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The Catalyst

 9 votes


11.1 Miles 17.8 Kilometers




1,701' 519 m


-1,699' -518 m



Avg Grade (3°)


Max Grade (20°)

8,442' 2,573 m


6,873' 2,095 m




Getting forecast...

A paved switchback road climb to wonderful fast singletrack with steep technical descent.

Darran Wells

Notice: This has been hidden from our maps in order to prevent overlap with existing trails or rides, or due to our research indicating that this trail does not have legal or public access.


Usually snow covered from December to May. Switchbacks typically closed to vehicle traffic during this time.
One of Lander's best all-mountain style rides, this trail features a long scenic climb (or 20 min one way shuttle) on paved switchbacks before hitting fast rocky singletrack that winds through alpine meadows and pine groves before a fantastic flowy technical descent back down into the canyon.

Increasingly popular variation is to avoid the road entirely by climbing up the new Chain Reaction trail and descending only the lower half of Catalyst.
Dogs: Off-leash

Need to Know

There are optional hits and ledge drops (5-8') in several spots. Midway down, there is also an exposed but roll-able mandatory drop that should be scouted before riding first time. It appears right after a sharp right switchback. See marked location on map.

During summer of 2013, the USFS is working with Lander Cycling Club to improve and add singletrack trails between the paved switchbacks and the lower parking area. Expect more singletrack in this area by summer of 2014.


This is amongst Lander's all-around best mid-summer mountain bike rides. It can be ridden car to car with a long climb on pavement, or riders may be shuttled from one of the lower parking areas to the start of the trail near the Fossil Hill Parking area.

From the lower parking area, cross foot bridge and turn right onto singletrack trail paralleling river for 1 mile to jeep road. Continue on jeep road for .5 mile to Bruce's Parking Area. From Bruce's, climb 1500 ft of paved switchbacks for 5 miles to Fossil Hill parking lot. From FH parking, descend the two track road SE for only 200 yards to a cattle gate and immediately turn left onto the singletrack.

This is the top of the Catalyst. Traverse around the SE side of Fossil Hill through Aspen glades on rocky singletrack until you begin to descend North. Switch to downhill mode for a screaming fast descent through open alpine meadow where you'll test your shocks. The real fun begins as the trail re-enters the trees around the 9 mile mark.

The trail winds through spruce and pines for several blissful minutes before reaching some optional 6-10 ft cliff drops off the right side of the trail with wonderful landings. Another 500 yards of singletrack brings you to a sharp right hairpin. Use caution here as there is a mandatory exposed 3 ft limestone off-camber rollover just after the hairpin. First timers should scout before riding!

After the drop, a long, narrow but fun traverse brings you to a left turn and down a steep rocky 200 yd skidline gully in the trees. There are optional boulder drops on the left, midway down the gully. With a left turn, leave the gully and traverse left on narrow rocky trail for several hundred yards before passing between two house-sized boulders and T-ing into the Moose Gulch loop trail.

At the T, turn left for a shorter, steeper ride (pictured on map) or turn right to add .5 miles and a mellower climb back to the car. Both trails bring you to another jeep road option. Stay right and head down to a small creek crossing with a skinny option. 100 yds after the creek, you'll arrive back at the walking bridge. Turn right and cross the bridge to return to your car. Congrats!

History & Background

The steep skidline dropping into the canyon was a logging trail at some point in the last century. The upper trails are a combination of game trails, hunting trails, and mtb specific built trails. The lower trails near the parking area have long been cross country ski trails during the winter and are now commonly used for winter fat biking. The Chain Reaction trail was completed by Lander Cycling club and USFS in 2014. Credit should be given to The Bike Mill owners, Rio Rose and Nyssa Whitford for developing and promoting this area as the outstanding mountain biking destination it has become.


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Oct 19, 2014
Scott Machen
Jun 6, 2014
Judd Rogers
Aug 24, 2013
Judd Rogers
Excellent description. Thank you!! Route is a little punishing for bike w/o suspension. Looks like a work in progress. 5 stars w/more trail work. 11.6mi — 1h 44m
Jul 21, 2013
Brandon Ray

Trail Ratings

  4.0 from 9 votes


  4.0 from 9 votes
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Tom Robson
Boulder, CO
Tom Robson   Boulder, CO  
Hey Dennis, do you know if this is closed officially yet? Jun 1, 2017

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