This loop is extremely rewarding, and will challenge the best of riders. You'll be above treeline for hours, carrying your bike many, many times, climbing brutal chunk, and descending the good, the bad, and the ugly. Be prepared for anything, and accept that this ride isn't for everybody. Both the CDT and Bard Creek Trail are usually shuttled, and this loops together both. Enjoy the type 2 fun!
This ride is dedicated to those who have lost their lives doing what they love in the Colorado backcountry.
Begin your ride in the early morning, starting in the town of Empire.There is usually sufficient parking at Theobold Park near the Police Station. Head up US40 towards Jones Pass. Expect car traffic up until you take a left on 202 Henderson Mine Road. The road is paved up to the Henderson Mine. Merge right onto Jones Pass Road and continue up the dirt road all the way to the CDT. This road is usually in good condition and never gets too steep. There is a cornice almost year-round at the top of the pass, so you may have to get creative.
Once you reach the Continental Divide Trail, expect sections of flow and technical climbing/hike-a-bike along the ridge. A few miles past the cornice you'll reach the high point at about 13,200'. Continue down into Herman Gulch, which eventually connects with the Herman Gulch Trail
. Watch out for hikers along this trail, and expect fast flow and rooty, technical sections Near the bottom you'll come to an intersection with Watrous Gulch Trail #95
, take this left. THIS IS YOUR ONLY BAIL-OUT POINT. You need to decide if the weather will hold out for another few hours, and if you have enough water, food, and energy. The most difficult and slow-going portion of the ride starts here.
Watrous Gulch Trail is a challenging technical climb with a few steeper hike-a-bike sections. As you near treeline, this trail crosses the stream and intersects with the beginning of Bard Creek Trail #83
. Take this right.
Bard Creek Trail is primitive to say the least, and will quickly turn into steep hike-a-bike with 11 miles of extreme exposure to weather and steep hillsides. Due to minimal traffic, the trail will disappear here and there; look for cairns and use your map to stay on track. Prepare for lots of bike-a-hike and type 2 fun. After descending into Bard Creek, the trail will eventually turn into Forest Service Road 777, and then County Road 252 (South Empire Pass Road). Follow this back into town.
It's proven that beer tastes better after completing this ride.