Big Rides, Big Adventure
2,000,000 Acres of Public Land Waiting For You to Explore
This fall is the perfect time to get to know the country's largest trail system, and Gunnison, Colorado is the perfect home base. Not only is it the largest trail system around, but it's also one of the most diverse. The trails around Gunnison start with high-desert granite and sagebrush and top out on scenic alpine trails at an altitude of 12,000 feet. We've got the trails that will feed your craving for adventure and solitude.
Why visit in the fall? Simply put, it's the locals' favorite time of year to ride. Our aspens put on quite the show, the crowds of high summer have gone back home and the cool weather is perfect for those long uphills that lead to hour-plus-long descents.
If a mountain bike vacation is at the top of your list (and we bet it is after the 2020 we've had so far), check out our itineraries below to maximize your trail time in the Gunnison Valley.
Fly Direct to Gunnison
The easiest way to experience an adventure ride vacation in the Gunnison Valley is to skip the drive and fly straight here. The Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport (GUC) has flights from Denver year-round making it easy to arrive here no matter where you live.
Our five-day itinerary can be easily shortened or lengthened depending on what's best for your schedule, but we always recommend at least one day of riding in Gunnison to acclimate to the altitude and get your riding legs ready.
Health and Safety
Please do your part to help protect yourself and our small mountain community. We are all in this together!
State and local orders require that masks be worn in the following places:
- All public indoor spaces
- Outdoor settings where social distancing is impossible
- Indoors and outdoors on Elk Avenue in Crested Butte
Thank you for helping keep yourself and our small mountain community safe!
Day 1: Arrival DayDepending on your flight schedule you'll either arrive at the airport in Gunnison around noon or early evening. Rent a vehicle from one of the car rental services at the airport (reserve it beforehand) and then head to your hotel of choice to start your prep. Grab a bite to eat before heading to one of Gunnison's four bike shops. If you're planning on renting a bike, any of these shops can help you out.
If you've got the time and motivation after all that, spin out to Western Colorado University and head out for a short ride on the Signal Peak trail system. Ride up Ridgeline and down Rasta Gulch or Chicken Wing for a short ride.
Day 2: Hartman Rocks
Hartman Rocks has over 35 miles of singletrack in one of the only tight trail networks in the Gunnison Valley. With a cross-country riding style that's more technical slickrock than bomber downhill, it's one of our favorite places to spend the day exploring.
There's so much out here that it's hard to describe the perfect ride without treading on the personal opinions of every other person that's ever ridden here. Instead we'll offer a couple suggestions of trails that we like to hit together and let you make up your mind from there. For a look at a lot of them you can check out our One Good Ride playlist on Youtube.
- Ring Dyke, Josho's, Rattlesnake, Beck's: This ride contains a lot of granite riding. Advanced technical skills will make it more fun, but if you like cool rocks and don't mind walking a bit then intermediates will have a good time too.
- Bambi's, Skull Pass, Aberdeen: This ride is as far out as you can get at Hartman Rocks. A small trailhead is available at the bottom of Bambi's trail and you'll ride the trail both directions to start and finish. A large selection of other trails are in this zone to tack on for more mileage, but we recommend doing it after you've ridden the Aberdeen Loop since that one can be a little longer anyway. Enjoy the solitude. It's not often that we run into other groups on the Aberdeen Loop, even on busy days.
- Dirty Sock, Dave Moe's, Enchanted Forest, Skyline: This set of trails could also be combined with Aberdeen for a solid day, but access to most of them is on the opposite side of Hartman Rocks at an access point called McCabe's. There's plenty of fun for all riders on this set of trails with technical moves, good ups and downs, solitude and a bit of flow.
Day 3: Canyon Creek
Time for an truly epic wilderness ride. Canyon Creek is east of Gunnison, just off the Continental Divide. To get there, take US Highway 50 east towards Salida for about 25 minutes. Just before the climb up Monarch Pass take a left onto County Road 888. Eight miles up 888 is Snowblind Campground. Park here and start your ride.
The ride starts with another eight or so miles of climbing on a four-wheel-drive road before you reach the singletrack intersection. From here there's still a solid climb up to 12,000', including a decent section of hike-a-bike. Enjoy the alpine, and don't forget to get an early start to avoid afternoon thunderstorms. The draw of Canyon is the epic descent. The first two miles are steep, rocky and above treeline. The final six miles flow along the creek with the occasional technical rock outcropping or log to hop over. Finish this epic ride right back at your car at Snowblind Campground.
Day 4: Doctor Park
Located just twenty minutes up the road from Gunnison, Doctor Park is a top five descent for most any rider who's had the privilege to ride it. Take Highway 135 north towards Crested Butte and turn right in Almont. Take Taylor River Road for about six miles. Look for parking just past Harmel's Resort on the left side of the road.
The ride starts by heading back towards Harmel's and turning right on Spring Creek Rd. Eleven miles of mostly easy gravel grinding will bring you to the crux of the climb, a steep two miles of four-wheel-drive road that drops you off at the trailhead.
If you still have energy at this point, we recommend riding Doctor Bonus for some added mileage and views. Both Doctor Park and Doctor Bonus meet up at the top of the world-famous descent. From here it's five miles of drop through three distinct sections. The first is steep and technical. The second is called Jedi Trees and is a full flow section in the aspens where it's easy to reach speeds of more than 30 miles per hour. The third starts after a short piece of uphill and is a technical granite drop onto the Taylor River. Pedal through the campground back to your car to finish things off.
Day 5: Departure DayFall flights generally leave around 8 a.m. every day, so there's not much that can be done on departure day. If you're looking to add more days to your visit, scroll down to the bottom where we have some alternative and extra rides listed out.
Fly to Denver and Drive to GunnisonDepending on where you live, this may be the least expensive option. This itinerary has a few changes to the overall schedule since a drive into the Gunnison Valley is most easily accomplished by coming in over Cottonwood Pass and out over Monarch Pass. This gives you options to add big rides on your arrival and departure days.
Day 1: Arrival Day
Fly into Denver and rent a car. The drive from Denver to the Gunnison Valley is approximately 4 hours. Coming in from Buena Vista over Cottonwood Pass is the most scenic and shortest route. Book accommodations in Taylor Park at the Taylor Park or Almont.
Day 2: Texas RidgeOne of the Gunnison Valley's best rides that no one has ever heard of. You certainly won't find it on apps like MTBProject, but you can download the CBGTrails app to figure things out. Our ride report from last summer is probably the best place to start. For most two-wheel-drive vehicles, this ride will be about 23 miles roundtrip.
Enjoy the view, especially once you top out on Timberline Trail, and don't let a little hike-a-bike on the way up turn you off from what lies ahead. It's worth it.
Day 3: Star/Lily PondAfter another night in Taylor Park, head out to Star/Lily for a remote ride off the beaten path. This cross-country-style trail can be ridden in either direction with a start and finish on Rocky Brook Road. This road is two-wheel-drive-friendly. Highlights of this ride include views, mining history and a section under the towering cliffs of American Flag Mountain. If you're into geology, know that those cliffs are made out of the oldest sedimentary rocks in Colorado.
After your ride is finished head down to Gunnison for the night and enjoy a meal at one of several rider-owned restaurants like The Dive or High Alpine Brewing.
Day 4: Razor Creek/Middle Razor/N. Gulch/Middle Barrett/Left HandYes, you should ride Doctor Park. In fact, it's easy to ride it as a replacement for Star/Lily Pond or Texas Ridge, but for the sake of not being repetitive, we recommend riding this loop instead. This trail is located out in The Needles zone in the Cochetopa Foothills east of Gunnison. The trailhead is located at the Needle Creek Reservoir. If your vehicle has two-wheel-drive, park at the camping area before the creek crossing.
Start the ride by climbing up the Razor Creek Road and then dropping into the Razor Creek Drainage. Find Trail #501 (Middle Razor) and ride it to #502 (North Gulch). This section is pretty fun and generally easy, even if the climbs are steep. After climbing North Gulch, you have two options. The longer and more fun is to descend Middle Barrett, climb Left Hand for a bit and then drop back to the trailhead. If things have been tough, you can take a right instead, drop a little ways on Middle Barrett in the other direction and then take Right Hand back to the trailhead. Right Hand is a solidly fun descent in its own right, just shorter.
Day 5: Departure Day/Agate CreekHeading out of Gunnison on US 50 back to Denver is a perfect excuse to ride one of the classic Monarch Crest descents. We're partial to Agate Creek because it drops back into Gunnison County, but riding Canyon Creek, Green's, Rainbow or Silver Creek are all viable options.
This ride can be ridden as a loop (you'll have to ride up the highway at the end) or as a one-way downhill ride. For the one-way option, you'll need two vehicles, one that you'll leave at the end of the trail, and one that you'll park at the top.
Start the ride by heading out on the Continental Divide Trail for several breathtaking miles before making a right turn on Agate and dropping 2,000 feet in the blink of an eye. Once you reach the creek bottom, the ride is a little less steep, but no less pretty. There are lots of creek crossings, but the trail character and scenery makes up for this slight inconvenience.
Alternatives and Extras
Pretty much any of the trails mentioned above are interchangeable. Below are a few other trails not mentioned that could be added into the mix to make your trip longer or add an alternative to one you've already done.