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Wasatch Trail Loop

 4.3 (11)

15.8 Miles 25.4 Kilometers



4,305' 1,312 m


-4,310' -1,314 m



Avg Grade (6°)


Max Grade (31°)

13,053' 3,978 m


8,758' 2,669 m


Shared By percious


Minor Issues 78 days ago
Muddy - Muddy at the top, very slick, wet scree on the way down. History

Getting forecast...

A difficult tour of Telluride. Steep descents, beautiful waterfalls, and mountain vistas await.


Dogs Unknown

Features -none-


This is an amazing trail with considerable elevation gain that brings you to 13,000 feet over nearly 18 miles. Plan carefully and expect to be exposed above treeline for 2-3 hours on this epic-inducing loop. I used 2L of water on the ride, wished for 3L. If you are wary of hike-a-bike this ride is not for you. The descent is expert terrain, with difficult switchbacks, loose rock, and consequential falls. This ride is not for the faint of heart. An enjoyable and safe ride will only reward those who are fit, experienced, and ready for "type b" fun.

Need to Know

Bring 2-3 liters of water, 5-6 energy bars, tools, spare tubes, and a camera. If you've never been at altitude before, know how your body reacts before you get there; you'll be above 12k for many hours. There is no cell service roughly from the powerhouse to the pass, so plan accordingly.

If I were to do this ride again, I would do it as an out and back to the high point of John McCarron junction (the pass) so that I could enjoy a long descent with less consequences and hike-a-bike.


The ride starts from town and heads towards Bridal Veil Falls. The ride to the top of the falls is quite a haul in it of itself. At 4.5 miles there is a gate leading away from the switchbacks. Head right, through this gate, which may be closed. You'll find yourself standing above the powerplant with beautiful vistas.

If you feel strong here, continue up the 4x4 road past the falls. This will go straight for a number of miles. You'll reach a stream crossing, make sure you stay the course and head LEFT, away from the crossing. There are numerous waterfalls along the way, and at the largest of the falls you there will be switchbacks off to the left. This is pretty much where the hike-a-bike begins. Head up those switchbacks. After the switchbacks, the trail will start to level off a bit, but only the heartiest of riders will be able to conquer the lung-leg burn. Soon the trees will turn to scrub, and you'll encounter another trail junction. To the left is Blue Lake; you want to head RIGHT towards the Wasatch Trail. There is no signage.

After this junction, you'll continue some time through the scrub. After what looks like it will be a pass, you'll enter the alpine zone. The trail is not extremely steep here, but the air is thin by now and for me, most of the riding was done in short spurts. About half way through the alpine zone, you'll encounter your first hitching post with no signage. Head RIGHT. Continue up through the alpine zone on a faint trail until you reach a fairly good road with another post. There is a sign that's been removed which is illegible on the ground next to the post. You want to head LEFT here, up the road. There are numerous snow crossings along this road, and then a sign appears indicating the Bear Creek Falls Trail. Head RIGHT here, up towards the snow cornice. The cornice is passed on the right, depositing you at John McCarron junction.

So starts the descent. Sorry I don't have any pictures, but honestly I just wanted down by this point! The first part of the descent is rather enjoyable, with a few walking sections due to steep switchbacks and some snow fields, but is rather inconsequential based on the falls into a grassy alpine meadow. When you reach the cutoff for the east fork head RIGHT. What ensues is a series of steep, extremely tight switchbacks that for me, were too difficult to navigate on the bike. It would be awesome if the Telluride crew would widen the turns and make them possible with 26" wheels.

After what seems like forever, you'll reach a large stream crossing. I am guessing this could be dangerous in the early summer since there will be much more water and the consequences of flowing downstream including going over numerous falls. After this crossing, the original Wasatch Trail will catch up with you, and new obstacles including bridges, bushes, and switchbacks in deeply wooded areas become the norm. There are numerous smaller technical stream crossings, and it's difficult to have forewarning of the trail as it winds through the underbrush. This eventually deposits you on the Bear Creek Trail, and after a rapid descent you find yourself back in town. Be careful not to pick off any tourists on the descent as this is a popular hiking trail in the area. It is prudent to slow down and give notice, even though you are ready to just get it over with by now!

Upon entering town, you'll see Smugglers on the left. Make sure you stop for your well-earned brew!

History & Background

I don't know the history of this ride, other than it is included in the "Tellurides" book by author Dave Rich. There is some mining history, and a considerable amount of leftover infrastructure can be seen along the route.


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Your Check-Ins


Sep 2, 2018
Aaron Black
Wet at the top. Very muddy for the first part of the descent and very slick scree further down. 18mi
Sep 2, 2018
Mark Dollard
Big climb. Insane settings. Buddy’s bike broke 5 minutes into descent do we have to do it again.
Aug 19, 2018
Mark Mastalski
5h 00m
Jul 7, 2018
Stuart Saslow
Aug 14, 2017
Joe Tonak
Oct 18, 2016
Lisa Dreier
Oct 18, 2016
thomas feistl
Sep 21, 2016
Ben Frankowski

Trail Ratings

  4.3 from 11 votes


in Telluride


  4.3 from 11 votes
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in Telluride


in Colorado


55 Views Last Month
14,487 Since Mar 29, 2016
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Max Cooper
Telluride, CO
Max Cooper   Telluride, CO
Road a big variation yesterday and the descent was in great shape. Latest I've been able to ride that high around Telluride. Oct 30, 2016
Bluebird day and the scenery was fantastic! We did the ride just as described. You've already read the description so you know that this ride is something special. I have done much longer rides but rarely have I climbed for so long in a tundra setting. The climb is burly and long with thin air. Keep moving - whether you are pedaling or pushing your bike; that is key. The descent is entirely worth it. Yes there are places where you will walk and be off your bike but the views are outstanding and it is worth it. In my opinion, if you're okay with the thought of the climb (it will work you) then you'll be okay getting down. I certainly would not want to get caught up there in inclement weather (obvious, I know). Aug 19, 2018

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