Mountain Biking the Colorado Trail

Mountain Biking the Colorado Trail

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What is it about the Colorado Trail? From Denver to Durango it stretches with a mix of some of the best singletrack to some of the most hateful mountain bike “rides” with more hiking than pedaling. But it’s not just the trail quality that makes the Colorado Trail what it is. Although I’m not quite sure what the other element might be, there’s certainly something else. Likely a mix of memories, both grand and scary, killer scenery, great dirt, and maybe a touch of a spiritual presence that makes it just feel right. If you haven’t had a chance to experience it, put the Colorado Trail on your list of epic mountain bike rides that you actually make happen.

Marker for the colorado trail
Sign on a tree marking the Colorado Trail

Although I’ve ridden a number of sections; this blog is about the ride from Scotch Creek to Salt Creek in the San Juans.  I had planned to mountain bike the Colorado Trail(CT) from East Fork to Salt, but the weather wasn’t cooperating. You don’t mess around with the weather on the CT, especially if you’re headed above tree line. Lightning is the obvious danger, hypothermia the less obvious one. Always, always bring a rain shell.

The climb up Scotch was an enjoyable fire road, which started out a bit tedious, but smoothed out and never beat you up too bad, with grade or rockiness. After about 6.5 miles and roughly 3K of climbing we gained the ridge and the Colorado Trail. The trail is up and down between Scotch and Salt but more up than down. Mileage between the two drainages is just short of 6 miles.

This section of the Colorado Trail is a good one for riding. The dirt is good, not technical, the climbing is tolerable, and the views are sweet. After a few short, double track crossings you’ll find yourself at the sign for Salt Creek, which descends to the West. Now the goods…you get your three thousand feet back on some steep, loamy singletrack that is not heavily used.  It’s mixed in with some killer aspen groves and a bit of flat riding.

scenic shot of the colorado trail
Mountain view from the Colorado Trail

The trail eventually emerges into a flat clearing and intersects with Lower Ryman trail. Follow this to the paved road and back north to your starting point. Round trip this mountain bike ride is in the neighborhood of 20 miles with 4K or so of elevation gain. It’s a great taste of the CT and classic Colorado riding in the beautiful San Juan Mountains.

I’m an avid mountain bike racer, a member of the White Pine Racing powered by cycling team, and call Park City, UT home. I’ve been riding and racing cross country (XC) and endurance events in the Intermountain West for a number of years, which is how I’ve come to know the ins and outs of the Colorado Trail. This year I rode the Cannondale Scalpel 29er on the CT from Scotch Creek to Salt Creek and I highly recommend it for XC riding in the Rocky Mountains. Stop into White Pine Touring on Bonanza Drive in Park City and test drive one yourself.

By Scott Morrison, White Pine Racing powered by Team Member

This post was updated on July 6, 2022.

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