Cataract Ridge Backcountry
ElevationAscent: 6,272' 1,912 m
Descent: -6,619' -2,017 m
High: 13,244' 4,037 m
Low: 10,566' 3,221 m
GradeAvg Grade: 6% (4°)
Max Grade: 57% (30°)
Current trail conditions
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“A true backcountry experience with endless majestic high alpine views and difficult riding.”— Evan Chute
Also keep in mind that the Cataract Ridge Trail is new as of 2009something an outdated map won't show. Expect to be on trail for 10-13 hours, and be prepared for everything you possibly can.
Route finding can be a challenge, and there are quite a few junctions. But for the most part, follow the Colorado Trail all the way to West Pole Creek. Be prepared for hike-a-bike, steep loose terrain, a few sections of 4WD and 2-track dirt road, and every sort of trail you can imagine.
West Pole Creek Trail is a primitive, rarely traveled trail that follows the West Pole Creek drainage. The high point is at the west end, and it drops steeply in to the creek when traveling east to west, then undulates up and down as it winds it's way to meet up with the main Pole Creek Trail. Steeper, fast descents are interspersed with short, steep climbs for the majority of the ride.
Eventually, you'll come to a junction with Pole Creek Trail. A series of small waterfalls, natural arches and crystal clear pools can be viewed on Pole Creek, about 0.25 mile south of the junction of West Pole Creek Trail. The falls are not visible from the trail, but the sound of falling water can be heard if you listen carefully. Turn west off the main trail and take the short side trip from the trail to the creek to see the falls and arches.
Good camping places are available along the lower 4.0 miles of this trail. Domestic sheep graze the upper area near the Continental Divide. Cattle occasionally graze the lower east slope of Pole Creek.
After entering a scattered patch of spruce/fir about 1/4 mile from the Stony Pass Road the trail begins to enter the wide open parks that characterize the Pole Creek Valley to its end at the intersection of FDT#787 (La Garita Stock Driveway Trail).
If you leave a vehicle near the Rio Grande Reservoir instead of at the end of Pole Creek be prepared for a long, undulating dirt road ride back to your vehicle. However, doing this also gives you the option of bailing out on Lost Trail or West Lost Trail, if I recall correctly. Later you can bail out Pole Creek trail or Middle Pole Creek Trail and skip some of the Colorado Trail but still have the road ride back to your vehicle. Please consult a recent map of the area to verify, and always always always take a map (and the MTB Project MTB Project mobile app) with you when riding long adventure rides like this one.
A portion of this ride is also included in the Handies Peak Wilderness Study Area:
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Dogs Allowed, Features, E-Bikes Allowed