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Home > Trip Planning > Mountain Bike

Mountain Biking The Colorado Trail

mountain bikes and flowersThe Colorado Trail is popular with mountain bikers and the great variety along the Trail interests a broad range of cyclists from beginners to hard cores. Families with young kids enjoy biking from the Denver trailhead at Waterton Canyon where there's 6 miles of gentle gravel road along the serene creek that is closed to automobiles except those of land managers. Upper echelon mountain bikers find tremendous challenge on many CT segments, including the 75 miles from Molas Pass to Durango.

Probably most of the cycling done on The Colorado Trail consists of day rides and the most popular sections seems to be those near Denver and Durango, the segments accessible from Kenosha Pass area, sections near the Buena Vista area, and the portion shared with the Monarch Crest route near Marshall Pass.

Most, but not all, of The Colorado Trail is open to mountain bikes. Bicycles are prohibited in each of the six Wilderness Areas. It is against federal regulations to even possess a bicycle in Wilderness. Thru-cyclists are required to detour around each Wilderness through which The Colorado Trail passes.. The official Guidebook carefully describes each required Wilderness detour. Each required bicycle detour uses the network of Forest Service trails and roads. The mountain bike distance for the Trail with detours is around 535 miles.

Upper echelon cyclists consider The Colorado Trail a premier, world class, long distance mountain biking trail. It is possible to do the Trail & detours via bike without any vehicular support by re-supplying in Frisco, Leadville, Buena Vista, and Silverton. Allow maybe 15 to 20 days for the trip. Cyclists can also travel the entire Trail with detours in a variety of supported ways, lighten their load and trim their number of days. A mountain bike is a great way to travel the Trail, but expect to push the bike on some of the steeper, rockier pitches. BikePacking is becoming more popular, in part, as equipment gets lighter and improves. The CT Foundation has teamed up with a number of involved BikePackers and given presentations on these adventures including gear choices, techniques, planning, etc. Click here for BikePacking powerpoint (pdf), thanks to Greg & Bridger Vallin, Christopher Wieland, and John Admire.

The Trail with a beautiful view including a mountain bikerAt the time of this writing, cyclists and other groups of Trail users have a good relationship sharing the Trail with one another. The CTF thinks this is great. We encourage courtesy to all. To us, the main word is "courtesy." Just realize that other types of Trail users are enjoying the outdoors in a manner similar to you, and be courteous to everyone you meet. Don't scare anyone and be patient. Some pointers that help cyclists share the trail courteously include slowing and making your presence known well in advance so as to avoid scaring anyone. Another pointer involves horses which have poor eyesight and are easily spooked. Talk with horse riders as you approach; your human voice is recognized by the horses and tends to calm them and keep them from getting spooked. Be willing to step off the Trail, especially to the downhill side, so as not to appear tall and menacing to the poorly sighted horses. Remember that official etiquette requires bikes to yield to all other non-motorized trail users. Downhill cyclists should yield when encountering uphill cyclists.

Other tips for cyclists include our plea to avoid skidding your tires, especially when descending or approaching switchbacks. When you skid your tires, you loosen the soil and begin creating a trench that can erode. Avoid skidding to preserve the great Trail that our volunteers work so hard to maintain. Another tip that helps preserve the trail is for you to dismount and walk through muddy areas.

There are numerous guidebooks depicting rides along the Trail. These books are available throughout Colorado at most local bike shops and book stores. No serious rider should go without The Official Guidebook of The Colorado Trail Foundation. The Guidebook contains updated and revised information regarding new Re-Routes, new GPS Enabled maps, and describes in detail the required Wilderness detours.

Also try The Colorado Trail: Trailside Databook, by The Colorado Trail Foundation. Small, simple, lightweight, durable, and inexpensive - exactly what you want for a trailside companion, and the perfect addition to our popular full-featured guidebook.

Cyclists will also appreciate the highly accurate CT Map Book that depicts the line for The Colorado Trail in great detail. This book of topo maps includes almost 1200 mileage and GPS waypoints as well as maps and waypoints for each of the mountain bike detours around the Wilderness Areas.

Trail users wanting to travel Segment 1 but maximize their singletrack have an alternative to avoid the gravel road, first 6 miles of Segment 1. You can choose an alternate trail approach to the East end of Segment 1, beginning instead at the Indian Creek Trailhead accessible via CO Hwy. 67 west of Sedalia. From here you can connect to CT mile 8, or even CT mile 6, in the middle of CT Segment 1, via the West Leg of the Indian Creek "Equestrian" Loop Trail. This is described on the CT Segment 1 Map entitled "Singletrack and Dogs Route" – click here to download.

Think of becoming involved as a volunteer and/or contributor and help the CTF maintain The Colorado Trail. We're always looking for additional cyclists to "give back" as Trail keeping volunteers. Opportunities exist with our volunteer trail crews, Adopt-A-Trail program, and in the CTF office in Golden, Colorado. You might also become a contributor and help maintain the Trail by making a donation. Please consider becoming a volunteer or contributing as a Friend of The Colorado Trail.

Above photos courtesy of Anthony Sloan.

Mountain Biking Groups

International Mountain Bicycling Association - IMBA http://www.imba.com/

mountain bikers a top a high mountain pass
Volunteer surveyor, Jerry Brown, and friend Adam Saladin on Rolling Mountain Pass
during the first-ever GPS Survey of The Colorado Trail.

To purchase a CORSAR Card, go to www.dola.colorado.gov/dlg/fa/sar/sar_purchase.html.