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  1. #1
    rider
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    Help planning a Colorado mtb trip please?

    Looks like I'll be able to swing about 3 weeks in Colorado, not including drive time. Earliest I could be in state would be about the 20th of July. I'm hoping to ride as much high altitude singletrack nectar as possible. I'll be at least partially acclimatized from several days of riding up high in Tahoe and sleeping at 8k' plus before blasting across to the Rockies. Plenty of technical and climbing is fine. I'm an AM rider but would like to do a couple of days of lift assisted riding/shuttling if it gets me into some epic long trail rides that would not be possible without it. Car camping on FS/BLM land preferred, not a big fan of the typical established pay campground scene.

    So any input on what rides are must do & great spots to camp would be very helpful.

    What rig to bring: I'm debating between two 4x4's. The econo route (30mpg) would be to take my '85 Tercel wagon. It climbs like mad if ground clearance is not an issue. But I'm not adverse to spending the extra $350 or so to take my '86 full size Bronco (18 mpg highway) if it will get me into a bunch of nicer spots to camp/ride.

    I guess I should also ask if my projected time frame might be good for alpine conditions given the big snow year out there.
    Abandoned the 26" wheel in May '03

  2. #2
    skillz to pay billz
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    3 weeks? do it all!

    I say leave the bronco at home and ride to the 'hard to get to' spots.

    crested butte, durango, CT, sourdough/SSV, fruita, pueblo, keystone, winterpark/fraser. go nuts!

  3. #3
    Living the High Life
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    For Summit County, you won't need 4x4 for the summer let alone lots of ground clearance, so save the gas.

    Keystone has great single track lift access, 2100 vertical feet or so in 1 run. Sol Vista has some great DH runs, but they're only a few minutes.

    As far as pedaling single track, Winter Park (as far as I've been told from reliable sources) has great rides. The front range also has some awesome rides near Denver. Apex, Dakota ridge, in the foot hills near Evergreen3 sisters has lots of options.

    On the other end of the state Fruita/Grand Junction has some great trails as well, I've been out there only once and hit 3 trails that were all cool.

  4. #4
    Bianchimtb
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    ride the colorado trail

  5. #5
    Living the High Life
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    Quote Originally Posted by bianchimtb
    ride the colorado trail
    one line comments really help this guy plan a 3 week vacation

  6. #6
    Bianchimtb
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    that is an explanation in it self that would be an epic ride. i have never rode the colo trail trail but would love to. ~2 weeks of epic xc riding what else could you ask for??
    check out this ride we have down here in the springs:
    http://www.fotp.com/ringthepeak/
    it could easily be a two day ride lots of brutal climbs!

  7. #7
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    Hello from Oroville

    Having moved from Denver to here a few years back, you are definitely traveling to the right place.

    First, take the Tercel.

    Second, you could blow the whole three weeks just driving from one destination to another, so I would pick three or four staging areas so you can relax between rides and not have to flog yourself going from one place to another.

    By the way, think about stopping at Park City or the Cottonwood Canyons on the way out for a couple days of riding.

    I would drive clockwise across Colorado. Stop in at Steamboat Springs, then east to WinterPark. Can shuttle both places if you want.

    Drive south to Summit County with camping out of Breck or Keystone. Anything on the Colorado Trail from Leadville east to Denver is great. From there, head south to Salida and definitely, most definitely hit the Monarch Crest. Shuttle Vans should be available in Salida to get you to the Crest. This is a must do ride.

    Then head west and hit Crested Butte, or just spend three weeks there, your choice.

    End your trip by going to the Southwest corner and riding out of Purgatory (ok, not Purgatory anymore, but I like that name more) and Durango. The Colorado trail from Molas Pass to Cascade Creek and down to Purgatory is maybe my all time favorite ride. I never got to do Kennebec Pass, but have heard it might be better.

    If you want to borrow all my Colorado Trails Illustrated maps, let me know, I can dig them.

    Have a great time.

  8. #8
    Bianchimtb
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    here is the colorado tril link
    http://www.coloradotrail.org/
    http://www.coloradotrail.org/bike.html


    Quote Originally Posted by bianchimtb
    that is an explanation in it self that would be an epic ride. i have never rode the colo trail trail but would love to. ~2 weeks of epic xc riding what else could you ask for??
    check out this ride we have down here in the springs:
    http://www.fotp.com/ringthepeak/
    it could easily be a two day ride lots of brutal climbs!

  9. #9
    rider
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    Thanks for all the replies.

    The comment about blowing the trip just driving around the state hits home for sure.

    Three weeks of riding in CB alone? Must be sweet...
    Abandoned the 26" wheel in May '03

  10. #10
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    Colo Trail?

    How about the Colorado Trail?
    Here is a link to some riders that did the trip and documented it with writeups and pics:
    http://otbmbc.com/epics/2006-CT/index.shtml

    At least this will give you an idea of some sections of the Colorado Trail that you may want to consider.

  11. #11
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    I like the suggestion of starting in Steamboat and riding clockwise.

    Stop in Winter Park, stop in Breck/Keystone and ride the CT and its branches, ride Kenosha Pass, take a day sidetour and ride Buff Creek, then go to Salida to ride the Crest and Rainbow trails (I think the Crest proper is pretty overrated, but there are other options there). Then I'd go to Crested Butte. Then I'd go to Telluride and Durango.

  12. #12
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    I think you'd have to be pretty well ADD to do this. Most locations would only 5-6 hours max from each other. If you map things out and spend 4-5 days in each location you'd be good to go.

    Quote Originally Posted by 29erchico

    The comment about blowing the trip just driving around the state hits home for sure.

    Three weeks of riding in CB alone? Must be sweet...

  13. #13
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    ^^^ This guy knows what he's talking about.

  14. #14
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    probably more like 1-2 hours from place to place if you plan well


    thanks smmokan, I really don't much about all the riding in colorado other than what I've read. I'm pretty new still. I do know that if I had 3 weeks to goof around I could easily hit most of the rides on my must-do list.

  15. #15
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    Monarch Crest trails. There are tons of them and Salida is an awesome town Pizza at Amica's is highly recommended. Rainbow for sure, Fooses creek is pretty flowy and fun to get you started. RenoBearFlag in Crested Butte. Oh and Fruita! Dude. You don't have enough time.
    Take the econo car... It'll get you where you need to get and you'll be able to ride the rest of the way.
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  16. #16
    Just go ride!
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    Best of the CT

    Here are what I consider the best 1 day rides of the Colorado Trail. Since they are point-to-point, you need a shuttle for most. For some, camping at midpoints and doing out-and-backs are viable as well. You'll probably need to consult the CT guidebook or website to figure out where some of these sections are.

    1.) Silverton to Durango. Kick-ass scenery. A fair amount of hike-a-bike, and at 72 miles, an epic day in the saddle. Beautiful free camping on FS land in the middle (near Bolam Pass / Hotel Draw), for doing out-and-back rides. Might still be some snow drifts left in July.

    2.) Kenosha Pass to Breckenridge. Probably the funnest riding on the whole CT coming into Breck! Mostly non-technical. 32 miles one-way. Free camping can be had on FS land where Swan Lake Road intersects the CT coming down from Georgia Pass. Really nice campsites right beside the creek there.

    3.) Copper Mtn. to Tennessee Pass. More kick-ass high altitude riding. One short section of hike-a-bike getting to Searle Pass. Best done Copper to Tenn. direction, about ~25 miles, could return via pavement. Probably free camping around the old 10th Mtn. Army Camp Hale, but I've never done it.

    4.) Wellington Lake Road to Waterton Canyon. Mostly downhill and non-technical, this section will put a huge smile on your face! ~40 miles one way. Never camped in this area, but it is mostly FS land, so I'm sure there are options.

    5.) Spring Creek Pass to Carson Saddle. 95% above treeline, rocky and exposed meadow riding. 29" wheels helpful for sure! 1 big hike-a-bike. You can descend from Carson Saddle to Cinnamon Pass, and now there is a new reroute (Cateract Ridge) that I haven't done, but sounds incredible and tough! Pick a stable weather day to do this one, or you will get screwed! Many informal campsites along Cinnamon Pass, although you'd probably need your Bronco to go all the way over the Pass.

    6.) Monarch Crest Section, of course!

    7.) Avalanche TH to US-50. All below tree-line, but quite a bit of fun, rocky, technical riding and hard climbs. Some great Aspen groves too. Easy to start in the middle at Mt. Princeton Hot Springs. Free camping in large meadows near the Mt. Antero trailhead.

    Have a great Summer!
    The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not. -TJ

  17. #17
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    Sounds like we're all planning OUR summer vacation rides

    All I have to add is, yes, keep your driving to a minimum. You could easily spend a week in CB and a week in Steamboat. Everyone sez bring the Tercel. Be honest, in what kind of shape is this '85 Tercel (a 23 year old four banger)? I would vote for the Bronco if they're in the same condition. Then at least you know you could truly 4-wheel somewhere if you wanted to. If you park your azz in one high elevation town, an off day might include a rocky road somewhere--in your Bronco.

    I don't think anybody mentioned that middle of July is when most of all the highest elevation trails start opening up. Middle of August for sure, but you'll be fine. I think middle of July is when the wildflowers in CB are shoulder high. Must be seen to be believed! No flowers in this pic (late August) but it is Crested Butte:
    Last edited by xcguy; 06-20-2012 at 05:11 AM.
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  18. #18
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    Man, I have to get back out to Colorado.

  19. #19
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    Sweet Summer Fantasy

    Three weeks of mountain biking in Colorado's high country in late July! Man, I am jealous!
    Previous posts have lots of good advice. Let me add my two cents worth.

    1. Use the Tercel. As long as you can fit all your gear in a small car, it will get you anywhere you need to go, and save you a bundle in fuel bills.

    2. You have enough time to take a grand tour of the state without spending too much time behind the wheel. Best to concentrate on Crested Butte and Durango, though, which have the best trails and most incredible scenery in the state.
    * A day in Steamboat would be fun, but none of the trails there are in the epic category Check out "Steamboat Single Tracks: The Mountain Biking Guide to Steamboat Springs, Colorado" by Tom Barnhart. Good camping at Steamboat Lake State Park or free camping in the national forest anywhere north of Hahn's Peak.
    * There are over 600 miles of trails in the Fraser Valley near Winter Park, plus those at the ski resort. Most of these are fun, but nothing epic. If you want a day of downhilling at a ski resort, W.P. or Keystone are your best bets. Again, plenty of campgrounds in the area, plus a really nice & inexpensive hostel in Fraser.
    * The Monarch Crest Trail on US Hwy 50 west of Salida is definitely worth a stop. It is 31 miles of mostly downhill biking bliss. You start at 11600 feet with incredible views well above timberline and descend through dense forest, over talus slopes, along mountain streams, and end with a great rolling ride on the Rainbow Trail. Requires a shuttle. Lots of nice Forest Service campgrounds in the area. See "Colorado Campgrounds: The 100 Best And All The Rest" by Gil Folsom for a great guide.
    * Then Crested Butte, at last! You will be in C.B. at the height of the wildflower season, and it will be gorgeous. Give yourself several days to savor the 401, 409, Teocalli Ridge and other justly famous trails in the valley. "Mountain Bike Crested Butte, Gunnison & Salida Singletrack" by Holly Annala is a good reference. Surprisingly, there are very few campgrounds near C.B. Your best bet for camping is along the Taylor River 25-30 miles southeast of town.
    * From C.B., give yourself a day to enjoy the scenery on the drive to Durango. Take the long way through the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, then tighten your seatbelt for the drive along US Hwy 550 from Ouray to Durango. With Durango as your base, plan to do several out & back rides on the last 72 miles of the Colorado Trail from Molas Pass to town. Absolutely breathtaking! "Bike" magazine had an inspiring photo essay on this area a few years back. "The Colorado Trail: The Official Guidebook" is a good resource. The Lightner Creek Campground just west of town on US Hwy 160 is highly recommended. If you are saddle sore, take a break and ride the Silverton & Durango narrow guage railroad or go tubing or rafting on the Animas River. Check out some pics of the area at www.RMBB.org.

    3. Now for some "don'ts." Don't plan to ride Moab / Fruita / Grand Junction. This is a fabulous area, but way too hot in July. Don't bother with Telluride. It's a wonderful town with awesome scenery, but it is surrounded by Wilderness Areas and there is precious little singletrack open to biking. (Ditto for Aspen.)

    * Finally, some friends and I plan to be in Tahoe July 19-26. Too bad our paths won't cross there. It would be fun to ride together. Have a wonderful trip!
    Last edited by lginzkey; 03-30-2008 at 08:23 AM.

  20. #20
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    don't limit yourself

    I second Utah and even New Mexico. You could hit so much in 3 weeks. Utah has some great high altitude riding. Crested Butte is classic but I doubt more than 5 days is necessray to hit everything. Check out the Taos area. The NM forum will be full of suggestions for great rides and it is very close. In CO, all aforementioned areas, Durango, CB, Steamboat, Winter Park are full of great riding. You will not have to ride a single lift unless you want to DH.

    Don't forget to bring gear for major temp variations. At elevation, mother nature's perception of summer can be quite different from our own but that is the beauty of the mountains. Be prepared to start higher altitude rides early to avoid inevitable summer storms and lightening, not to be confused with a warm summer shower.

    Have fun!

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1speed
    I second Utah and even New Mexico. You could hit so much in 3 weeks. Utah has some great high altitude riding. Crested Butte is classic but I doubt more than 5 days is necessray to hit everything.
    You need to get more creative, then.

  22. #22
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    if you happen to be driving thru aspen and need to stretch your legs hit government trail and the mushroom rock trail system off the highway across from carbondale

  23. #23
    rider
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    Wow, lots of good info. Thanks for all the great replies. Looks like I have my work cut out doing all the research on the stuff that you folks have pointed out.
    Abandoned the 26" wheel in May '03

  24. #24
    rider
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    Quote Originally Posted by lginzkey
    Three weeks of mountain biking in Colorado's high country in late July! Man, I am jealous!
    Previous posts have lots of good advice. Let me add my two cents worth.

    * Finally, some friends and I plan to be in Tahoe July 19-26. Too bad our paths won't cross there. It would be fun to ride together. Have a wonderful trip!

    Thanks for the detailed reply. I might be able to ride with your crew on the19th in Tahoe and then blast across the craton.

    I may violate your #3 and try to ride in Fruita/GJ on the way out of the state. It should be a tad cooler by the 10th of August, I hope. Checked the temps and it only gets into the low 100's there max. No big as long as I get out on the trail early. Here in Chico, Norcal it can get well in to the 110+'s. That, coupled with the fact that I was denied my one day to ride in Fruita last year in early May by a buddy's need to chase some tail, makes me really want to check it out.
    Abandoned the 26" wheel in May '03

  25. #25
    Cycling, FTW!!
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    Quote Originally Posted by lginzkey
    * A day in Steamboat would be fun, but none of the trails there are in the epic category
    I think a few people on here may have a different opinion on that statement.
    "When you pay $340 to do a 24 hour race you'll only have enough money to eat mustard sandwiches the rest of the year." -TD

  26. #26
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    Well if it's altitude you want why not ride the Leadville Trail 100 course? I know a part is not the exact course but you could do most of the exact course at very high altitudes if that is a goal for you. Of course it runs between 10+/- up to 14K feet of altitude so coming from 8000 I would do it as soon as you arrive or after the third week in higher altitudes. Just a thought. The Trail 100 race is Aug 9th, great cycling crowds and environment in Leadville so maybe a good stop just for festivities...eat at the little Mexican restaurant in town for some great food at affordable prices. Good luck on your trip.

    SH

  27. #27
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    Here is a link to the race ByPass map, there is a portion before the Columbine climb that is on private lands so you'll need this map to do it if interested...

  28. #28
    zrm
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    Three weeks huh? That gives you a lot of options.

    I'd spend time in CB for sure. You can find a camp spot and park it for 4-5 days or a week and stay plenty entertained. Summit County, especially in the Breckenridge area is also good for many days of riding - lots of high altitude above treeline riding there. Another place worthy of some time is the Salida area, the Crest is deservedly the most famous but there is a lot of other riding there. The Winter Park area is also full of great riding. One advantage of the above mentioned places is they are all fairly close together and you could hit them with a fairly small amount of driving.

    An extra drive will get you to the Durango area which is a very cool place to hang out and ride a mountain bike but it's a bit removed from the central/northern mountains areas. One thing I'd avoid is going too low in altitude. The west slope desert areas are way too hot in the middle of the summer.

    The front range, while there is some good riding there can also get really hot if you are below 7000 feet or so. The Buff creek area is really sweet, but it's not very technical and it sounds like you're looking for more of that rather than buff single track which is the overall character of that area.

    I'm not a lift rider or shuttle monkey so I can't help you out on that kind of stuff but lots of folks here are so I'm sure they can help you out.

  29. #29
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    I'll add support to the clockwise tour. That would keep your driving between locations the shortest, a lot of the spots listed above are less than 2hrs apart. My pick for locations would be Steamboat (good place to start with a lower elevation, just over 6000 ft in town vs 9000 ft in Summit County), then to Winter Park --1.5hrs drive (lot's of good riding, but I haven't ridden there since the 90's, so my area knowledge is limited), then Summit County-- 1.5 hrs(After over 10 summers here and lots of riding and exploring, I keep finding new places to ride every year. Buy a Latitude 40 map for the area, a really good map: which you need because the trails aren't marked well. You can give the quads a days rest by taking lifts at Keystone. Good free camping in the Swan River area, take Tiger Run Rd east from Hwy 9 near Breck, which is pretty central to some great singletrack and right off the Colorado trail. You can ride to Breck, Keystone, or Frisco from there.), off to Salida--1.5hrs (plenty of advice here already about the riding), then to Crested Butte/ Gunnison-- 1.5hrs ( you can hit Hartman's Rocks in Gunny on the way to the Butte. I have limited experience in the Butte, but it's really good), you can hit Fruita on the way out (just ride real early, the sun in the desert gets real hot after you've spent 3 weeks in the high country.) You don't need the truck to get to the riding, but it let's you get to more remote/ quiet camp spots. Have fun-- I'm jealous of the idea of a 3 week tour.

  30. #30
    rider
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    Thanks for all the great input. I'm liking the idea of the clockwise tour also. Really interested to see if I can ride w/o falling over at 14k feet.
    Abandoned the 26" wheel in May '03

  31. #31
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    You'll probably have to do Mt. elbert or other summits to get to 14K. most likely you'll be at 10K to 12K riding in the high country

  32. #32
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    I think you should focus on Crested Butte and Durango, but plenty of good riding in the rest of the state.

    maybe you should take the Tercel, but I'd damn sure take the Bronco. With the Tercel, you'll be more likely to end up in campgrounds and near other camps (not that there's anything wrong with that. But with the Bronco and a little bit of time, you could find yourself some epic campsites with nobody around. If that isn't your thing, then take the Tercel, otherwise, don't limit yourself.

  33. #33
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    Many of the people here will talk about some extravagant rides they wish they could do weekly and tell you to do them. yeah there a great idea but most are 7k feet plus and you'll prolly give yourself some altitude sickness.

    I highly suggest starting in colorado springs then making your way back west.

  34. #34
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    Good point, start with a lower, 5-7k elevation ride on the 1st day to give your body a chance to get into gear for higher altitude.

  35. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bagwhan
    I think you should focus on Crested Butte and Durango, but plenty of good riding in the rest of the state.

    maybe you should take the Tercel, but I'd damn sure take the Bronco. With the Tercel, you'll be more likely to end up in campgrounds and near other camps (not that there's anything wrong with that. But with the Bronco and a little bit of time, you could find yourself some epic campsites with nobody around. If that isn't your thing, then take the Tercel, otherwise, don't limit yourself.
    Thanks for the input. The car thing will probably just be determined by the which one I feel like driving when the trip is getting near. Both run really well & the Terc is a real part time 4wd as it has no center differential. I can drive the little car around in some surprising places, but of course nothing like where the Bronco will go.
    Abandoned the 26" wheel in May '03

  36. #36
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    Great info everyone. I've been lurking on here in prep of planning my 9-day trip down to Colorado for Leadville 100. Just earlier today we decided to spend the first couple days in Steamboat, then do some day-hikes in Rocky Mtn Nat. Park before spending a day in Winter Park and then the last couple days relaxing in Leadville before the race.

    Glad to see so many people suggesting this path (sort of) for a longer 3-week trip. At least I know I'm off to a good start. Not to mention the climb up the Storm Peak Challenge route at the Steamboat ski hill looks like it could be just what the doctor ordered for one final climbing blitz before the race.

    Now if only all the trails above 3000 feet here in WA didn't have 10 feet of snow on them!!!

  37. #37
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    I'm no local, just visited there once last year and headed back there again this year - haven't done back to back out of the island vacations in about forever, but CO just rocks for MTBing so can't resist. I'd definitely say go to somewhere with an altitude around the 5k mark first - front range type area - ride the trails around there for a week or so and let the body get accustomed to the altitude. Then head out for higher locations once you've started to get accustomed to the air robbing altitude.

    While I was there I got to ride around the Loveland/Ft.Collins area, Golden area and Leadville, also got to make a foray into Wyoming. In Wyoming was there for a race in the Medicine Bow N'tional Park and the trails and scenery were amazing. While in Ft.Collins/Loveland I got to ride Devils Backbone, Blue Skye, Coyote Ridge, Lions Gulch and a trail around the reseviour- enjoyed all these trails alot, most fun was prob Lions Gulch with it's 5 miles of slow climbing in and 5 miles of DH back out. On the way to Golden I got to ride Halls ranch - by far this was THE MOST fun trail I rode while there, absolutely loved the tech climbing. Down Golden way I was shown Mt.Lion, 3 Sisters & Aldefur - they were all pretty fun trails and sweet scenery. Out in Leadville all I basically did was ride the race route so can't really comment on the trails there, but loads insisted that there was some nice ST there and the scenery was great.

    Loads of MTBR members out that way, definitely try to hook up with some of them and let them show you their local stuff. Hope some of this helps, no matter what I think you'll have a great time, but as said watch all the driving and just try to settle in one area for 3,4 or 5 days and hit up the nearby trails.

  38. #38
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    If you do stop in CO Springs, then some popular rides are: Palmer Park, Ute Valley Park, Intemann Memorial Trail, Capt. Jacks/The Chutes (the chutes requires a shuttle), and Waldo Canyon. Palmer Park and Ute Valley Park are unique in that they offer some pretty technical stuff in the middle of Colorado's 2nd largest city. The mountainous rides like Capt. Jacks and Waldo Canyon are, unfortunately, decomposed granite (aka gravel) trails that aren't always the most sure-footed rides. Waldo Canyon and Intemann trails cross the boundary layers from sandstone to granite, so you'll at least get some variety of surface there.

  39. #39
    Bianchimtb
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    since when do the chutes require a shuttle...
    Whatever hurts you, can only make you stronger

  40. #40
    mtbr member
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    Join Date
    May 2008
    Posts
    3
    Well, strictly speaking, no ride ever requires a shuttle. But considering the speed at which people come zipping down it, it's not something I'd recommend riding the other direction on. The ride back on the road is a long one with a fair bit of altitude gain, and not the sort of one I'd ride my bike on since Springs drivers aren't exactly biker friendly, or pedestrian friendly, or even motorist friendly.

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