likely to encounter unrideable ice and snow as you ascend Phantom Canyon.
To complete this ride in its entirety, aim for late spring or fall. When you reach Victor and Cripple Creek, you'll realize just how far you've climbed.
Incredible mountain views will greet you from the road, including glimpses of nearby Pike's Peak.
In fact, you're so high in elevation that you'll spot a few beautiful aspen groves as you pedal along. The descent down Shelf Road follows the bottom of yet another narrow canyon.
The road gets its name from a very narrow one-lane shelf cut into the side of a rock cliff that only lets one car pass at a time.
While the actual shelf section relatively short, it's nevertheless an incredible section of road to pedal! Finally, you'll hit pavement while still several miles out from Canon City, allowing you to finish up easily on a quick-pedaling section of road.
Again, if you want to hit 100 miles, try heading south of Canon on one of the other gravel routes in FATMAP to log another 30-some miles of grinding!