Mountain bike tires are ready to roll on the trails around Del Norte, a quiet town in the San Louis Valley of Colorado. Spring and early summer present just the right daytime temps in this high-desert destination—a four-hour drive from Denver, set at 7,884 feet.

Del Norte’s trail systems revolve around D Mountain, and several others prime spots are scattered throughout the area. The rides take on mostly primitive terrain, ranging from from rolling and semi-technical to rocky and steep.

Bureau of Land Management (BLM) areas like Limekiln, Stone Quarry and Bishop’s Rock are just a short drive from town and prime in the early season. Head for the higher-altitude Rio Grande National Forest trails, like Middle Frisco Creek, when summertime heat makes the valley floor too hot to handle.

More is coming. This summer, an approved government grant and a contribution from Rio Grande County will fund a connection project, starting from the in-town D Mountain trails area, and eventually reaching Stone Quarry and beyond.

“There will be a singletrack system starting from Del Norte, and going as far as we can see to the north,” said Brink Messick, volunteer and partnership coordinator for Volunteers For Outdoor Colorado in the Rio Grande National Forest and San Luis Valley.

“It really helps the community more if you can leave right from town,” added Messick.

It’s a “perfect storm” for the local mountain bike scene, as described by Kevin Hass, co-owner of The Windsor Hotel. Recently, the San Luis Valley —Del Norte in particular— has been participating in the surge of popular interest for developing and emerging trail systems.

“Tens of thousands of man hours funded by the federal government, among others, have taken the existing trails to a new level,” he said. “This is just the beginning.”

The plan for the future is to tie together areas like Middle Frisco and Bishop. Stone-coated Penitente Canyon sits on its own across the valley, so while it won’t be a part of the upcoming connect project, it’s still worth the 15-minute drive from Del Norte (see page 15).

 Kim Fuller