Kick your summer off right by seeking out the five best mountain biking trails in Gunnison and Crested Butte that you’ve never heard of … until now.
Mountain biking is supposed to be fun. And in the mountains surrounding Gunnison and Crested Butte that gave birth to the sport, it still is. With more than 150 trails spanning more than 750 miles, there’s definitely something for everyone here—no matter if you are a novice or a pro racer.
Each year, riders from all over the globe come to the region for a chance to dig into some of the most coveted mountain biking trails on the planet. And while the region’s most iconic rides are definitely worth the trip (think the famed 401 trail), there are also some killer trails that have remained relatively obscure. This summer, add a couple of these local favorites to your bucket list. They’re guaranteed to show you just how fun mountain biking is supposed to be.
1. Awakening and Hotdogger
Awakening and Hotdogger are a pair of downhill trails that are part of Crested Butte Mountain Resort’s famed Evolution Bike Park. They were designed to give beginner riders their first taste of the downhill experience. Don’t let the green rating fool you, though. While they are perfect runs for beginners, the machine-groomed flow trails will send your stomach somersaulting regardless of your ability level. Combine the runs with the skills park at the top of Red Lady lift, and you have the recipe for endless hours of enjoyment. And because the trails are both lift-served, you don’t have to worry about wearing out your legs on the uphill, so you can just sit back and enjoy the ride.
2. Lower Cement Creek to Upper Cement Creek
“I love rides where I can stay on my bike for most of the time,” says John Norton, executive director of the Gunnison-Crested Butte Tourism Association. “And the Cement Creek trail is exactly that kind of ride.”
The 19.3-mile trail is challenging enough to push most riders, but it’s not so technical that it forces you out of the saddle very often. The ride skirts along little-known Cement Creek, giving you that magic feeling that you are worlds away from anyone else. It’s an illusion that’s seldom shattered on this lightly traveled trail.
One of the biggest benefits of the in-and-back route is that you can turn around at any point. So if the climb up the 10,220-foot Walrod section at the end of the trail isn’t appealing to you (despite the unbelievable downhill along Warm Springs that it offers as a reward), then feel free to chill your wine or beer in the creek at the base of the ascent and enjoy a casual picnic lunch before heading back at the kind of leisurely pace that keeps you where you’re meant to be—on your bike.
3. Fossil Ridge Half Loop
Sometimes you just can’t decide what you’re in the mood for: Sweeping views. Flowy downhills. Challenging uphills. Technical, rocky descents. And sometimes, you come across those rare rides that give you a little taste of everything and leave you feeling completely satisfied that you got just what what you were hungry for. The Fossil Ridge Half Loop is one of those rides.
“It’s so far off the radar of most riders that you rarely see anyone out there,” says Eric Freson, executive director of the Gunnison Country Chamber of Commerce. “But it’s an awesome trail, and it’s definitely a big adventure.”
The 18-mile loop includes a roughly five-mile climb from Left Alder Creek at 9,104 feet to the top of Fossil Ridge at 11,890 feet. It’s all downhill after that, but drop your post and warm up your forearms, because it isn’t soft flowy trails ahead, but rather the rocky, technical descents designed to test your brakes, your suspension and your adventurous spirit.
4. Matchless Doctor Park
The Matchless Doctor Park loop features 33 miles of some of the toughest, most technical riding available in the Gunnison Valley with 6,726 feet of elevation gain peaking out at 11,667 feet above sea level before bringing you back down the Gunnison Spur of the Colorado Trail in a descent you’ll never forget.
“This is the real deal,” says David Ochs, the director of the Crested Butte/Mount Crested Butte Chamber of Commerce. “This is hard-core, true Colorado mountain biking.”
Don’t take this trail lightly. You should expect to spend some time earning the rewards it has to offer in terms of scenery, memories and, mostly, a sense of accomplishment for having tamed a little piece of trail that is quintessential Colorado mountain biking fun.
5. Epic Dope Loop
Sometimes, the name really does say it all. The Epic Dope Loop isn’t for the faint of heart. Or the weak of legs. This 45-mile loop starts and ends in town and features more than 8,500-feet of elevation gain, topping out at a peak elevation of more than 12,300 feet at the far edge of the loop.
“There are people who say it’s insane,” says Derrick Nehrenberg, CEO of Juicy Trails. “But it’s not insane. It actually gives you more sanity than you can imagine.”
The reward for the effort is as Epic as the ride itself: Miles of aspen trees. A wildflower bowl full of rare alpine blooms—rare even in a place widely known for it’s abundance of wildflowers—and an eight-mile stretch of downhill that is guaranteed to have your mouth stretching from one side of your face to the other by the time you finally peel yourself off your bike. That’s not just dope, that’s what’s rightfully called Epic Dope. •
On The Right Track
Meet the one app that every Colorado mountain biker needs.
Regardless of which trails you decide to ride this summer, Gunnison and Crested Butte have made it easy to find your way with the new cbgtrails.com website and mobile app.
“All of the trails in this area are mapped, and they’re all on the app,” says Derrick Nehrenberg, CEO of Juicy Trails. “We have designed it to be easy to read on your phone when you’re dirty, sweaty and tired.”
That way it’s easy to keep track of exactly where you are on the trail and how much farther away the much-anticipated descent is. And for those times when cell service might be lacking, the maps are also available for offline use—because with this many trails, it’s always good to know where you are, and how much fun is still waiting for you down the trail. cbgtrails.com