As mountain bikers from California, there is a great deal of allure to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and Wyoming, due in no small part to their massive descents, variety of terrain, and quality dirt thanks to the summer monsoons.
The Sierra Nevada Mountains in Northern California often will go weeks or months without rain, leading to moon dust and blackened lungs. By the end of August, most trails are glorified sandpits. We’re not here to say that the riding isn’t good in Northern California, because it is in fact very, very good; but to those who are able to experience the joys of what Colorado and Wyoming offer on a regular basis, consider yourselves very fortunate.
Last summer, we were quite fortunate to be able to spend over a month living out of our car and riding our bikes in the Rocky Mountains as much as possible. We were categorically “dirt bags,” camping just outside of town in sometimes questionable locales (see: teenage party spots), scouring the land for free Wi-Fi, and poaching hot tubs when the opportunity presented itself. Our plan was simple: We wanted to ride the best trails Wyoming and Colorado had to offer based off of what we had read, watched, or been recommended from friends. What followed was, without a doubt, an adventure of a lifetime. These are the five best trails that we rode on our trip.
1. Lithium Trail – Wilson, Wyoming
Teton Pass has an amazing network of trails that offer plenty of options for gravity oriented riders. The trails once were unsanctioned, but due to work by local advocacy groups the trails are now benefitting the local economy and providing stoke to everyone who comes to visit.
Lithium is Teton Pass’s crown jewel. Lithium packs everything you want, into one trail. Ripping fast flowy turns, steep fall lines, rocks, roots, and a few jumps at the bottom. It took us 13 minutes, pinned, to ride the 3 miles and 3000 feet of drop.
2. Mt Elbert – Twin Lakes, Colorado
At 14,440 feet, Mt. Elbert is the tallest peak in Colorado. It is not in Wilderness, is legal for bikes, and 100% rideable from the top. However getting to the top is much easier said than done. Even after weeks of acclimation, being above 13,000 feet was difficult. Every step feels like a whole mile. Gusty winds whip your clothing and almost suck the air out of your lungs. Resting does little to restore your energy, so you keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Summiting one of the tallest peaks in the continental US is rad on its own, but what’s even more awesome is how badass the descent off the top of Elbert is. From loose shale and cobbles to fast smooth and sandy you almost get a taste of everything.
3. Teocalli Ridge – Crested Butte, Colorado
Whether or not the origins of mountain biking are in Northern California or Colorado, Crested Butte is mountain biking’s home. Massive mountains shoot into the sky in every direction, hundreds of mile of trails that are strewn with rocks, roots, and pockets of loam. Every ride here is worthy of the word epic.
While Teocalli isn’t a proper backcountry ride like most in Crested Butte, it makes up for it in its shear fun factor. While it’s on the shorter side for Crested Butte, it doesn’t spend any time messing around. After working your way to the top, not much else is left other than to let go of the brakes and hang on.
4. Miner Creek – Frisco, Colorado
Above the cute mountain town of Frisco is a ripping 30-minute descent off the top of Ten Mile Range. The descent begins high above the tree line with awesome views of Summit County. The trail keeps things interesting by throwing plenty of chunder at riders while in the Rocky Mountains.
5. Shadow Mountain – Jackson, Wyoming
We didn’t get too many photos of this trail, so I’ll let the video do the talking! Love the Rocky Mountains!