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The Colorado Trail (CT) may very well be the best long distance trail open to mountain bikers. Stretching nearly 500 miles between Denver and Durango, with an elevation change of nearly 90,000′ and a high point of 13,200′, it is one trail that can actually be described using the overused word “epic”. Of course, the entire trail isn’t open to mountain bikes, due to a number of sections that enter Wilderness areas, but the open sections are almost always high quality singletrack.

Colorado Trail sign

Recently, I have made it a personal goal to ride ALL of the CT that lies outside Wilderness areas. This means that if there is a 2 mile section that is outside of a legal Wilderness, I plan on riding it. There are many ways to do this. One method is to ride the trail in one push with camping gear (aka bikepacking or thru-biking), perhaps as part of the Colorado Trail Race, though this route misses many portions of the CT. Another great option would be to ride the entire trail in one push with a group of friends and a support vehicle carrying camping gear and a cooler full of post-ride beers, which would again miss quite a bit of trail. Then there’s the alternative I’ll be pursuing- which is to ride each section of the CT separately.

For me, this option is the easiest one logistically, and allows me to ride each section in the best direction possible (i.e. towards Denver or towards Durango). Additionally, it gives me the ability to combine the CT with other trails and create some terrific loops. Last but not least, I already have a head start, since I first rode some sections of the CT way back in the early 90’s.

Snow Mesa, part of the Colorado Trail

So, to that end, here’s my Colorado Trail Mountain Bike guide. Hopefully the holes in this list will be filled soon. Whenever possible, I will suggest loops, shuttles, or the best direction to ride each section. The guide is organized section by section in the same way as the Colorado Trail Guidebook, which is a terrific resource offered by the Colorado Trail Foundation. Speaking of the Colorado Trail Foundation (CTF), if you enjoy the CT consider donating some of your time or money to the CTF, since they are the ones who help keep the trail in such terrific shape.

The value of this page will be greatly enhanced by comments from 14erskiers’ readers. One of the draws of this project for me is that I get to pour over maps and attempt to discover the best way of riding a section- whether it’s an out and back, a shuttle, or a loop with other trails and roads. So if our readers know that a route I have proposed isn’t feasible or the best route available, please let me know by leaving a comment here.

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