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South Fork Loop

Very Difficult
 3.3 (6) RECOMMENDED ROUTE

A challenging, beautiful, and remote backcountry adventure.


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Map Key

27.2

Miles

43.8

KM

95%

Singletrack

12,278' 3,742 m

High

8,953' 2,729 m

Low

4,270' 1,301 m

Up

4,270' 1,302 m

Down

6%

Avg Grade (3°)

64%

Max Grade (33°)

Dogs Unknown

E-Bikes Not Allowed

Overview

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.

Description

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.

Contacts

Shared By:

Zach Allen with improvements by Richard Hackett

Trail Ratings

  3.3 from 6 votes

#1

in Parshall

#3045

Overall
  3.3 from 6 votes
5 Star
33%
4 Star
33%
3 Star
0%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
33%
Recommended Route Rankings

#1

in Parshall

#393

in Colorado

#3,045

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8,979 Since Sep 22, 2017
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Photos

The first descent was steep and loose!
Oct 2, 2018 near Keystone, CO
Top of the pass at 12,200 feet.
Sep 22, 2017 near Keystone, CO
Climbing up the open valley towards tree line.
Sep 22, 2017 near Georgetown, CO
Moose skull.
Sep 22, 2017 near Keystone, CO
The climb up to the ridge was very challenging but worth it!
Oct 2, 2018 near Keystone, CO
The exposed ridge line traverse.
Sep 22, 2017 near Keystone, CO

Weather


Current Trail Conditions

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Check-Ins

Jul 21, 2020
Scott McCullough
Only an insane person would enjoy biking this trail. 99% sufferfest. If you enjoy hoisting your bike over felled trees and hiking it up 3k of vert.. 27.2mi
Sep 28, 2019
Richard Hackett
7:27 hours moving time, 8:50 total time out at an easy pace. Beautiful and hard ride. 26.4mi — 8h 51m
Sep 29, 2018
chuck watson
27.2mi — 5h 55m
Sep 29, 2018
Sylvia Cei
Jul 14, 2018
Connor McLaughlin
Road is closed due to Forrest fires. not sure when it will open back up.