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Colorado Trail: The Entire MTB Route

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 5.0 from 4 votes
  Extremely Difficult from 1 vote
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Rank: #3 in Denver
#12 in Colorado
#49 Overall
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“A life-changing 485 mile ride on the Colorado Trail from Denver to Durango.”
Stefan Griebel on Apr 11, 2013
Getting There     GPX File     Print
485.4 Miles 70% Singletrack 68,679’ Ascent -67,194’ Descent 5,509’ Low 13,242’ High
Restrictions
Wilderness areas are detoured as mountain bikes are disallowed in the Wilderness.
Overview
The Colorado Trail can be a life-changing experience if you let it! The mountain bike version detours Wilderness Areas, where mechanized travel is off-limits, and can be done any number of ways: from weekend warrior-ing it a couple segments at a time, to a supported through-ride with a sag vehicle, to bikepacking it unsupported in a single push. Because the Wilderness detours pass through several towns where food resupply and motels abound, the Colorado Trail is particularly well suited for a bikepacking adventure of epic proportions. In fact, the route described here has been traversed solo and self-supported in an astonishing 3 days, 23 hours and 38 minutes by Jefe Branham of Gunnison in 2012.

With over 300 miles of singletrack, hardly any of which is flat, you'll encounter nearly every style of riding imaginable: loads of swoopy fast trail, many rocky, rooty, technical climbs and descents, miles of pine-needle covered singletrack, some nearly unrideable talus, and a prodigious amount of hike-a-bike. The route averages over 10,000’ in elevation, so you'll also spend an immense amount of time at altitude. In fact, the section from Spring Creek Pass to Stony Pass road spends almost 30 consecutive miles above timberline! This piece of trail is a beautiful and it's an amazing place to be on a gorgeous day, but it can also be extremely dangerous and scary if you are caught there in one of Colorado’s notorious afternoon thunderstorms.
Need To Know
For the most part, the trail is very well marked, however, the Colorado Trail Foundation (CTF) publishes a pocket-sized "Trailside Databook" that contains elevation profiles and mileages, as well as camping and water info that can be quite handy for any extended trip down the trail. Donate some time or money to the CTF - without them, we wouldn't have this world class route to ride!


NOTE: The following essay/description written by Stefan Griebel was first published in The Mountain Biker's Guide to Colorado by Dan Hickstein © 2012
Description
Segments 1,2,3 - Waterton Canyon to to FS-560 (Wellington Lake Road)
-- Lost Creek Wilderness Detour (US-285 or Tarryall) --
Segment 6 - Kenosha Pass to Goldhill Trailhead
Segment 7 - Goldhill Trailhead to Copper Mountain
Segment 8 - Copper Mountain to Tennessee Pass (+ extra to Wurtz Ditch Road.)
-- Holy Cross / Mt. Massive Wilderness Detour --
Segment 11 - Halfmoon Creek to Clear Creek Road
-- Collegiate Peaks Wilderness Detour --
Segment 13 - Avalanche Trailhead to Chalk Creek Trailhead
Segment 14 - Chalk Creek Trailhead to US-50
Segment 15 - US-50 to Marshall Pass
Segments 16,17,18 - Marshall Pass to Saguache Park Road
-- La Garita Wilderness Detour --
Segments 22,23 - Spring Creek Pass to Rio Grand Resevoir Road (Stony Pass)
-- Weminuche Wilderness Detour --
Segments 25,26,27,28 - Molas Pass to Durango

From Denver to Breckenridge, the trail is characterized mainly by fast and buff singletrack, with the exception being the descent off of Georgia Pass, which is quite rocky and rooty in spots. After crossing Highway 9 north of Breck, the 12 miles leading to Copper Mountain are brutal and take 2nd place in the bumpiest and rockiest category of the entire trail. A steep hike-a-bike is well rewarded by tremendous views, and a white knuckle descent into Copper. More delicious singletrack leads up to Searle Pass and some absolutely exquisite alpine meadow riding over to Kokomo Pass. From there, hold on for a fast and loose descent to Camp Hale followed by very enjoyable riding up to Tennessee Pass and on to Wurtz Ditch Road.

The route then detours through Leadville on dirt and paved roads, and regains the Colorado Trail at the Mount Massive trailhead. A steep (and sometimes crowded) climb on the Mt. Elbert trail leads to fast blasting through the aspens for many miles to Twin Lakes Reservoir and beyond, to the next Wilderness detour at Clear Creek Road. Easy pedaling through Buena Vista and up the pavement to the Avalanche trailhead ends abruptly with a rocky, yet fun, technical descent and then some steep climbing and crazy fast descending to Princeton Hot Springs. The trail beyond Chalk Creek is quintessential Collegiate Peak aspen groves and rounded granite mini-boulders. Affectionately dubbed "adult-heads" instead of "baby-heads"...

After crossing Highway 50, the trail ascends gradually steepening roads and singletrack to a final gnarly hike-a-bike that joins the famous Monarch Crest trail on the Continental Divide. From here, the Continental Divide Trail and Colorado Trail are one and the same for about 150 miles, though mountain bikes have to detour 50 miles around the La Garita Wilderness. Once past Marshall Pass and onto Sargents Mesa, the trail really starts to feel isolated. Some of these sections easily take 1st place in the bumpy-rocky-bone-jarring-teeth-shattering category, and have even been described as "soul crushing". Fortunately, there is a lot of great forest riding interspersed throughout this area as well.

At Saguache Park road, the longest Wilderness detour is encountered and follows dirt roads for 50+ miles. At the pavement of highway 149, you'll be tempted to descend into Lake City, but then you’d miss the Crown Jewel of the Colorado Trail: the Coney Summit and Cataract Ridge segments! Incredible high alpine riding and off-the-charts views in one of the most remote areas of Colorado. Start early, and pick a nice day - even very strong riders can take upwards of 10 hours to complete the 40 miles from Spring Creek Pass into Silverton.

The route culminates with arguably the best continuous singletrack in the state as the San Juan Mountains are traversed for over 75 miles from Silverton to Durango. Alpine ridges, wildflowers as far as you can see, gorgeous forested trail, and an insane descent from 12,000’ to 7,000’… You’ll still be smiling 20 years after riding this part of the Colorado Trail.

Hungry yet? Well, what are you waiting for?!
History & Background
In 1986, the Colorado Trail was the dream of Gudy Gaskill and she founded the non-profit Colorado Trail Foundation (CTF).
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COMMENTS
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PHOTOS of Colorado Trail: The Entire MTB Route
 5.0 from 1 vote
Getting high on the CT. Bring a water filter and save on weight! (Silverton, CO)
 4.7 from 6 votes
Ripping around the last switchback at the bottom of the Colorado Trail. (Durango, CO)
 4.5 from 4 votes
Aspen Grove along the Chalk Creek Segment (Poncha Springs, CO)
 4.5 from 2 votes
Just before you top out at Georgia Pass, stop, regroup, refuel, laugh wi... (Blue River, CO)
 4.0 from 5 votes
Rob Bergstrom on Indian Trail Ridge aka Colorado Trail nearing Kennebec ... (Rico, CO)
 4.0 from 4 votes
Mark and Chris descend Blackhawk on Colorado trail toward Bolam Pass (Mountain Village, CO)
 4.0 from 3 votes
Ryan Raymond on the Colorado Trail with Mt Guyot in the background (Blue River, CO)
 4.0 from 3 votes
Descending the Colorado Trail near South Park Valley (Blue River, CO)
 4.0 from 2 votes
Riding through beautiful aspens on the Colorado Trail up from Kenosha Pass. (Blue River, CO)
 4.0 from 2 votes
July wildflowers looking good! (Keystone, CO)
 4.0 from 2 votes
Quandary Peak and the Ten Mile Range (Keystone, CO)
 4.0 from 2 votes
The CO Trail is gorgeous in this section (Keystone, CO)
 4.0 from 2 votes
Great singletrack, great scenery. (Keystone, CO)
 3.8 from 4 votes
New growth (Castle Rock, CO)
 3.7 from 3 votes
Mark Povich leading CC down the Colorado trail from Hotel Draw toward Bo... (Rico, CO)
 3.7 from 3 votes
In Our Sights Searle Pass seen up ahead, trail goes right over saddle ... (Red Cliff, CO)
 3.7 from 3 votes
Guller Creek, with Sugarloaf peak and Searle pass in the distance (Red Cliff, CO)
 3.7 from 3 votes
Looking back at Kennebec Pass in the Fall time, THE best time to hit thi... (Durango, CO)
 3.7 from 3 votes
Looking down at the exposed Alpine section of the CT just below Kennebec (Durango, CO)
 3.5 from 4 votes
2011 ride (Rico, CO)
 3.5 from 4 votes
A good look at Buffalo Creek riding. (Castle Rock, CO)
 3.5 from 4 votes
views along the crest (Poncha Springs, CO)
 3.5 from 4 votes
The view from Gudy's Rest (Durango, CO)
 3.5 from 4 votes
CC leading JP on The Colorado Trail climbing Blackhawk, August 2008. Ph... (Rico, CO)
 3.5 from 2 votes
The fastest portion of the COT - ride for your life (Castle Rock, CO)
 3.5 from 2 votes
One of the first stunning overlooks where you can see 285 heading toward... (Blue River, CO)
 3.3 from 3 votes
What I dream about while at work... (Blue River, CO)
 3.3 from 3 votes
Descending towards Kokomo Pass (Blue River, CO)
 3.3 from 3 votes
Short Socks Suck One of a couple creek crossings in early summer (Red Cliff, CO)
 3.3 from 3 votes
Looking out towards Searle Pass. (Red Cliff, CO)
 3.3 from 3 votes
The Remains (Castle Rock, CO)
 3.3 from 3 votes
Heading down the first section of Fooses; it's a steep and loose but ver... (Poncha Springs, CO)
 3.3 from 3 votes
The fast flowy sections prior to the sustained climb along Guler Creek (Breckenridge, CO)
 3.3 from 3 votes
A partial survivor - Raleigh Peak (far background). Its summit is actua... (Morrison, CO)
 3.3 from 3 votes
Getting into the rocky stuff up top near Searle Pass. (Red Cliff, CO)
 3.0 from 4 votes
Looking down into the valley from the jefferson cutoff (Blue River, CO)
 3.0 from 3 votes
Back into unburned forest for a bit before popping out at the Colorado T... (Castle Rock, CO)
 3.0 from 3 votes
A short but steep and loose grind before a bit of a respite. (Castle Rock, CO)
 3.0 from 3 votes
Pitstop'n One of the many beautiful forested sections of perfect single... (Breckenridge, CO)
 3.0 from 3 votes
A quick stop in Buffalo Creek. The views are tough to beat! (Roxborough Park, CO)
 3.0 from 3 votes
The Colorado Trail is mostly unburned medium-density forest. Trail surf... (Castle Rock, CO)
 3.0 from 3 votes
He still has some energy after all the climbing it took to get here! (Castle Rock, CO)
 3.0 from 3 votes
The Wilsons and Lizard Head in the San Juans (Ophir, CO)
 3.0 from 3 votes
This section of the Colorado Trail is fun as it works its way towards Re... (Castle Rock, CO)
 3.0 from 3 votes
Friendly marmot at the top of Searle Pass. (Red Cliff, CO)
 3.0 from 2 votes
John Percassi riding Fat Tire on Colorado trail from Bolam Pass to Duran... (Rico, CO)
 3.0 from 1 vote
After an easy initial climb through the forest, you emerge in a sparse a... (Blue River, CO)
 2.8 from 4 votes
Gudy's Rest (Durango, CO)
 2.6 from 5 votes
Lunch spot: and example of the great views and dense forest that makes t... (Columbine Valley, CO)
 2.7 from 3 votes
Snow Pending - View south towards Pacific, Atlantic, Fletcher Peaks from... (Red Cliff, CO)
 2.7 from 3 votes
Descending Kokomo Pass. (Blue River, CO)
 2.7 from 3 votes
CT Ski Crossing (Copper Mountain Resort) (Breckenridge, CO)
 2.3 from 3 votes
John Percassi descends the Cape of Good Hope trail from the Colorado Tra... (Rico, CO)
 2.3 from 3 votes
Fun features along the way keep the moderate climb interesting. (Castle Rock, CO)
 2.3 from 3 votes
Intersection of the South Fooses Creek Trail and Monarch Pass Trail (Poncha Springs, CO)
 2.3 from 3 votes
Turn right here to cruise along S Buffalo Creek Rd and get back to TH 54... (Castle Rock, CO)
 2.3 from 3 votes
On the Colorado Trail in the SW part of Buffalo Creek area - heading tow... (Castle Rock, CO)
 2.3 from 4 votes
Trail is a bit rocky on the switchbacks but not too bad (Durango, CO)
 2.0 from 3 votes
At the bottom of a fantastic descent, decide whether to continue along t... (Castle Rock, CO)
 2.0 from 2 votes
Just one more push to the top from here! (Blue River, CO)
 2.0 from 2 votes
Typical high-alpine CO singletrack. (Breckenridge, CO)
 1.8 from 4 votes
South Platte Trailhead (Morrison, CO)
 1.3 from 3 votes
Marshall Pass parking lot & a bathroom if you need it (Bonanza City, CO)
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