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South Fork Loop

 1 vote


27.2 Miles 43.8 Kilometers




4,270' 1,301 m


-4,270' -1,302 m



Avg Grade (3°)


Max Grade (33°)

12,278' 3,742 m


8,953' 2,729 m




Getting forecast...

A challenging, beautiful, and remote backcountry adventure.

Zach Allen


This is an extremely difficult and remote ride that will challenge the best riders. Plan on a full day, bring lots of food and water, and don’t expect help if things go wrong. Also plan on hike-a-biking quite a bit on the climb as it is very steep and rocky in many spots. However, if you’re looking for an adventure and love exploring the backcountry and want to get away from crowds, it doesn’t get any better than this! Spectacular views, rugged terrain and challenging riding through an unspoiled part of beautiful Grand County.

Need to Know

There are lots of moose in the area, and the area is popular with hunters. Be careful during hunting season. There are also many creek crossings. Several miles of trail above timberline are very exposed to weather.


Start the ride at the Darling Creek Trailhead. There is parking in a large dirt lot near the campground.

From the Darling Creek Trailhead, follow a fence briefly until Darling Creek intersects with South Fork Trail. South Fork Trail is continually rocky with several creek crossings. It climbs steadily with intermittent hike-a-bike sections until the intersection with Jones Pass Road at a campground at around mile eight.

Continue climbing through more open terrain. The trail will become steeper and start switchbacking up onto the ridge above timberline. Hike up the ridge to the pass at mile 12 where you'll reach an elevation of 12,200 feet.

Once at the pass, descend briefly and then contour along the ridge, enjoying amazing views of the Gore range and the valley below. This ridge is very exposed for several miles and would be a bad place to be caught in a lightning storm. Watch for cairns to help navigation as the trail is very faint across the tundra in this section.

At the end of the ridge, the trail drops down to rider’s left and begins the long technical descent back into the trees. There are lots of large embedded rocks and loose baby heads, tight switchbacks, and high-speed rowdiness will keep your attention for several miles.

Eventually, the trail flattens out in the forest and you’ll come to a bridge across the South Fork of the Williams Fork River. If you don’t take the bridge here be aware that the old trail fork to the right of the bridge appears to be no longer maintained and was an impassible tangle of downed trees. Bring a saw if you want to do the last four miles of singletrack.Taking a left onto the bridge will cross the creek and take you to a dirt road and a pleasant coast back to your car.

History & Background

The mine at the start has a conveyor belt that goes through a tunnel all the way under the Continental Divide.


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  5.0 from 1 vote


in Parshall


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in Parshall


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1,089 Since Sep 22, 2017
Extremely Difficult Extremely Difficult

I've done this trail as a backpacking guide a few times as a 6 night excursion. Imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon it on MTB project! I would have never imagined trying to ride this on a bike, but now that I think about it I suppose it's possible. A few comments on the route in general: -I far and away prefer doing this trip in the clockwise direction. The trail is relatively easy to follow as you go up the valley, and the ridgeline traverse is easier to follow in this direction I think. -Be very prepared for many river crossings. Depending on the time of year, some of them can get up to thigh deep. The hunters that come through this area during Elk season in the fall generally use horses, and part of the reason is definitely for easier crossings. Both the valley on the way up and the valley on the way down have 5 or 6 crossings that require scouting and careful planning to do them safely, but they are all possible. If you're really crafty, consider bringing chacos or tevas to use while crossing so that you don't have to get your shoes wet. -The trail description above is very accurate. Be careful to follow the cairns, and make sure you don't drop into the valley below until you're actually at the spot where the trail drops. We used to use a campsite just below the ridgeline that had a stump carved into the shape of a chair. That might be a good marker for the descent. -The last four miles of the main trail do have a lot of deadfall, but it isn't impassible. -Good luck, have fun, not for the faint of heart! Dec 1, 2017

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