THE COLORADO TRAIL
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.