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  1. #1
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    Front Range vs. Western Slope

    Can someone give me a general idea of the difference in the two areas? I've done a decent amount of studying up on WS for a potential trip out from the midwest for some sweet Colorado singletrack, but now I'm wondering if I wouldn't be better off in the front range.

    I prefer XC, with some technical aspects thrown in. I don't mind a climb, but I don't love climbing just for climbing sake. I would consider myself a high-end intermediate rider (I guess - I just can't bring myself to say advanced). I have a family at home so cliffhanging stuff is not my thing. For that reason I'm wondering about going to the WS. Twisty, rolling, varied terrain is what I'm most looking for.

    Which area would better fit my preference in style? I know you really need to do WS in either early spring or fall in order to keep from getting fried, how about the front range, when is best for riding there?

    What are the must-do rides in the area? Also, I'm wondering why I don't see Monarch Crest talked about much here? Seems like this is one of the more famous trails in the area, but nothing in the reviews about it.

  2. #2
    Rolling
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    There are three areas actually: front range/Mountain/Western slope.

    Front range is prairie and foothills type riding. Some trees with climbing at lower evevation <10k feet.

    Mountain is high altitude, lots of climbs and lots of pine tree coverage with jaunts above treeline.

    Western slope is desert, long views, dry.

    All have rocks and variations of smooth singletrack.

    All areas have what you might like but the mountain rides have the most extended climbs.

    And yes, we do talk about monarch crest a lot....and Commando run and Kenosha Pass, all mountain rides.

    This is a bad time to plan a front range or mountain trip because winter has about to set in. The WS might be a better option unless you are planning for next spring.

    I like the western slope the most because I like the long views and since I live on the front range, I get plenty of rides in here...but the riding here is great. Heck I like it all...I really shouldn't say I like the western slope more because the crisp thin air of the mountains has it's own joy.

  3. #3
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    i live in gunnison (30 minutes from crested butte and 45 from the crest trail) and primarily ride at hartman rocks. its blim land 5 minutes from town, and is some of the best single track the gunnison valley has to offer. at 7700', its not what lidarman would call mountain or alpine riding. after cresting jacks trail to the top of 'kill hill' youre set out on a spiderweb of single track and jeep road. the great thing about the area is you can choose to do an hour long highly technical ride or spend the entire day touring all the trails. since its all pretty centerally located, its easy to hook up any number of trails on your ride. my favorite bike to ride there is a single speed, with a 2-1 +1 ratio. there are lots of rolly hills and technical rock moves that makes oney riding a blast. stop in at the tune up bike shop for some good trail advise, but make your trip soon. weve already been dusted with snow several times and the air is getting crisp.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by ISUPsyclones
    . Twisty, rolling, varied terrain is what I'm most looking for.
    Sounds like the WS is what you are after. Fruita is full of this kind of terrain. Lidarman's descriptions are great, but I think that even the front range would have more climbing than you would want. And as he pointed out, the weather is getting tough to predict (several inches of snow today).

  5. #5
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    You didn't say when you are planning to make this trip. Obviously the weather makes your decision. If you are planning on Spring the high country will be snowed in. Summer it is hot on the FR. If it was up to me I would pick WS. The front range has great rides and you can hit several rides without driving all day, but they tend to be crowded and the traction is not as good (more loose dirt) as the WS rides. Sure the mountains have huge climbs but the rides are nearly all epic. Fruita is great and while some climbs are steep they are short and lower altitude than even the FR rides.

  6. #6
    Singletrack Daydreamer
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    Agreed, time of year makes all the difference on where I ride.
    December-February: Fruita/Moab are the only real option
    September-October: Everything is open most years
    March-May: Fruita and Moab is warming up but still ridable. The front range is getting occasional blasts of snow, but mostly open. The mountains are still buried.
    June-August: Mountains opening up, with everything open by early July. Front Range is getting pretty hot. Fruita/Moab is an inferno-don't bother.

    Given your description of your skills and preferences I'd consider the following ideas. Post if you want details on any of them.

    If I was going to pick a top four list for a visitor wanting to get the best out of Colorado (without spending the entire time driving) it would be July to early September:
    Buffalo Creek Loop (31.5 miles of rolling sweet singletrack 4-4:30 hours)
    Winter Park (King of the Rockies loop- 30-ish miles, mostly singletrack--3-3:30 hours)
    Kenosha to Breckenridge on the CT (classic 30-ish miles--5 hours)
    Crest Trail (never done it, but it's on my hit list)

    If I were planning a trip right now through March I'd do:
    Mary's Loop w/ Horsethief
    18 1/2 Road (Prime Cut, Joe's Ridge, Chutes & Ladders...)
    then drive to Moab (90-120 minutes) and hit:
    Slickrock trail with some Fins & Things tacked on
    Porcupine Rim (although this is a bit technical relative to everything else)
    or Bartlett Wash if you liked Slickrock
    or Sovereign if you liked Mary's Loop.

    The reason nobody is trying to lure you to the front range is because while it's exceptional relative to Wisconsin, it's not the best Colorado has to offer. Enjoy the best as long as you're here. The front range is very climby and over-used to make it a destination. You're better off going west to get the best.

  7. #7
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    Thanks for the great input everyone

    I had been doing all my thinking and tentative planning around a Fruita visit in early spring or early/mid fall, but I had started wondering if a front range/mountain destination in the mid summer would be more my speed. The FR would cut 4-5 drive time, each way, off the trip, but what's the difference in a 11 to a 15 hour drive really? The FR would be good for some of that forrested stuff that I like so much.

    One thing that made me question the WS trip was a foreboding description of "XC terrors" by the guy that does a site called northeastcycling. If you haven't seen it check it out here www.northeastcycling.com. He's got quite an impressive list of trips all around the country with some real amazing pics. Anyway, while he said he loved Fruita, you get the sense he was generally quite sketchy about the technical XC and some of the exposure. He looks to be quite the seasoned rider, so I thought if Fruita scared him it might be too much for me and WAY too much for the friends I plan to drag along. At the same time I read reports of beginners heading out on Horsetheif and others and having a great time. I am confident enough in my skills to say I'm well past beginner, so no probelm right? I guess its all in which trails you pick to ride, because - as I've now seen - there are plenty of mondo exposure trails in the FR as well. My wife, bless her heart, would prefer that I didn't fall off a cliff. Quite a gal she is.

    Crested Butte looks absolutely beautiful, but I am concerned that the additional elevation might cook me before I ever get started. 401 looks like a must though. I went to Durango years ago, rode Animas and Hermosa Creek with no problem, so maybe elevation wouldn't be such an issue.

    I guess I don't know what I really want - other than the perfect trip. I don't have the means to make lots of trips so I want to make the most out of the 4-5 days I'll have. Maybe I should head to Fruita and try to catch Monarch Crest on the way back?

    Again, thanks for the info. You guys a soooo lucky. I would probably get fired if I worked in Colorado. I would be riding all the time, calling into work, leaving early....etc.

  8. #8
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    The telling quote from his report on the Bookcliffs:

    "for a limited skills XC weenie like myself"

    This quote was funny describing the entrance to Horsethief, too:

    "This was nearly hands and feet climbing"


  9. #9
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    My answer would be to stop on the way through if you need to stretch the legs and bag Elk Meadows and possibly add on Bergen Peak if you wanted more treed riding. It's less than 10 minutes off I-70 and would give you a place to stop on the way through. Alternatively, Lair of the Bear is close to Denver and treed, too. Either way, there's plenty of hotels on the west side of Denver or camping just beyond Evergreen on Squaw Pass/Echo Lake.

    After that, definitely head to Fruita. The mountains around Crested Butte and Monarch Crest are likely to still be under snow until mid-June. There's very little exposure on most of the stuff on 18 1/2 Road, and while there is some exposed stuff on Mary's and Horsethief, there's not a lot. I certainly wouldn't consider it extreme riding and I'm a 40 year old sissy when it comes to exposure. There's some pieces you will definitely walk (two bits come to mind: the drop into Horsethief and a piece at the far end of Horsethief), but they're safe and sane to walk (there's a few nutters I've seen do it, but they're in the minority).

    To me, there's not enough riding in Fruita to keep you busy for a week, so seriously consider heading to Moab for a few days. It's close, the hotels and camping are cheap, and it's classic stuff that you can brag to your mid-western friends about for years.

  10. #10
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    good responses..

    also...front range is open for interpretation i would say.. i think some of the best riding is north of nederland...sort of front range (it is for me at least), but sort of mountains..and then there is fort collins and c springs.. i lived in the western slope and front range, they are both great.. can't go wrong either way if you ask me..
    BBZ

    Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy - Benjamin Franklin

  11. #11
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    This quote was funny describing the entrance to Horsethief, too:

    "This was nearly hands and feet climbing"

    [/QUOTE]


    I'm glad you found it funny, because that clarifies things a bit. I've resigned myself to walking down the Horsethief staircase, but other than that (and a couple of spots where you're on the rim looking down at the river WAY below) I thought I should be fine. Then I read him describe it that way.....maybe he was just having a bad day. I think he also marvels that Prime Cut is a warm up....There's one picture on his site of him or his friend decending from Black Bear Pass that makes it look like he's about to ride straight off a cliff so I didn't think he'd be too nervous. The guy is definitely an experienced rider. He really didn't care for the repel down Edge Loop waterfall either. I'm not bagging on him at all though, his site is one of the best I've seen. The Dude has been everywhere.

  12. #12
    bacon! bacon! bacon!
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    Quote Originally Posted by ISUPsyclones

    I'm glad you found it funny, because that clarifies things a bit. I've resigned myself to walking down the Horsethief staircase, but other than that (and a couple of spots where you're on the rim looking down at the river WAY below) I thought I should be fine. Then I read him describe it that way.....maybe he was just having a bad day. I think he also marvels that Prime Cut is a warm up....There's one picture on his site of him or his friend decending from Black Bear Pass that makes it look like he's about to ride straight off a cliff so I didn't think he'd be too nervous. The guy is definitely an experienced rider. He really didn't care for the repel down Edge Loop waterfall either. I'm not bagging on him at all though, his site is one of the best I've seen. The Dude has been everywhere.
    Yah - some people just don't do well with exposure. Like the end of Porcupine Rim - I've heard it described as narrow singletrack at the edge of a multi-hundred foot cliff. You'd have to really *try* on most of that singletrack to hurl yourself off the cliff.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by ISUPsyclones
    One thing that made me question the WS trip was a foreboding description of "XC terrors" by the guy that does a site called northeastcycling. If you haven't seen it check it out here www.northeastcycling.com. He's got quite an impressive list of trips all around the country with some real amazing pics. Anyway, while he said he loved Fruita, you get the sense he was generally quite sketchy about the technical XC and some of the exposure.
    I wouldn't take this guy's mentions of doom and gloom too seriously. From a quick glance at the site it seems the heaviest bike he owns is 26 lbs and he gets nervous every time he points it downhill. He certainly rides quite a bit, but his descriptions of "hairy" trail sections look smoother than my driveway.

  14. #14
    OK I'll play nice...
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    The Monarch crest is not talked about as much on the boards, because we are lost in the middle, we are not the front range, but are east of the divide, so we are definately not on the western slope... but most "south central" area posts are on the west slope forum. The crest is "that good" but has a short season (i am proud to have hit it 3 times this season with the 3rd time in 50mph snow!). If you are ever passing through during the summer (say Mid july to Mid sept), you MUST DO it, Crested buttes high country (401 trail etc) has the same season, and is only an hour and a half from the crest.

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