This trail gives excellent views of the La Plata mountains, as it goes over Sharkstooth Pass
, before then dropping down Bear Creek before returning back to the road via the Gold Run trail.
Need to Know
This trail has several hike-a-bike sections, multiple stream crossings, and, if ridden earlier in the summer, multiple snow field crossings.
From Mancos, turn right and drive up county road 42 until you reach Windy Gap. Most cars will be able to make it to Windy Gap, and 4WD vehicles can turn right on the road to Twin Lakes to drive directly to the trailhead. If you park at Windy Gap, there is an ATV trail that can be ridden down to the trailhead.
Once at the trailhead, begin climbing up Sharkstooth pass, with many excellent views of Hesperus Mountain along the way. Once above treeline, the trail gets much rockier and more difficult to ride. We ended up hiking quite a bit of it. Eventually you reach Sharkstooth pass. The pass gives the opportunity for an optional climb of Centennial peak, if you have the time. Sharkstooth pass is the point of no return, and going any further pretty much commits you to the entire ride.
Begin descending down the other side of Sharkstooth Pass
. This is probably the steepest section of the trail, and crosses a couple talus fields. This section of trail can contain a lot of snow as well earlier in the season.
Once below tree line, you'll come across a trail junction, choose to go left on the Bear Creek trail. From here you have about six and a half miles of downhill riding, with the trail becoming mellower and easier as you descend the valley.
After riding down Bear Creek, there will be a bridge on the left that starts ascending up the Gold Run trail. This trail is quite steep, and we ended up hiking most of it, around two miles or so. This was probably the most tiring section of the ride for me.
Eventually, you climb up out of the valley and are back on a dirt road. Turn left on the road and follow it back to Windy Gap. Once at Windy Gap, turn left and find the ATV trail to go back down to the trailhead.
History & Background
There are some abandoned mining remains at the beginning of the trail, with a historic trail with some plaques and signs detailing the history of the ruins.