ALPINE DE­LIGHTS

SEPTEM­BER

West of 105 Magazine - - Outdoors -

Septem­ber is the month when de­cid­u­ous trees in the high moun­tains go through their an­nual meta­mor­pho­sis and blan­ket the land­scape with a patch­work of yel­lows, reds, and oranges - mean­ing it's the best month for moun­tain bik­ing in the area, and not just for the spec­tac­u­lar scenery but also be­cause the in­ten­sity of sum­mer has waned mak­ing it much more com­fort­able.

CRESTED BUTTE

A per­fect ex­am­ple of a clas­sic Colorado moun­tain town, Crested Butte played a piv­otal role in cre­at­ing the en­tire sport of moun­tain bik­ing, and with 700 miles of sin­gle­track, in­clud­ing trails for ev­ery skill level, there may not be a bet­ter place to moun­tain bike … any­where. The Crested Butte Moun­tain Bike As­so­ci­a­tion, the author­ity on trails in the area, dif­fer­en­ti­ate trails from rides, the lat­ter be­ing a col­lec­tion of trails that make for a good day in the sad­dle.

The Dyke Trail is just 5.5 miles long, but it is one of the more ad­vanced trails in Crested Butte. The quin­tes­sen­tial au­tumn trail, there are tough climbs, at least one tough de­scent and stream cross­ings that com­bine to make a ride that is as tough as it is beau­ti­ful. Amaz­ing views of Ruby Peak and Mt. Owen as well as a trail lit­tered with as­pens makes this a must-ride trail. If you are only in Crested Butte for one ride dur­ing the fall color change, make it the Dyke.

Some­what eas­ier is the Strand Hill Trail, a Crested Butte clas­sic. An­other trail that is per­fect for au­tumn thanks to the aspen for­est it passes through, it also con­tains amaz­ing views of Teo­calli Moun­tain. And if you are af­ter some­thing brand new, the six-mile Bax­ter Gulch Trail is the new­est in the re­gion. For those just start­ing out, Crested Butte Moun­tain Re­sort's Evo­lu­tion Bike Park has a net­work of over 30 miles of sin­gle­track trails that in­clude lift-served down­hill trails and cross- coun­try rides that con­nect to some of the leg­endary rides in and around the area.

GUN­NI­SON

The yin to Crested Butte's yang, Gun­ni­son is just 30 miles south of Crested Butte and they're linked by a free bus.

Trails here range from the 1.2-mile Luge Trail, a fast and fun ride that is great for be­gin­ners, to the The Hart­man Rocks Big Loop, a 30-mile loop with an as­cent (and a de­scent) of 3,514 feet.

This au­tumn you can join the good peo­ple at Gun­ni­son

Trails, the go-to ex­perts on moun­tain bik­ing in the area, at High Alpine Brew­ing Com­pany in Gun­ni­son for Ales for Trails, an event that cel­e­brates ev­ery­one who par­tic­i­pated in main­tain­ing the lo­cal trails over the past sea­son.

VAIL, BRECK­EN­RIDGE, AND THE COP­PER TRI­AN­GLE

Colorado's other celebrity ski haunt, Vail, has plenty of on-moun­tain trails that can be con­ve­niently ac­cessed by gon­do­las as well as plenty more in the Vail Val­ley's White River Na­tional For­est. A short drive east down I-70 you will find hun­dreds more miles of trails in and around Frisco, Key­stone and Breck­en­ridge.

ASPEN AND SNOWMASS

Need­ing no in­tro­duc­tion, one of the top ski ar­eas adds hun­dreds of beau­ti­ful miles to the re­gion's trails.

When it comes to sheer nat­u­ral beauty, this area is hard to beat. And while the ski re­sorts here are world fa­mous, there may be ba­sis for a claim that some of the state's finest moun­tain bik­ing trails are also here.

With just un­der 300 miles of trails, hard­core rid­ers come from far and wide to tackle the Aspen Snowmass Mega Loop - 60 miles of al­most en­tirely sin­gle­track with a mon­ster 9,000 feet of el­e­va­tion gain (don't worry you descend for the same amount as you climb).

As with many other ski ar­eas, Snowmass turns many of its ski runs into moun­tain bik­ing trails for the cy­cling sea­son. Wind­ing from the top of the Elk Camp Chair­lift all the way to Snowmass Base Vil­lage, the Snowmass Bike Park of­fers some­thing for ev­ery­one, in­clud­ing the three V trails: Vik­ing, Va­por, and Val­halla.

STEAM­BOAT SPRINGS

Sit­ting im­me­di­ately west of the 2.2-mil­lion-acre Medicine Bow – Routt Na­tional For­est in the north­west Rock­ies, the world-class trails at Steam­boat reach into that vast acreage of pub­lic land and of­fer some amaz­ing rid­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties while be­ing sur­rounded by as­pens, scrub oaks, pines, and rocky ter­rain.

Although this area has a small se­lec­tion of dif­fi­cult trails, there are plenty of easy and intermediate ones, mak­ing Steam­boat per­fect for those just start­ing out on a moun­tain bike. The Emer­ald Moun­tain Flow Fest Trail is just over 10 miles of 100 per­cent sin­gle­track that has a gen­tle as­cent fol­lowed by a sim­i­lar de­scent. And it starts and ends right down­town.

For a more cu­rated ex­pe­ri­ence, Steam­boat Bike Park has a 50-mile trail net­work that in­cludes lift-as­sisted down­hill flow and tech trails. There are also multi-di­rec­tional trails if you want to make it more of a work­out.

And that's re­ally just scrap­ing the sur­face of high alpine moun­tain bik­ing. Vir­tu­ally ev­ery moun­tain town in Colorado of­fers amaz­ing moun­tain bik­ing, in­clud­ing Du­rango (read more on page 38) and Tel­luride (read more on page 46), both of which are ar­guably among the best in the state.

Check in­di­vid­ual re­sorts / lo­ca­tions for clos­ing dates and other use­ful info.

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