Want more detail, or the GPX version of this map? Click here.
***Although, my GPS was doing funky things this day, so take the route details with a grain of salt…
The Holy Grail
If comparing the Colorado Trail to ancient relics makes any sort of sense at all, I’d say that the Colorado Trail is the ‘Holy Grail’ of bikepacking in the United States. It’s long. It’s beautiful. It’s unyielding in its scope and severity. And it sort of offers trail completers eternal life, as you can receive a completer’s certificate and your name in the annals of the Colorado Trail Foundation’s website.
If this comparison doesn’t work for the masses, it at least worked for Andy and me, as we had both set out to embark on part of the Colorado Trail two years ago, and vowed to return at some point and complete the entire thing.
This was the year, and my initial plans were to complete it once with Andy as part of my scouting party, and then ride it again for the Colorado Trail Race. After completing once, however, I realized that the trail is a mountain bike ‘experience’ more than it is a ride, as one almost spends as much time hiking the trail as they do riding the trail, which I wasn’t keen to do twice in a row. Still, it felt like an accomplishment to complete it once, and what follows is a catalog of events, pictures, and a video of each day on the trail.
The Colorado Trail Foundation
Andy and I started our adventure by volunteering on a trail crew via the Colorado Trail Foundation. The CTF is an amazing organization that maintains, educates, and informs people of everything they need to know about the Colorado Trail. Our job on the trail crew was to help build a new section of trail that would help get trail-users on singletrack rather than old Jeep roads, and we accomplished a lot with our 4 days of work.
Our trail crew leaders were Scott and Laura Smith, two absolutely delightful individuals whose expertise on the trail was vital to the crew’s success. Perhaps even more vital, though, was their expertise in the kitchen. Scott is the owner of the company Trail Magic Sauce, and makes a whole line of incredible sauces of which we got to sample throughout our time volunteering.
The entire experience was incredibly rewarding and got me excited to work more on my local trails in the Pacific Northwest.
Day 1: So Young and So Naïve
We finished our trail crew work on Saturday, and rolled into Denver Saturday afternoon. There was a lot to do in terms of packing, buying food, and buying a new bike rack as mine broke on the way out to Colorado, and Andy and I didn’t complete everything until close to midnight. Exhausted, we both finally got some sleep before getting up for a relatively early morning.
We decided to sleep in until 7am, and didn’t roll up to the trail and start riding until around 11am. The trail starts in Waterton Canyon with some gradual uphill climbing on gravel roads for 7 miles, before starting some challenging, but rideable climbs. At the end of day 1, we completed 41 miles of riding – which includes segments 1, 2, and 3 of the trail – and climbed over 6,000 feet of elevation. It was overcast most of the day, perfect for riding, and we saw lots of people on the trail, which was a lot of fun. Overall, spirits were pretty high for both of us after our first day.