THE COLORADO TRAIL

Bicycling WOW Rides - - Wow Rides -

sure, there are longer trails in the US – the 4 455-kilo­me­tre Great Di­vide route, for in­stance – and trails with more un­bro­ken kilo­me­tres of sin­gle­track, like North Dakota’s Maah Daah Hey. But per­haps no trail in the world com­bines the length, qual­ity, and ex­pe­ri­ence of the Colorado Trail.

The CT is 782 kilo­me­tres to­tal, from sub­ur­ban Den­ver to Du­rango. Some of it runs through fed­eral wilder­ness ar­eas that are off-lim­its to moun­tain bik­ers, but that still leaves more than 480 kilo­me­tres of ex­quis­ite sin­gle­track: the high-speed aspen slalom on buffed-out loam from Kenosha Pass to Breck­en­ridge; the seem­ingly end­less vis­tas on the hour-long climb up 3 514-me­tre Sar­gents Mesa; the rol­lick­ing 900-odd­me­tre de­scent from Ken­nebec Pass to a well-de­served Mo­dus Hoperandi and brick-oven pizza at Du­rango’s Ska Brew­ing. The catch? You’ve got to do it your­self. Two com­pa­nies – Western Spirit, and Lizard Head – of­fer multi-day guided trips on parts of the trail, but no out­fit cov­ers the whole thing. It’s a sig­nif­i­cant un­der­tak­ing – and one that will change you for­ever as a rider.

In 2003, five friends and I crammed a VW mi­crobus full of bikes, food, beer, and camp­ing gear and set off for the trail­head at Roxbor­ough State Park. We did the trail in eight days of rid­ing, us­ing the van to de­tour around the wilder­ness ar­eas and tak­ing turns lead­ing the group and serv­ing as ride sup­port. I still don’t know what my favourite mo­ment was: whoop­ing care­free along sub-alpine sin­gle­track across the base of the ma­jes­tic 4 260-me­tre-high Col­le­giate Peaks, or cook­ing a mas­sive batch of pesto tortellini, served with salad and cold beers, for the rest of the group as they came off a high, long day in the San Juans near Sil­ver­ton. As a rider or a guide, every day of­fered a fresh chal­lenge, a new ac­com­plish­ment. Now, 13 years later, that ride re­mains per­haps the most re­ward­ing bike trip I’ve ever com­pleted, and no ride I’ve done since has ever in­tim­i­dated me. Dif­fi­culty 9 to 10

bi­cy­cling con­trib­u­tor joe lind­sey is a colorado na­tive and un­abashedly bi­ased about the qual­ity of its sin­gle­track.

Head­ing south along the Monarch Crest sec­tion near Sal­ida.

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