CO Telluride and Rico riding (pic heavy)
Last of my reports from my CO/UT trip:
After a few days of solo rides in Durango and Rico I met up with Liz again in Telluride to check out some more trails. I hadn't been able to find very much info on riding in Telluride, and when that is the case I am less interested to go explore lines on the map. But when you re-think it and see that Telluride is at 9,000ft and some of the trails climb over 4,000ft above town you start to get more interested. Rico was also excellent, and similarly unknown or at least seldom documented. Lots of excellent backcountry type riding!
A bit of history on the drive up to Telluride
Liz and Shiela make their way up
Aspens were mostly bare at the higher elevations
Trail disappears for a short distance
We drop into a stand of brilliant yellow
And then we drop below that into some scrub oak
And then we climb...
But mostly it was a lot of climbing
I hope we don't have to climb over that ridge....
Looking across to the ski hill
A bit of traverse at the top
And down we go! The descent seemed a lot shorter than the climb for sure, but that is often the case.
Big herd of elk when we retreived the vehicle. I suspect they know they are on private property and cannot be hunted. There are huge homes here above Telluride airport, owned by the reputable likes of Tom Cruise.
Stats: 16mi, gain 4,060ft, loss, 4,800ft, elev range: 8,950 to 11,630ft
Telluride: Wasatch Tr to Bear Creek Tr
We had a couple options for our second day's ride. The original plan was to hit up Wasatch to Bear Creek in the morning and then do a shuttle from Alta Lake down to town in the afternoon. But frigid cold temps at camp (below 20F) encouraged us to wait for things to warm up a bit before starting the day's ride. We ended up spending a lot of the morning trying to warm up and dry the frost off our stuff, which meant moving down off the mountain to the valley bottom and into the sun.
Eventually we got going and headed over to the east side of Telluride, up the road to Bridal Veil Falls. It was in shadows so I couldn't get any good pics, but this road climbs up the head of the valley above town in a series of gnarly switchbacks. It looks very intimidating from below.
Looking down on Telluride
From higher up you can see the powerhouse at Bridal Veil Falls on the left and some of the switchbacks that climb up from the ponds
There are remnants of old mines everywhere.
Checking out the ice falls. There was a bunch of old mining debris here too. Above the spot where we parked the road is one-way only, downhill, coming over Black Bear Pass from Hwy 550.
The climb to the ice falls was a bit out of our way, and we had to descend back down a few switchbacks to the power house
From there it was mostly a gravel road climb up
It got steep in places and we walked a fair bit
The higher we went the less travelled the roads were
Climbing up to the pass next to Silver Mtn
A row of peaks surround the Veil Basin
Looking east from the pass between Silver and Wasatch Mtns, this would be our high point of the day and it is all downhill from here.
Telluride is in the valley far below in the distance
It would be a lot of switchbacks to get down there
Some really fun descending
Gotta love being way up above tree line
Still no sign of trees!
We head toward the valley which we will follow the rest of the way down
The walls above us were immense as we continued to drop
Just above us here is a connector that can take you over to Gold Hill and the ski hill. Now that I have seen the terrain I definitely want to check out the trails on the ski hill!
About to get into the hard part of the trail, lots of tough switchbacks and a few loose chutes and techy drops
Like this one...
Cool bridge, and still a long ways down
My hands are fatigued from all the braking at this point and we still have a long ways down
I wouldn't normally describe a 13mi ride as epic. But with the elevation, the scenery, and the killer long descent I would have to put this ride into that category. I have not done many rides that make you feel "out there" as much as this ride did. Its one of the harder descents I have done in a while too, very steep and loose especially in the middle, and there is some nice exposure to boot. Definitely a ride I will do again... Seems to me there are some much bigger routes we could put together here up and over to different valleys. We spotted a few trails heading over passes that will be worth exploring more.
Stats: 13mi, 3,770 gain, 4,970 loss, elev range: 8,750 to 13,080ft
Rico: Bear Creek Loop
Looking at the Latitude 40 Maps there is a huge amount of riding in the Durango area, mostly Hermosa Creek drainage up to the Colorado Trail. It is this riding which gets most of the love when people talk about Durango. However, there is almost as much if not more riding over on the west side of the CT near Rico. Again I saw very little online about the trails here, except that a few of them were described as little known gems.
It is hard to ignore lines on a map that stretch over 20 miles and go above 12,000ft. Some of the loops in this area you could put together are stupidly long with massive amounts of climbing. Point to points could be even better, but unfortunately I would be on my own for the rides in Rico, which did limit me some. Being that everything would be new to me, it wasn't a big deal. Even the fire roads in CO can be worth checking out since a lot of the singletracks involve lots of HAB when you are climbing.
For the first ride, I wanted to check out Bear Creek Trail. It starts a short distance from the Colorado Trail above Taylor Lake, near Kennebec Pass. It would be an adventure of its own getting up there. A local had told me the descent down Bear is well worth it, but aside from that I did not know much about it.
I parked at the Bear Creek trailhead on Hwy 145, next to the Dolores River.
Bear Creek will be my descent. Here I turned right onto the Morrison Trail
The Morrison Trail traverses across to the bottom of Haycamp Mesa and then climbs up to the mesa top. Here it crosses some private property and you have to go through a few gates behind some houses. It was a pretty steep climb up, and I both stopped a few times to rest and walked a few sections.
Some nice variation in the colors. A sign at the trailhead told me that when you see a group of aspens of the same shade they are all connected as a single organism since aspens are clones growing from root suckers from an individual tree. The things you learn....
I was planning to turn left onto the new Morrison Spur Trail, which the map said was to be completed in Aug 2012. However, it does not exist yet so I took the Aspen Loop ATV trail instead. Was nice not being at the bottom of the food chain for once.
After a few miles I turned onto Rd 561, which transitioned from dirt to rock as I climbed higher
There were a couple bonus descents which led to some bonus climbing, but not too much longer and I was at the Sharkstooth/West Mancos Trailhead. Sharkstooth was a trail I had heard was brutal, very rocky and tons of HAB. Since I was heading up it, I was prepared for the worst.
It was steep, no doubt, and crossed some scree in places but mostly it wasn't that bad.
The trail went through a historical mine site which had a separate interpretive trail and signs. Interesting to note this area had seen mineral exploration as late as the 90's including a new dirt road. This was completely remediated when the mining company decided not to proceed with production. No sign of the road at all that I could see, only the historical buildings from the 20s and 30s.
A few tough switchbacks and I was at the pass between Sharkstooth Peak and Centennial Peak. If you look back to Day 2 of my CT Bikepack trip, these are among the mountains I was looking at as the sun went down. You can see the trail far below crossing the scree slope on the right hand side
The drop of the pass was chunky, loose and fun. The scree was surprisingly rideable even this one short climb
Lower down it the trailbed had been filled in somewhat with gravel, and the going was easier
Beyond the scree slope the trail drops into the trees, and twists around as it continues to drop into the top of the Bear Creek basin
Looking up to the east, the Colorado trail is just beyond these peaks. Sharkstooth Trail will continue up and over one of these passes and connect to the CT above Taylor Lake. Looking at it, this is probably the heinous part of the trail.
On to Bear Creek....
I didn't have much of an expectation for the trail but was hoping for minimal trees down and a fun descent. The top part delivered, and was in pretty good shape for a trail that doesn't see much use
With the railing taking up half the usable space this was a tough bridge to cross
I had seen a Conservation Corps van on the Aspen Loop Trail at the Gold Run trailhead. Looks like they were down on Bear Creek doing some work. There was lots of work in progress and lots of work completed. Nice to see some back country trails getting some love!
Where a trench had formed in the trail the side walls had been cut back so you won't clip a pedal
Aspens were lit up in the late afternoon sun
The trail seemed to go on and on down the valley
Bear Creek flowed below. I was on the lookout for fishing holes to try out
Found a couple, that had some nice fish in them
Into a nice grove of young aspens
Continuing on, I am soon running out of light
The fishing stop meant that I would end in the dark. A couple miles from the end I had a mechanical, losing the bolt that holds my derailleur hanger on, sending the D into my spokes and getting it all wrapped in the chain. I got it mostly fixed with a spare bolt but the bike wasn't happy under power. That sucked, since there was a surprising amount of climbing in the last couple miles. I carried a camping headlamp with me on all my rides on this trip so it was no big deal finishing in the dark. I'd have to say I liked this loop. Bear Creek was fun, and will be in even better shape if the CC keeps on working. The Morrison to Aspen loop was a decent approach, although Morrison seemed unnecesarily steep. It would also be possible to approach from Rd 436 to the north via CT to Grindstone Trail, or even CT over Indian Trail Ridge to Sharkstooth, if you want to punish yourself. Views would be amazing, though...
Stats: 36mi, 5,350ft gain/loss, elev range: 7,900 to 11,950ft
Rico: Winter Tr - Johnny Bull - Calico Loop
I had to drive into Cortez the next morning to deal with my drivetrain issues. They got it fixed up and ready to go in good time, and I was on the road back up to Rico. The trailhead for today's ride was a way's up, so it was well after noon when I got up there.
The map/guide I got at the shop had two suggested loops for this end of the range. One loop is up Calico, down East Fork, and back on Winter. It was all singletrack but the climb up Calico looked too steep to be fun. The other route was to climb up Johnny Bull, descend West Fork and back on the road. These are basically two side-by-side triangular shaped loops sharing a middle segment - East/West Fork. E/W Fork looked like pure HAB, and there is private land at the bottom so going up them did not look feasible. Either of these loops was not that long either, so I decided to join them and cut out East/West Fork. Instead, I would take Winter Trail, connect to Johnny Bull and climb it, and then traverse back to the start on Calico.
Gorgeous views on the way up to the Calico Trailhead
Winter Tr starts off though some nice meadows
The trail is open to motos (the only other user I saw today was a moto) and some nice trail work has been done. A good part of the trail was raised like the section in between the segments of wood planks, to keep riders off of wet ground.
Looking north into Lizard Head Wilderness
Fun descent down towards Dunston
Getting onto Dunton Rd I found a couple good fishing holes
Dunston is an old mining town. Its gated private property now, and the guide map said to proceed through it without stopping from bottom of Winter Tr to respect private property. Not sure I would ride up through it which would take a lot more time. Not sure anyone would really care, it had the air of a resort/HOA, not sure if anyone would even know if you were meant to be there or not.
The road ride down to Johnny Bull was very pretty with leaves blowing all over in the wind
I had to wade the river and tried out some more fishing, but no luck despite some nice looking holes
Climbing up from the river
The trail about to get steep below brilliant aspens
The initial climb was brutal, pure HAB. But above that it got more manageable and I was able to climb most of the trail until the top 1/3
A lot more aspen stands to go through
With the couple hours I spent fishing I knew I was in for another finish in the dark. I had lights, food, and warm clothing so again this was no big deal
The only bummer was missing out on some of the views from the Calico ridgeline, which I had heard are incredible
Seems like I should be at the top, but there is still 8.5mi and 1,500 climbing to go
I think it is worse when you can't even see the false summits
The trail just seems to keep climbing into an uphill abyss
There is a MTB/moto bypass that drops down and then climbs steeply back up. I don't know how the moto guys ride it, it has some incredible steeps with dropoffs, with extreme exposure off the side.
Once you crest following the bypass you are almost there, just a 2,000ft descent down some steep switchbacks.
It was 930 when I finished. I had all my layers on by that point mainly to deal with the wind up on top of the ridges. My fingers were all fatigued from braking, as the descent down Calico was a pure brake-dragger. It was steep moto trail all the way. I am glad I didn't go up Calico, it would have been almost all HAB. Johnny Bull was steep too but mostly climbable. I'd like to descend that trail but there doesn't seem to be a good way to get to the top of it. Maybe an out and back would be fun. For what I did, I think I definitely picked the right direction.
Stats: 22.5mi, 4,580 gain/loss, elev range: 8,500 to 12,100ft
wow. AWESOME pics!!! I wanna go ride that now!
Rico: Priest Gulch to Calico Loop
For the last day in Rico I wanted to explore the other main segment of Calico National Rec Trail. There is a convenient loop starting and ending at the south Calico TH, so that loop made sense. There were other routes I was more interested in like Calico to Stoner Mesa, but those required a second vehicle or a massive (~20mi) road segment to close the loop. Not gonna happen today! I only had a couple days left before Coconino 250 so I wanted a shorter loop.
I knew the climb up Priest Gulch would have some steep parts but the start was not too bad.
Gets a little steeper
Climbing is continuous
And the HAB starts
Mostly the trail was still rideable, but some switchbacks and sections with deep trenches had to be walked
Higher up it is mostly pretty spruce/fir forest until the alpine
Looking south from a viewpoint
I pass the intersection of Priest/Calico and decide to head up to Storm Peak a couple miles away, since I had made good time on the climb
Some excellent ridgetop riding. Note the fire in the distance...
I had to climb over a few "bumps" on the trail
Rico is down below me to the right. The Colorado Trail is on the far side of the peaks in the distance
At the top of Storm Peak, 12,100
Looking N-NE you can barely see the trail, but it continues past Anchor Mtn and joins up with Johnny Bull just below Calico Peak 2.5mi away.
Riding off the peak
The ridgeline portion was mostly rideable with just a couple short HABs
I was soon back at the Calico/Priest intersection and off down Calico
After traversing the ridge for a while the trail drops into some Aspens and gets steep
It crosses a meadow before getting into another nice rock garden.
A couple miles and a 1000 ft to go
This was a pretty fun loop. Either Priest or Calico will be a lot of work to get up, but with either you get a 7-8mi descent that will be pretty fun, nearly all up then all down. If you continue on Calico be prepared for some steep climbing, some HAB, and some awesome views. Its possible to do all of Calico as a 20mi point to point or to turn off down any number of side trails. Plenty of options. I really liked these trails, they are raw, and tough, but you are rewarded for every climb with a nice descent.
Stats: 19.3mi, 4,760ft gain/loss, elev range: 8,030 to 12,100ft
Damn nice! But let's keep it a little quieter about the riding in our area. We don't want to turn into Boulder
Craig, Durango CO
"Lighten up PAL" ... King Cage
Originally Posted by Hollyw00d
My lips are sealed...
Originally Posted by cbrossman
Great pictures and trip report! Cool to see our less traveled trails get some attention. There aren't a lot of us that ride some of the loops you did and we could actually use a few more riders to keep them in good shape.
I noticed that you both were riding with Osprey Packs. Our world HQ is in Cortez, so if you're in the area again, look us up and we'll show you more of our "hidden gems".
I'd sure appreciate a brief summary of day to day gps routes or kml files if you have them.
If no, could you recount the daily trail numbers, connections, etc ?
I'm looking forward to following your route selections soon.
I think you're safe....a large proportion of the riding population doesn't have the time and/or money to vacation in that area of the country. Then, 98% of them have no desire to work as hard as evdog is willing (and able ) to do to ride off the beaten path.
Originally Posted by cbrossman
I LOVE my Osprey pack! (I'm the girl with the red one in the pics).
Originally Posted by ospreypacks
No offense, but......
Originally Posted by evdog
Thank you for the riding,documenting and photo time spent to share this with us all out here on the interwebz. I can only hope to do the amount of riding in the pedal time I have remaining that you've done on one of these trips, let alone what you've done during this year! Awesomeness.
Wait whuuut, who did he tell you that!?!?....
Love it! Great photos from a great fall of beautiful colors! You got after it.
I grew up in the area, but didn't really get into biking until I moved away. I've been wanting to get back there to ride (rico area) for a while. Now I really want to.
Nice work on the tride trails. Deep creek and wasatch are stiff climbs.
Jeff, right? If so I ran into you during my CT bikepack and was picking your brain about trails on the Rico side. Thanks for the info! I will definitely look you up next year (hopefully) and I'm sure 3blackbikes will do so once the trails open up as well. Love the pack!
Originally Posted by ospreypacks
NTsnow, yeah Deep Creek seemed like it was all uphill!
Yeah, I thought it was probably you that was posting the awesome pictures. Met you at the junction of the CT and Scotch Creek. Glad that the rest of your trip was good and your Osprey pack is working well.
Originally Posted by evdog