Colorado has always been a state for the adventurous. Hiking and skiing may be perennial summer and winter favourites, but Colorado is very much mountain bike territory. Once the winter snows finally retreats, it's time to dust of the bike, lube up the chain and hit the trails.
Morphing landscapes of plains and mountains, lakes and waterfalls, forest and desert, make Colorado an especially scenic backdrop for bikers. It's a mecca for those allergic to static, uniform horizons. Well-maintained and exciting single track, mixed with logging, mining and ranching roads, practically scream multi-day bike trip. Here are four trails to fuel your mountainous appetite.
Epic Riding in Crested Butte
Chasing Epic Mountain Bike Adventures
Trailhead: Mt. Crested Butte
Length: 5 km to 50 km
Duration: 3-5 Days
Difficulty: Intermediate to expert
Crested Butte is truly a mecca of mountain biking, and according to some it’s where it all began. The action dates back to the 1970's and it's been at the forefront of the sport ever since. Today Crested Butte remains atop every pedal head's bucket list. With hundreds of kilometres of trails - almost all accessible from town - there’s enough here to keep even the most avid mountain biker busy for weeks. Some of the more famous trails are the 401 Trail, Doctor Park, The Dyke, and Strand Hill.
Crested Butte has two great elements that make it so unique: first is the town itself. One of the last true remaining “locals” towns in Colorado, Crested Butte exudes character and personality from the moment you pull up to the 4-way stop. There are no traffic lights and you’ll typically see more bikes than cars. Second, the town sits at the intersection of several mountain valleys, which allows you to link trails together very easily. By doing this, you can do a simple 10-km ride from downtown, or you can link together multiple trails to create an all-day 50-km epic ride.
To spend less time planning and more time shredding twisty single track check out all-inclusive adventure outfitters like Chasing Epic Mountain Bike Adventures. High end carbon bike rentals mean you can fly from Canada without all the gear.
Plan a Crested Butte getaway around this adventure:
Do/See: Squeeze in a hike to the top of Mt. Crested Butte, fly fish the Gunnison River, or go whitewater rafting on the Taylor River.
Adventure-worthy accommodation: The Inn at Crested Butte has a gunslinger look sure to indulge the cowboy at heart. Soak tired muscles in the outdoor jacuzzi with a view.
Trailhead: Shavano Valley Trailhead
Length: 231 km
Duration: 4 days
In an area just north of Durango, the west side of Colorado is made up the state's most raw and untouched land. Although not as challenging as some of Colorado's other epic mountain bike adventures, the Tabeguache Trail comes with its own unique difficulties. Traversing through Western Colorado's deserts, mountains and woodlands, the challenge is not in the terrain, but what is inside it. The stretch of trail between Whitewater and Placerville is home to the largest population of mountain lions and bears in the U.S. Rockies. You'll need to keep your senses alert while you ride!
The abundance of potentially dangerous wildlife, coupled by a trail system that was created out of old roads and ATV trails, makes having a map for the Tabeguache Trail essential. Tour operators like Colorado Backcountry Biker help bikers navigate the system without the worry of getting lost in the middle of bear country.
Plan a Grand Junction getaway around this adventure:
Do/See: Visit Grand Mesa, is the world’s largest flat-top mountain. Plan to spend some time exploring the surrounding aspen forests, sunny meadows and more than 200 sparkling, stream-fed lakes.
Adventure-worthy accommodation: Spend the night at the exclusive Gateway Canyons Resort on the Deluxe Trip through Colorado Backcountry Biker or tent in the shadow of Colorado National Monument.
Nearby craft beer breweries: Edgewater Brewery, Breckenridge Ale House, Rockslide Brew Pub, Kannah Creek Brewing Company, Copper Club Brewing Co., Suds Brothers Brewery, Palisade Brewing Company.
Durango to Moab
Southwestern Colorado - Utah
Trailhead: Durango Mountain Resort
Length: 346 km
Duration: 1 week
Durango is one of Colorado's most southern cities. It sits right on the cusp of the beautiful San Juan range that meanders out of Colorado and into Utah. The route from Durango to Moab leads mountain bikers up and over the San Juan's. Secondary dirt roads travel high into alpine territory before meeting the desert slick rock in Utah's Canyon Country.
San Juan Huts maintains overnight huts spaced about a days ride apart for venturing bikers. The huts are equipped with sleeping bags, bunk beds and food. Bikers travel from hut to hut with only their extra clothing on their back over the course of an unforgettable seven day ride. Unlike the similar route from Telluride to Moab that is designed for a more intermediate skill level, Durango features more remote and rugged wilderness that demands a more advanced rider.
Plan a Durango weekend getaway around this adventure:
Do/See: Wind through breathtaking canyons and remote wilderness aboard the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
Great Divide / Monarch Crest
Trailhead: Monarch Pass Trailhead
Length: 56 km
At 4,417 kilometres long, you better put on some extra sturdy mountain bike tires if you want to challenge the Great Divide Trail that winds its way down through the west from Canada to Mexico. However, if that is a little too daunting, bikers can cut down the miles by only doing the stretch through Colorado, but even then it is still an intimidating 881 kilometres. The trail can be cut down even more to only the Monarch Crest section. At 56 kilometres, it is one of the most challenging sections of Colorado's section of the Great Divide, and the most popular trail for expert mountain bikers.
Travelling upwards to an elevation of 3,652 metres, the rocky terrain and high elevation of Monarch Crest makes any of the three trail options a challenge. The only difference between each route is how technical you want your ride to be. Cyclists are treated to breath-taking views above the tree line. The end destination leaves bikers perched on top of the Continental Divide.
Relax and Recover in nearby Colorado Springs:
Nearby craft beer breweries: With 10 breweries to choose from, it's not where to go, but where to start! See the complete list here.
North to South
Trailhead: Waterton Canyon Trailhead
Length: 782 km
Duration: 2 weeks
This is the trail that makes Colorado a mountain biking Mecca. The Colorado Trail travels from outside Denver all the way down to the San Juan range near Durango, almost completely crossing the state. Its overall length of 782 kilometres is what makes it so challenging, but bikers of every skill level can slice out a section to complete.
The trail is generally clear cut and most mountain bikers can tackle it with the help of a good map. Those who would like a little more guidance can take a tour through companies such as Hermosa Tours or Lizard Head Cycling Guides.
Kick Start your Adventure in Denver:
Adventure-worthy accommodation: Splurge for the night at Hotel Teatro. Sip a coffee or beer in The Study, a handsomely-appointed yet rustic cafe-bar.
Nearby craft beer breweries: Take your pick! Beer aficionados will want for nothing in Denver. Find an ever-expanding list of Denver breweries here. At last count the list was 86 brewers long.
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