The Rad Dirt Fest is a newer event by the Life Time Events team, who are part of the Leadville Race Series owners and Unbound Gravel (formerly Dirty Kanza). Picked as one of our best gravel cycling events in Colorado and the Rockies, the event takes place annually on the last weekend of September in the undeniably special Trinidad, Colorado.
Nestled in the heart of Southern Colorado, Trinidad offers a breathtaking backdrop of towering Spanish Peaks and expansive mesas. This fall, The Rad Dirt Fest promises to take gravel cycling enthusiasts on an unforgettable journey through this untouched U.S. cycling gem. With three revamped course distances, each more thrilling than the next, cyclists from all over the country are set to converge in the newest outdoor riding destination of Trinidad for an eclectic off-road adventure.
Event & Course Info
In 2023 there are three new routes to choose from at The Rad Dirt Fest: The Frijole at 40ish miles, The Anteloop at 65ish miles, and the Stubborn Delores at 100+ miles. The routes offer breathtaking terrain and scenery in this southern Colorado region bordering the San Isabel National Forest and Spanish Peaks Wilderness Area.
The Stubborn Delores course is a true test for cyclists, spanning a distance of 112.7 miles with an elevation gain of 10,440 feet. The event kicks off at 9am and as participants pedal through this route, they are greeted with buttery smooth gravel, a mesmerizing high alpine setting, and a 2-mile stretch of technical gravel that lies on the South Shore Trail within the Trinidad Lake State Park. Adding to the challenge, the course reaches its pinnacle at 8,930 feet, making for some adrenaline-pumping climbs. For those needing a quick breather, aid stations are strategically placed at mileages 5.7, 22.4, 42.8, 70.8, 89.5, and 106. Time-conscious cyclists should note the course cutoffs, with the Spanish Peaks Inn checkpoint at mile 42.8 set for 1:20 pm, and the Trinidad Lake State Park cutoff at mile 106 expected by 7:40 pm. For additional support, crew locations are available at Mile 5.7 & 106 within Trinidad Lake State Park, and at mile 42.8 near the Spanish Peaks Inn.
Taking the excitement a notch down but no less thrilling is the Anteloop route going off at 9:30am. This course covers a distance of 68.2 miles and boasts an elevation gain of 6,558 feet. The journey offers a diverse terrain comprising desert landscapes, vistas of snowcapped mountains, gentle inclines, and sections of what can only be described as champagne gravel. The route also includes the signature 2-mile technical gravel stretch on the South Shore Trail. For refueling, aid stations are available at mileages 5.7, 22.4, 33.7, 44.2, and 61.6. Cyclists aiming to complete this course should reach the 4 Corners Aid station by 1:00 pm at mile 33.7 and the Trinidad Lake State Park by 3:45 pm at mile 61.6.
Lastly, for those new to the sport or simply wanting a more relaxed day on the saddle, the Frijole route is a dream come true. Stretching over a distance of 46.7 miles with an elevation gain of 4,275 feet, this course promises smooth gravel paths, breathtaking scenic views, and manageable climbs. The route is also graced by the 2-mile technical gravel section on the South Shore Trail. Aid stations for this route can be found at mileages 5.7, 22.4, and 40, ensuring cyclists remain hydrated and energized throughout their journey.
After their ride, cyclists can look forward to an electrifying The Rad Dirt Fest after-party from 1-7 PM with live music and Oskar Blues beer. Award ceremonies will take place at 3 PM for the Anteloop, Frijole, and Life Time Grand Prix presented by Mazda, and at 6 PM for Stubborn Delores. Both the Stubborn Delores and Anteloop have awards three deep in each of their 20 categories. Outside of the main event, participants can indulge in a variety of activities as part of the festivities, from shakeout rides with the Life Time Grand Prix athletes to celebratory events with Sexy Pizza.
At The Rad Dirt Fest, be prepared for afternoon temperatures in the 80s, with early mornings and evenings cooling down to the lower 50s. Given the unpredictable high desert climate, it's advisable to carry a rain jacket. Be sure to check out the official 2023 Rider Guide for all of the nitty gritty details.
Area Accommodations & Things to Do
The The Rad Dirt Fest takes place in and around Trinidad, Colorado and it's highly recommended to make a long weekend out of the event. This small city sits at 6,000 feet elevation in the Purgatoire River valley of Southern Colorado, close to the New Mexico border. Trinidad is a classic old-west town with a strong mountain vibe and vibrant outdoor culture, including 1,500 miles of gravel roads spidering in every direction. Life Time Events' inspiration for Rad Dirt Fest starts with their passion for creating events that enrich the lives of participants and community event hosts. They believe the future of cycling and running is direct, where it is safer for the athletes and easier on the body. In Trinidad, they found a community well equipped to host a large-scale event and a desire to develop the town and surrounding area as the next big outdoor recreation locations. In recent years the town has made sizable investments in developing its recreation infrastructure. In 2019, the city of Trinidad, in partnership with The Nature Conservancy, The Trust for Public Land, Great Outdoors Colorado, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife, purchased 19,200 acres of private land to become Colorado’s newest and second largest state park, Fishers Peak. Now managed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife, plans are underway to build a network of trails for bikers, hikers, and equestrians.
Although there is no official hotel partner for The Rad Dirt Fest, there are a handful of hotel options to consider such as Days Inn & Suites, Holiday Inn & Suites, and La Quinta Inn & Suites. There is also a variety of vacation rentals if you prefer a more home-like experience, from homes to apartments. If you prefer to camp, Trinidad State Park is nearby, as well as unique one of a kind camping locations.
Trinidad, CO, boasts a diverse culinary scene that mirrors its rich history, offering a blend of traditional and contemporary flavors, with a variety of restaurants catering to a range of palates, from local Southwestern dishes to global cuisines. Its eateries, set amidst vibrant architecture and a thriving art backdrop, make dining in Trinidad a unique cultural experience. Local favorites include Mission At the Bell Restaurant, AlMack's Kitchen, and Bella Luna Pizzeria.
The town's mix of terrain, combined with early Fall's mild climate, makes it a haven for a spectrum of athletic activities. From challenging mountainous hikes to serene fishing expeditions, Trinidad ensures every visitor leaves with memories etched in nature. Beyond its scenic cycling and hiking trails, Trinidad offers a unique rock-climbing experience near the historic Uptop Ghost Town. The granite formations here present various climbing routes suitable for both beginners and seasoned climbers. As climbers ascend, they get panoramic views of the autumn foliage, the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, and glimpses of the ghost town, combining history with adrenaline-pumping action.
Also, Fisher's Peak is an iconic landmark for Trinidad, standing tall at over 9,600 feet. As a relatively new addition to Colorado's state park system, this trail offers an untouched hiking experience. Spanning about 9.5 miles round trip, the trail weaves through dense forests, open meadows, and finally to the summit. From the top, hikers get breathtaking views of the plains to the east and the rugged Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the west.
Finally, fishing at Trinidad Lake in early Fall is an angler's paradise. This tranquil 800-acre body of water, surrounded by hues of fall, offers a serene fishing experience. Home to trout, catfish, and bass, the lake promises a rich catch. Lake shores become quiet this time of year, allowing anglers to indulge in meditative fishing sessions amidst nature's spectacle.
The Rad Dirt Fest is a Wild Card event in the Life Time Grand Prix Series which features 7 of the most iconic cycling events and the best cyclists in off-road cycling. The challenge combines mountain biking and gravel riding disciplines, and the events are held all around the country, including the Sea Otter Classic, UNBOUND Gravel, Crusher in the Tushar, Leadville Trail 100 MTB, Big Sugar Gravel, and Chequamegon MTB. The biggest prize purse in U.S. cycling, $250,000, is split evenly between men and women. Each series event will be streamed live and on-demand on FloBikes, part of the FloSports network.
For gravel cyclists looking to add more events in Colorado to their calendar, look at Dirty Edge Gravel from Gemini Adventures and part of Adventure Fest, as well as Wild Horse Gravel from The Ride Collective and SBT GRVL.
Multi-disciplinary athletes will appreciate the amount of high quality mountain biking, road cycling, and trail running events that are held in Colorado as well including the Leadville Stage Race which is part of Leadville Series and produced by Life Time Events, and the Emerald Mountain Epic MTB which are two of the Best Mountain Bike Events in the Rockies. Tour of the Moon, Triple Bypass Gran Fondo from Evergreen Cycling, and 719 Ride which is a GFNS Partner event as well as a Gran Fondo World Tour Event - all of these are considered to be some of the Best Road Cycling events in the Rockies by our team here at Strambecco. Finally, the trail runners of the group will want to set their sights on some of the Best Trail Running Events in the Rockies such as the Golden Leaf Half Marathon, the Mountain RATS Trail Runs from Gemini Adventures which is part of the broader Mountain RATS Festival, or The Bear 100, an epic Western States Qualifer and UTMB qualifying event and is part of the Rocky Mountain Slam Series.