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Colorado Trail: The Entire MTB Route

Consensus:    (details)
 4.8 from 6 votes
  Extremely Difficult from 1 vote
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Rank: #4 in the Denver area
#21 in Colorado
#96 Overall
Featured Ride near Columbine Valley,  area, 
“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
485.4781.2 milesKilometers 68,679’20,933 m Ascent 13,242’4,036 m High 5.3% Avg Grade
70% Singletrack -67,194’-20,481 m Descent 5,509’1,679 m Low 24.3% Max Grade
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 (311) 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 (311) 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 (311) to Clear Creek (311) Road
-- Collegiate Peaks Wilderness Detour --
Segment 13 - Avalanche Trailhead to Chalk Creek (311) Trailhead
Segment 14 - Chalk Creek (311) 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 (311) 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 (311) 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 (311) 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 (311) 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 2 votes
Friends in high places! (Frisco, 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)
 4.3 from 4 votes
Ryan Raymond on the Colorado Trail with Mt Guyot in the background (Blue River, CO)
 4.0 from 5 votes
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 4.0 from 4 votes
Mark and Chris descend Blackhawk on Colorado trail toward Bolam Pass (Mountain Village, CO)
 4.0 from 3 votes
Descending the Colorado Trail near South Park Valley (Blue River, CO)
 4.0 from 3 votes
Riding through beautiful aspens on the Colorado Trail up from Kenosha Pass. (Blue River, CO)
 4.0 from 2 votes
The CO Trail is gorgeous in this section (Keystone, 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
Great singletrack, great scenery. (Keystone, CO)
 4.0 from 2 votes
At the top - 12,500'! - you'll probably meet other CO Trail users (Breckenridge, 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
Looking down at the exposed Alpine section of the CT just below Kennebec (Durango, 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
Colorado Trail above Tiger Run RV Park (Breckenridge, 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
In a saddle overlooking Cataract Lake. (Silverton, CO)
 3.7 from 3 votes
Georgia Pass with Breckenridge in the Background. (Breckenridge, CO)
 3.5 from 4 votes
2011 ride (Rico, CO)
 3.5 from 4 votes
Heading down the first section of Fooses; it's a steep and loose but ver... (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 4 votes
views along the crest (Poncha Springs, CO)
 3.5 from 4 votes
A good look at Buffalo Creek riding. (Castle Rock, CO)
 3.5 from 2 votes
The fastest portion of the COT - ride for your life (Castle Rock, CO)
 3.3 from 3 votes
Getting into the rocky stuff up top near Searle Pass. (Red Cliff, CO)
 3.3 from 3 votes
Fun climb. Lots of baby heads to add flavor (Saguache, CO)
 3.3 from 3 votes
A partial survivor - Raleigh Peak (far background). Its summit is actua... (Morrison, CO)
 3.3 from 3 votes
Meadow section below Twin Sisters West (Silverton, CO)
 3.3 from 3 votes
The Remains (Castle Rock, CO)
 3.3 from 3 votes
Looking out towards Searle Pass. (Red Cliff, CO)
 3.3 from 3 votes
Looking towards the junction with Engineer Mountain Trail (Silverton, CO)
 3.3 from 3 votes
Looking north toward Soda Creek. And Dillon Lake/reservoir further on th... (Keystone, 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
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
What I dream about while at work... (Blue River, CO)
 3.3 from 3 votes
Trail tread is generally good with muskeg in spots (Silverton, CO)
 3.0 from 4 votes
Looking down into the valley from the jefferson cutoff (Blue River, 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
The Colorado Trail is mostly unburned medium-density forest. Trail surf... (Castle Rock, 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 Wilsons and Lizard Head in the San Juans (Ophir, 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
One of the first stunning overlooks where you can see 285 heading toward... (Blue River, CO)
 3.0 from 3 votes
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 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
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 3.0 from 3 votes
Friendly marmot at the top of Searle Pass. (Red Cliff, CO)
 3.0 from 2 votes
The heavily forested finish of Wheeler Trail (Breckenridge, CO)
 3.0 from 2 votes
More streams and wildflowers as the grueling climb continues. (Frisco, CO)
 3.0 from 2 votes
Boardwalk keeping you out of the wet ground (Breckenridge, CO)
 3.0 from 2 votes
John Percassi riding Fat Tire on Colorado trail from Bolam Pass to Duran... (Rico, CO)
 3.0 from 2 votes
Yep, that's your trail heading way out across that tundra. (Frisco, CO)
 3.0 from 2 votes
Having made it over the pass, the ride down to Copper Mountain is fast a... (Frisco, CO)
 3.0 from 2 votes
As you climb, the forest gives way to meadows and alpine wildflowers (Frisco, 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
Riders and hikers (Silverton, CO)
 2.7 from 3 votes
Looking back towards Canby Mountain (Silverton, CO)
 2.7 from 3 votes
Colorado Trail with Sheep Mountain to right (Silverton, CO)
 2.7 from 3 votes
Riders heading up the long straightaway to the northeast (Silverton, CO)
 2.7 from 3 votes
Descending Kokomo Pass. (Blue River, CO)
 2.7 from 3 votes
Karst terrain: closed valley with sinking stream at left (Silverton, CO)
 2.7 from 3 votes
Well-equipped through-rider, a couple of weeks out of Denver (Silverton, CO)
 2.7 from 3 votes
View back towards Little Molas Lake (Silverton, CO)
 2.7 from 3 votes
CT Ski Crossing (Copper Mountain Resort) (Breckenridge, CO)
 2.7 from 3 votes
Meadow with vegetation (Silverton, CO)
 2.7 from 3 votes
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 2.7 from 3 votes
One of the few technical sections, easily walked or rolled (Silverton, CO)
 2.7 from 3 votes
Slow on the climb shortly after leaving the 2-track and headed up on to ... (Lake City, CO)
 2.7 from 3 votes
Entering the big trees the trail gets narrower with a steeper cross slope (Silverton, CO)
 2.7 from 3 votes
Little Molas Lake (Silverton, CO)
 2.7 from 3 votes
Interesting gulch with conglomerate rock and a bit of cliff band just of... (Silverton, CO)
 2.7 from 3 votes
Scree field near the trailhead (Silverton, CO)
 2.7 from 3 votes
Winding meadow trail below Twin Sisters East (Silverton, CO)
 2.7 from 3 votes
Looking across broad valley towards Sheep Mountain (Silverton, CO)
 2.7 from 3 votes
Admiring the view on the way back! (Breckenridge, CO)
 2.7 from 3 votes
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 2.7 from 3 votes
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 2.7 from 3 votes
Switchback on Colorado Trail (Silverton, CO)
 2.3 from 3 votes
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 2.3 from 3 votes
Fun features along the way keep the moderate climb interesting. (Castle Rock, CO)
 2.3 from 3 votes
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 2.3 from 3 votes
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 2.3 from 3 votes
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 2.3 from 3 votes
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 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 3 votes
Looking back down on the trail with Canby Mountain in the background (Silverton, CO)
 2.0 from 3 votes
Looking north down into Maggie Gulch (Silverton, CO)
 2.0 from 3 votes
Bottom of the super loose section to meet up with Monarch Crest. (it's l... (Salida, CO)
 2.0 from 3 votes
And it goes on like this. This is a better picture of the trail. Usually... (Saguache, CO)
 2.0 from 3 votes
Looking back on the trail in the nice Sargents Mesa area (Saguache, CO)
 2.0 from 3 votes
Pretty standard loose stuff. Doesn't look too bad but it is really drain... (Saguache, CO)
 2.0 from 2 votes
Typical high-alpine CO singletrack. (Breckenridge, CO)
 2.0 from 2 votes
Just one more push to the top from here! (Blue River, 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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