The Best Mountain Bike Rides in Crested Butte and Gunnison

by Katy Mooney

The Best Mountain Bike Rides in Crested Butte and Gunnison


by Katy Mooney

So you’ve decided to come mountain biking in the Gunnison Valley. You won’t be disappointed! With over 750 miles of singletrack to explore, you could spend months here and still not ride it all. This guide will help you pick trails suited to your style and ability level so you can get the most out of your trip.

General Mountain Biking Tips

The Valley’s varied terrain makes it a truly unique riding destination. However, this beautiful high country can be unforgiving if you’re not prepared. Follow these tips for a safe, enjoyable ride:

  • Always wear a helmet. Wear clothing that will protect you from the sun—and unexpected encounters with rocks.
  • Bring plenty of water. Hydration is key in this dry, high-altitude climate.
  • Pack a basic bike tool kit, and know how to use it. (For more complex mechanical issues, our friendly local bike shops offer repairs and tune-ups.)
  • Download the free CBG Trails app. The app provides a comprehensive offline map of every trail in the Gunnison Valley, stored conveniently on your phone.
  • Check the weather and plan accordingly. Summer monsoon storms can move in quickly and lightning is the worst when you’re stuck above treeline.

Trail Etiquette

Before you head out on the trails, know the rules of mountain biking:

  • Downhill riders yield to uphill riders. Bikers yield to all other non-motorized trail users.
  • Protect trails and wildlife (including the endangered Gunnison sage-grouse) by respecting seasonal closures.
  • Follow Leave No Trace principles. Pack it in, pack it out, and never ride off-trail.
  • Ride within your limits.

Kebler Pass

The Kebler Pass road, also known as County Road 12, is a dirt road that runs west through the Gunnison National Forest from the town Crested Butte to Colorado State Highway 133. It is open from late spring until late fall. The road is graded and accessible to any passenger vehicle. On this scenic drive, you’ll wind through aspen groves and enjoy stunning views of the Ruby Range and Marcellina Mountain. As if all this weren’t enough, there’s also some great mountain biking trails in this area.

Horse Ranch Park (multiple levels and mileage options)

You can access nearly all the Kebler Pass mountain biking trails from the Horse Ranch Park trailhead, which is approximately 6 miles west of the town of Crested Butte. From here, ride the Dyke, Dark Canyon and Irwin trails to the north, or access Beckwith and Cliff Creek trails to the south. The Dyke Trail (3 miles) is arguably the favorite trail in the area, known for its flowy downhill through the aspens.

Kebler Pass Wagon (beginner, 2 miles one-way)

About two miles west of the town of Crested Butte, the Kebler Pass Wagon trail begins. This mellow old wagon road parallels the present-day Kebler Pass road for several miles. Connect with Elk Creek Trail, Trail #606 or Lily Lake trail along the way if you’re looking for a longer, more strenuous ride. Connecting with Lily Lake is probably the most under-rated intermediate loop ride that’s accessible directly from Crested Butte.

Crested Butte Mountain Resort (CBMR)

CBMR’s Mountain Bike Park, formerly known as Evolution Bike Park, offers over 30 miles of spectacular lift-served downhill and cross-country bike trails on the same terrain you love to ski or snowboard in the winter. Even if you don’t choose to purchase a pass for the lift, multiple loops can be ridden for free with several trails being uphill/downhill accessible.

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Park in the dirt lot north of the resort and purchase a day ticket to gain access to the Red Lady Express lift, which will shuttle you and your bike to the top of the trails. Trails are rated similarly to ski runs—green for beginner, blue for intermediate and black for expert. Here are a few of our favorites.

Hotdogger (beginner)

This flowy trail snakes down the front side of the mountain and is perfect for a first-time rider or anyone looking for a more laid-back experience.

Teaser (intermediate)

You’ll weave through the forest near the Painter Boy lift, encountering banked turns and tabletops, which can either be jumped or rolled over.

Avery (expert)

Adrenaline junkies and expert riders, this is the trail for you! Show off your skills on this fun and technical trail that runs directly beneath the Red Lady Express. As you fly down the mountain, you’ll encounter rock gardens, bridges and tabletops.

For more information, check out our Bike Park Ride Report.

Mt. Crested Butte

The trails in Mt. Crested Butte offer a unique blend of high-altitude alpine riding and jaw-dropping scenery. Oh, and did we mention the wildflowers?

The 401 (intermediate, 8.3 miles one-way)

Trail #401, also known as the Trailriders Trail, is famous for many reasons—miles of flowy downhill, expansive views of Gothic Mountain and Crested Butte, colorful wildflowers in the spring and golden aspens in the fall. Due to its high elevation and large winter snowpack, this trail is one of the last in the Valley to open in the spring/summer. Most years the trail isn't rideable until July 4th. It’s definitely worth the wait though. The trailhead is approximately nine miles north of Mt. Crested Butte on Gothic Road just past Emerald Lake. You’ll start by riding uphill, but this doesn’t last long. The rest of the trail (about 7 miles) is nearly all downhill. At the end, you’ll have sore calves and a big smile. Use Gothic Road to make this trail a loop, or, if you’re not into riding uphill, leave a shuttle vehicle at the Copper Creek trailhead. Alternately, link to Washington Gulch Trail (403) to ride the local’s favorite 804 (403+401) ride. For more information, read our 401 Ride Report.

Lupine (intermediate, 3 miles one-way)

Riding this classic trail in June or early July is one of the best ways to enjoy Crested Butte’s famous wildflowers from your bike. Thousands of purple lupine flowers line the trail during this time of year, hence the name. The trail begins near the Saddle Ridge neighborhood, which is approximately two miles north of the town of Crested Butte on Gothic Road. There is no parking here, so it is best to ride from from town or connect Lupine into a longer ride that includes Snodgrass, the Gunsight Connector or the Lower Loop trail system. The three-mile-long trail descends gently into the Slate River basin, culminating in a fast and curvy downhill section near the trail’s end on Slate River Road. For more info, read our Lupine Trail Ride Report.

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Snodgrass (intermediate, 3 miles one-way)

The Snodgrass trailhead is located about two miles north of Crested Butte Mountain Resort in Mt. Crested Butte. This popular trail, much of which is on private land, is closed seasonally, so check before you go, and always read signs at the trailhead. You’ll ride steeply up Snodgrass Mountain and be rewarded with an incredible view of Crested Butte before dipping back into the forest. The last half of the trail is a fast and fun descent into Washington Gulch. Snodgrass is only about 3 miles long, so it can be ridden by itself or connected with the Meander Trail to the northeast, or Lupine and the Lower Loop system to the southwest.

Deer Creek (intermediate, 10.7 miles one-way)

Five miles north of Mt. Crested Butte on Gothic Road is the trailhead for Deer Creek. Unless you’re looking for a very long ride, we recommend leaving a shuttle vehicle on Brush Creek Road, where the trail ends. This true cross-country trail features rolling climbs and descents, without the sustained downhill of many other north Valley rides. This is also one of the more lightly trafficked trails in the area, but there’s no shortage of scenery. Views of the Maroon Bells and the photogenic East River valley will be a welcome distraction during the leg-burning uphill segments.

Upper Loop (intermediate, 1.5 miles one-way)

The Upper Loop hugs the flank of Crested Butte (the mountain) and connects to many miles of nearby singletrack. This rocky trail is close to town, but provides a classic Colorado cross-country adventure. It begins (with limited parking) at the first switchback of Hunter Hill Road in Mt. Crested Butte. Connect with Tony’s, the Rec Path, the Upper Upper Loop, or Whetstone Vista for more mileage.

Crested Butte

No car? No problem. Incredible singletrack is accessible from town. Cap off your ride with a cold beer on the patio of your favorite CB restaurant.

Lower Loop (beginner, many mileage options)

The Lower Loop trail system is a spiderweb of trails accessible from the town of Crested Butte. The easiest way to access the trails is to ride west on Butte Avenue until it turns into unpaved Peanut Lake Road, where there are three trail access points. Dozens of trail combinations can be made here, giving you endless options for routes. Link Woods Walk, Budd, Upper Lower and Lower Loop trails for an easy, low-angle eight-mile loop. For an intermediate ride, these trails can also be linked to Lupine, Gunsight Connector and Snodgrass. Wherever you go, you’ll enjoy views of Peanut Lake to the east and the Slate River valley to the northwest. Expect lots of foot and bike traffic on these scenic and relatively flat trails. This area is a favorite for locals and visitors of all ages.

Baxter Gulch (intermediate, 5.2 miles one-way)

Baxter Gulch is one of the newest additions to Crested Butte’s impressive singletrack repertoire. It’s a mountain biker’s paradise. The trail begins just south of the town of Crested Butte at the base of Gibson Ridge and winds through the drainage between Mt. Axtell and Whetstone Mountain. You can ride up and reward yourself with more than five miles of epic downhill, or create a loop with nearby trails. The 16-mile Green Lake-Carbon Trail-Baxter Gulch loop is a particularly good (and steep) combination. We recommend starting from the Green Lake trailhead behind the Crested Butte Nordic Center. For more info, read our Baxter Gulch Ride Report and our Green Lake Ride Report.

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Brush Creek and Cement Creek

If you’re staying in Skyland, Riverbend or CB South, be sure to check out these close-by trails. This area sees lower levels of traffic but high levels of stoke. Both Brush Creek and Cement Creek roads are paved for several miles near their intersections with Highway 135, but turn to dirt as they head east.

Strand Hill (intermediate, many mileage options)

Access the Strand Hill trail system at the intersection of Brush Creek Road and Farris Creek Road. Park on any of the dirt pull-off areas on the side of Brush Creek Road. This trail system is perfectly designed for laps. Climb up short sections of steep Strand Hill Road to take Strand Hill, Strand Bonus or Canal trail downhill. The downhill trails are mostly flowy, but dotted with occasional roots and tricky rock gardens. Be sure to stop for a snack break at the top of the hill to take in the panoramic views of Teocalli Mountain, Crested Butte and the other surrounding peaks. If you’re looking for a bigger ride, connect with Farris Creek and Point Lookout trails to the south. You could also link up with Teocalli Ridge Trail or Brush Creek Connector to the north.

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Teocalli Ridge (intermediate, 11.5-mile loop)

Check out Teo Ridge for the quintessential Crested Butte mountain biking experience. From the trailhead on Brush Creek road, you’ll ride up Deer Creek Road to West Brush Creek Road. Turn east onto trail #554, where you’ll crest the ridge and be rewarded with breathtaking views of the surrounding West Elk Mountains. Continue onto Teocalli Ridge trail #557, and hang on! You’re in for more than 4 miles of heart-pumping downhill. Be ready for a several large drops along the way. For a longer ride, warm up or finish with a loop on Strand Hill.

Caves (intermediate, many mileage options)

This locals’ favorite features a steep incline that is worth the exertion. Park at the Caves Trailhead several miles east of CB South on Cement Creek Road. Begin your ride with a steep climb up the Caves Trail switchbacks. You’ll crest the ridge, where you’ll have a great view of Red Mountain to the west. You’ll also see the natural rock caves for which this trail got its name. Loop Farris Creek and Point Lookout trails to the north, or ride Walrod Gulch and Cement Creek trails to the east.

Reno-Flag-Bear-Deadman (expert, 19-mile loop)

This loop, usually ridden clockwise, is full of switchbacks, tough climbs and speedy descents. It is a favorite among locals. Be aware that these trails are also open to motorbikes. Park at Deadman Gulch trailhead on Cement Creek Road and ride east on the road. Turn right onto Reno Divide Road and begin climbing. At the top of Reno Divide, take a moment to catch your breath and take in the surrounding views of Italian Mountain and American Flag Mountain. Next, turn southeast onto Flag Creek Trail, which connects to Bear Creek Trail and then Deadman Gulch. Deadman culminates in a series of steep downhill switchbacks. For a slightly different route, you could incorporate Reno Ridge Trail and Reno Ridge Road into the loop. For more info, check out our Ride Report about this loop.

Crystal Peak (intermediate, 2.4 miles one-way)

This beautiful, lesser-known corner of the valley sees fewer visitors than other areas. It’s a great place to explore and enjoy the solitude. Park at the Crystal Peak trailhead near the east end of Cement Creek road, and get ready to gain some altitude! This trail ascends steeply up the side of Crystal Peak. At the top of the ridge, you’ve got lots of route options. Connect with Trail 400 (Star Pass) or other nearby motorized singletrack, including Hunters Creek, Block & Tackle and Double Top.

Almont and Taylor Park

This area offers many recreational opportunities, from whitewater rafting on the Taylor River, to fishing on the river and Taylor Reservoir, to UTV access in Taylor Park and on Cottonwood Pass. It also contains some legendary mountain biking trails.

Doctor Park (expert, multiple mileage options)

This famous downhill trail can be shuttled or looped. For a long ride (and to save on gas), park at the downhill end of the trailhead, which is adjacent to North Bank Campground on County Road 742 (the Taylor Canyon road). Ride CR 742 to Spring Creek Road (CR 744) and continue for about 10 miles. Turn right at Doctor Gulch road (554) and immediately cross Spring Creek. Ride up this steep 4x4 road for about 3 miles before reaching the top of Doctor Park Trail. This 7-mile section of singletrack starts in thick conifer forest but soon opens up to a meadow with an unforgettable view of the Collegiate Peaks and Sawatch Range. This is also where the trail gets steeper. Be prepared for large shelves and roots in the trail. You’ll descend through a more flowy section in the aspens for several more miles. The trail culminates in a series of white-knuckle switchbacks with rock shelves. For the shorter, shuttled version of the ride, you’ll leave a vehicle at North Bank Campground and drive another to the top of Doctor Gulch road (554), where you’ll begin riding. If you choose to drive a shuttle, be aware that a high-clearance, four-wheel drive vehicle is mandatory when crossing Spring Creek and driving up the steep, rocky Doctor Gulch road. For more mileage and more great views, add in the Doctor Park Bonus Trail. For more information on this trail, read our Doctor Park Ride Report.

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Star/Lily (expert, 17 miles)

This beautiful and remote loop at the top of the Spring Creek drainage is an excellent cross-country ride for those wanting to explore the wilder side of the Gunnison Valley. Rideable either direction, there is not one single or unique uphill or downhill. Instead riders are treated to a tour of alpine terrain, amazing views and some mining town ruins. Connect it to Italian Connector or ride to the top of American Flag Mt. if you’re looking for more mileage.

Gunnison

Signal Peak (intermediate, multiple mileage options)

Several new trails have been built in this area in the last few years, adding mileage to this hidden gem of singletrack. The main Signal Peak trailhead and parking lot is tucked behind Western Colorado University’s football stadium. Route options are endless. Link Contour, Rasta Gulch, Ridgeline and Chicken Wing for a fun, mellow ride featuring vistas of Gunnison, Signal Peak and Tenderfoot Mountain. For a longer ride, check out Shoelace, North Woods, South Rim and Music Rocks too. This area is closed seasonally to sage-grouse protection, so check online before you ride and obey all signage. For more trail beta and photos, read our Signal Peak Ride Report.

Hartman Rocks

Located just a few miles from Gunnison, Hartman Rocks Recreation Area is the valley’s high-desert playground. You’ll share the space with hikers, campers, climbers and OHV users—but with nearly 50 miles of cross-country singletrack spread across 14,000 acres of BLM land, Hartman’s never feels crowded. Trails here are generally rocky and range from easy to expert. This area melts out much earlier in the year than the north valley trails, making it an ideal spring riding destination. Few trees grow in the rolling hills of sagebrush, which means that from the tops of ridges you can see mountains in every direction, from the San Juans to the Sawatch.

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Parking is available in the main lot about three miles south of Highway 50 on Gold Basin Road. There are also parking lots near the Bambi’s trailhead (farther up Gold Basin Road), at the top of Kill Hill, and on McCabe’s Lane. Maps are posted at every parking area. Here are a few of our favorite trails:

The Luge (beginner, 1.2 miles)

This flowy trail offers downhill fun without the hazards of rocks and tight curves. We recommend riding from south to north. After a short climb, you’ll descend at a low angle for about a mile. For more of a challenge, ride Gateway and Josie’s while you’re in the neighborhood.

Evan’s Loop (beginner, 3 miles)

Connect Sea of Sage, Lost Dog and Broken Shovel for a short, mellow loop in any direction. This area is perfect for kids, families and beginner riders. If you’re riding from the McCabe’s trailhead, add on Sandy Wash and Buddy Bear for a longer, slightly more technical ride.

Cat’s Castle (intermediate, .5 mile)

One of the newer trails at Hartman’s, Cat’s Castle has all the features you’re looking for, condensed into a short distance. If riding from south to north (recommended), you’ll start with a climb. The trail tops out on a ridge with a scenic view of Tomichi Creek. After a rocky traverse, you’ll drop into a gully where you’ll fly through sweeping curves. Link this trail with Graceland and High-Five for an all-levels loop.

Bambi’s (intermediate, 1.4 miles)

Either way you ride this trail, you’ll encounter tricky rock gardens and a steep incline. Via Bambi’s you can access nearly all the other trails in the Powerline Road area of Hartman’s. Due to sage-grouse conservation measures, this area is closed annually from March 15 to May 15 . With an awesome array of trails and lighter foot and bike traffic, it’s worth the wait.

Collarbone Alley (expert, .6 miles)

While most of Hartman’s trails provide a true cross-country experience, Collarbone is all downhill. This directional trail starts at the top of Kill Hill and zigzags down to the main parking lot. It’s fast and smooth, with several kickers and shelf drops. A romp down Collarbone is the perfect way to cap off your ride.

Rattlesnake (expert, 1.2 miles)

Arguably the most famous trail at Hartman’s, Rattlesnake is challenging for even the most seasoned rider. We recommend riding south to north. You’ll alternate between punchy climbs and technical descents over Hartman’s signature granite rock formations. Looking to add more advanced-level trails to your loop? Link Rattlesnake with Josho’s, Rocky Ridge, Ring Dike or Beck’s.

Pitkin and the Continental Divide

Monarch Crest (expert, many mileage options)

This scenic, alpine trail runs south from the top of Monarch Pass (about an hour’s drive from Gunnison), following the Continental Divide trail. A popular choice is to ride Monarch Crest to Silver Creek and Rainbow trails, ending near Poncha Springs. Agate Creek, Foose’s Creek, Greens Creek or Little Cochetopa trail offer shorter route options. No matter which trails you choose to ride in this area, you’re most likely in for a lot of miles and a lot of elevation gain. Most folks choose to ride one-way and leave a shuttle vehicle at the end of their route. Monarch Crest has been likened to a high-altitude Whole Enchilada. As long as you come prepared, it will not disappoint.

Canyon Creek (expert, 20 miles)

This is the highest elevation trail in the Gunnison Valley and one of our favorites. Start and end your ride at the Snowblind Campground and begin by riding up the road until you reach the start of the singletrack. While this climb is long, the real test-piece is a mile of hike-a-bike to reach the top at 12,600’. From there it’s a short ridgeline traverse and then a nine mile descent to the bottom. This ride rivals Dr. Park and the 401 and doesn’t receive nearly the traffic of those two.

If you’ve ridden it before, try tacking on S. Quartz or Waunita trails for some variety. This is also prime bikepacking territory and multiple overnight loops to Timberline Trail or The Needles zone can keep you in the woods for days on end.