50/50 ride/hike-a-bike up 4,000 feet through dense pine forests with a waterfall and swim-able lake, ride on the highest OHV trails in the country, and descend a gap between Mt Antero and Mt White to the CT and all the way to the free campground roads.
The descent is difficult, starting with medium loose rocks, then moving to large boulders, then opening up to high speed loose turns the lower you get. This is one of the few trails in Colorado that has actual dirt on the descent, so be ready for excellent grip in the middle.
Be sure to start early as the thunderstorms seem to always roll in here from the west where you cannot see far.
This section of the CT is popular so be respectful of thru hikers and give them the right of way. They will move off the trail quickly if you give them room and don't yell "Strava!!!"
Bring a rain jacket and thin thermal layer for the top because you never know when it's going to thunderstorm/hail. Temperatures up there can drop 30 degrees in 5 minutes with tropical storm like winds.
You can start from one of the many free campgrounds along the dirt road or start at Little Browns Creek Trailhead. There is a vault toilet here and a stream for filtering water.
Start by hike-a-biking up Lower Browns Creek Trail #1429
from the parking lot. It's shared with horses so beware of the landmines. Turn left onto the CT and ride a low grade uphill for less than a mile and then turn right onto Upper Browns Creek Trail #1429
. This trail is a mix of riding and pushing. If you are not a climber then you'll be almost entirely pushing.
A short ways up, there will be a left turn with a horse post that you can take to see a waterfall. It's very short and worth checking out. Continuing up, you'll start getting more sky and thinner trees, and start seeing some spectacular chalk cliffs. Eventually, the trail will end at a mountain lake with a semi-sandy beach. Don't get too comfortable yet as there is still 1,500 feet of vert to the top ridge line.
From the lake, you'll start riding on the highest OHV trails in the contiguous USA and will give you a chance to look around above the treeline and take a "breather." You'll crest a ridge, then drop down a little and connect up with Little Browns Creek Trail #1430
. From here, it's all downhill to the campgrounds!
Stay alert, and make sure to stop every 500 ft to take breathtaking pictures of the gap and surrounding cliffs. If you're lucky, you'll get a crazy doom-like thunderstorm over Nathrop as your background for perspective. The downhill will start rough, loose, and rocky, very difficult to clear everything. It will eventually drop into the trees, where it will begin showing boulder features, so be ready to do some unexpected small drops. Recently there has been heavy damage to the trails from people bypassing obstacles and making two or three alternate lines, please refrain from using those as it ruins the experience for others.
Eventually, the trail will begin to mellow out and open up for faster riding. You'll reach the CT in which case turn left and continue the fast open downhill riding until you reach a dirt road crossing. Be courteous of the thru hikers and give them right of way. I found that they respond very well to cheap old bells, ding ding. Make a right on the dirt road, then another right, then another right and you'll start heading south and back to the start.