How to make the most of CDOT’s new Pegasus express shuttle service for outdoors adventure in Summit County and Vail
In Greek mythology, Pegasus was a winged horse that symbolized strength and speed. For Front Range folks who love to play in the mountains, it now represents a new way to visit the high country without burning $5 per gallon for gas, avoid wear and tear on our vehicles, and let someone else deal with Interstate 70 traffic headaches.
Pegasus is an express shuttle service from Denver and Lakewood to Idaho Springs, Frisco, Vail and Avon that CDOT inaugurated Memorial Day weekend. It operates more or less hourly trips on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and connects to free local transit systems in Summit and Eagle counties. Its vans accommodate 11 passengers and are equipped with WiFi, electrical outlets and bike racks.
My bike and I gave Pegasus a try last week from downtown Denver to Frisco. From there I took the Summit Stage local transit to Breckenridge and rode my bike up to Hoosier Pass, a ride I love that is 10.5 miles and gains about 2,000 feet of elevation. Then I rode back to Breckenridge, caught the Summit Stage back to Frisco and took Pegasus back to Denver. It was a marvelous play day made all the more relaxing because I didn’t have to drive.
Cycling a beautiful, high-mountain pass like Hoosier is just one of the fun things you can do if you’re looking to take advantage of Pegasus. You could also ride the bike path from Frisco to Vail Pass, about 13 miles one way. The point is, there are all sorts of options to enjoy a day in the mountains while leaving your car at home.
In Summit County, Pegasus drops you off at the main transit station in Frisco, where you can connect to the Summit Stage for buses to Breckenridge, Keystone, Dillon, Silverthorne and Copper Mountain, with plenty of intermediate stops.
From the Frisco station, the Summit Stage can get you to some trailheads for hiking. One great option is the North Tenmile Creek trail. To access the trailhead, take Summit Stage’s Copper Mountain route to the west end of Main Street in Frisco, then walk the pedestrian underpass to the trailhead on the other side of I-70. After hiking about 3½ miles and ascending about 900 feet, you will reach a trail intersection with the Gore Range trail at 10,100 feet. Up there, you’ll have multiple options before heading back down to Frisco.
Another good hiking option is Lily Pad Lake, which is just under 3 miles roundtrip from its trailhead. To reach that one, take the Summit Stage from Frisco to Silverthorne and transfer to the Wildernest Loop route. The sixth stop on that route will drop you at the trailhead that serves Lily Pad Lake and the Buffalo Mountain trail. When my Summit Stage driver mentioned that as a good option for Front Rangers using Pegasus and the Summit Stage, two young girls chimed in to share how much they enjoyed that hike the day before.
Hiking and biking aren’t the only activities to consider in Frisco. Paddleboarding and other water recreation options are available on Lake Dillon. Take the Summit Stage to Main Street and head over to the Frisco Bay Marina, about a five-minute walk. There you can rent a canoe, kayak, stand-up paddleboard or stand-up pedalboard. Just keep in mind the water temperature of that vast reservoir at 9,000 feet is currently about 45 degrees and probably won’t get above 50 degrees all summer. If you fall off your board, you will be highly motivated to get back up in a hurry.
The Summit Stage also can get you to the Breckenridge, Keystone and Copper Mountain ski areas, all of which offer on-mountain summer operations. Some of their options include mountain coasters, climbing walls, hiking, mountain biking, scenic gondola and chairlift rides. Or, you can take the Summit Stage to Arapahoe Basin and try out its via ferrata.
I advise planning your trip before you go by checking out the Summit Stage website for route information, and call 970-668-0999 for advice. You can get info on Summit County hiking trails from the website of the Dillon Ranger District, White River National Forest, and fine-tune your plans by calling 970-468-5400. They are very helpful.
If you take Pegasus to Vail, it drops off at the Vail Transportation Center with connections to Vail Transit routes.
One great option in the Vail area is the hike to Booth Falls and Booth Lake. You can take a Vail Transit bus from the transportation center to the Booth Creek trailhead. Incidentally, that’s pretty much how everyone hiking that trail will be arriving because parking at the trailhead is not allowed during the summer. A hike of 1.8 miles will get you to the waterfalls, and Booth Lake is another 2.7 miles. If you do the whole thing, the total elevation gain is 3,000 feet.
Vail Mountain could be a fun place to play, too. You can hike, run or mountain bike for free. You can take a gondola to Eagles Nest ($50), then drop down into the Back Bowls for trail running or mountain biking. There’s a mountain coaster, a climbing wall and other activities at Eagles Nest, not to mention food and drink.
And here’s a trip tip to keep in mind for Vail adventure when fall comes: There are some bike rides up there that will take you to some jaw-dropping leaf-peeping.
Pegasus originates in downtown Denver at 17th and Wewatta streets in front of the Tupelo Honey restaurant. The Lakewood stop is at RTD’s Federal Center Station. The ride to Frisco, via a quick stop in Idaho Springs, is scheduled to take about an hour and 35 minutes. Vail is another 35 minutes. Keep in mind those times are subject to delays caused by traffic conditions. Current fares are set at what CDOT is calling “half-price” as a promotion through Labor Day. Until then, one-way fares from Denver and Lakewood are $6.50 to Frisco and $10 to Vail or Avon. Children ages 2-11 ride free.
Pegasus complements CDOT’s inter-regional Bustang bus service from Denver to Grand Junction, Fort Collins and Colorado Springs, as well as its winter Snowstang bus service to Arapahoe Basin, Loveland, Copper Mountain and Steamboat Springs. Tickets for all are sold through ridebustang.com.
“In addition to helping to alleviate traffic congestion during peak travel times, we initiated Pegasus so that passengers could connect to local transit providers at each stop,” CDOT executive director Shoshana Lew said in a news release. “In addition to complementing the existing Bustang coach service, Pegasus can utilize the express lanes on weekends, when traffic nearly doubles. In turn, we’ll have fewer cars in the regular lanes to improve the flow of traffic and that’ll help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
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