Mountain Biking

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine

Pedal On, Summer 1998

Mountain Biking

For rough riders: a mud-splattered mix of alpine trails and forested jeep roads
By Peter Oliver


Mountain Biking
For rough riders: a mud-splattered mix of alpine trails and forested jeep roads

Road Cycling
Freewheeling it along a canal-side towpath, country lanes, and converted rail beds

All the right stuff for biking

Day-tripping in the Fraser Valley, Colorado
With more than 600 miles of marked trails, the Fraser Valley, about 70 miles west of Denver, ranks as one of the Rockies' premier mountain-biking areas because of its variety; from lift-assisted trail riding at Winter Park Resort to dirt-road riding to backcountry trails, there's plenty to keep a family entertained for three or four days.

Start at the paved, five-mile Fraser Valley Trail, which descends gradually from Winter Park to Fraser. To extend the ride, connect with St. Louis Creek Road in Fraser and turn onto the Northwest Passage Trail, a combination of jeep road and singletrack through stands of lodgepole pine (about 14 miles total round-trip from Winter Park).

For a more challenging ride, try the Corona Pass Road, which leads about ten miles from Winter Park to the Continental Divide and climbs 2,680 feet. A good loop ride is the Givelo Trail to Creekside Trail to the Zoom and Chainsaw trails, a 12-mile combination of dirt road and singletrack, where elk, moose, and bear are sometimes spotted.

Condos are plentiful around here (call Winter Park central reservations, 800-729-5813), but if you prefer a B&B in a quiet, wooded setting, try the chalet-style Pines Inn of Winter Park (doubles, $80-$90; 800-824-9127). Winter Park Resort offers two- or four-hour clinics for all riding levels (two hours, about $15; four hours, about $25; call 970-726-1564).


Mount Snow, Vermont (802-464-3333), has a lift-serviced network of about 50 miles of trails and guided instructional tours for bikers of all ages and abilities. Clinics run two hours ($20), four hours ($32), all day ($60), and multidays; there's a 50 percent discount on bike rental.

The Outdoor Experience at Catamount (802-879-6001) outside of Burlington, Vermont, offers private clinics that range from 90 minutes ($10 per person) to a half day ($20) and a full day ($30).

Mt. Hood SkiBowl Mountain Bike School (503-272-3206, ext. 244) in northern Oregon runs clinics ($25-$115 per person) of one to four hours that include instruction, permits, and bike and helmet rental. You get $5 off if you bring your own bike. — P. O.

Cabin-to-cabin touring in Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia
The gritty state once best known for the distresses of Appalachia and coal mining has in recent years been recast as the mountain-biking capital of the East. This trip starts in Slatyfork in the state's southeast corner. From there, you'll ride 70-plus miles in three days to the community of Glady, passing through the deep valleys and wooded highlands of 900,000-acre Monongahela National Forest.

The easiest route follows the Greenbrier River (and its West Fork) much of the way, on relatively flat gravel roads and trails that once were rail beds. Camp Monongahela (888-245-3982) can arrange for you to overnight in the hamlets of Cass, Durbin, and Glady, each separated by roughly 20 miles, where the camp's private cabins with wooden bunks and sleeping bags, kitchens, and woodstoves are stocked with food for your arrival.

On the second day's ride, between Cass and Durbin, aggressive riders can opt for a hillier route that leads past Bald Knob, the second-highest point in West Virginia at 4,842 feet. On the third day, you can take several dirt and gravel backcountry roads or a rail trail along the West Fork. Camp Monongahela will arrange the logistics of a three- to four-day trip ($275 per person; kids 14 and under get 30 percent off) suitable for kids nine and older. The Elk River Touring Center (304-572-3771) can help out with equipment, route suggestions, and pretrip warm-up rides or instruction.

Bike-packing along the Great Divide Trail, Montana
Perhaps the prettiest portions of the Great Divide Trail, a mountain-biking route stretching from the Canadian border to the Mexican border, are those farthest north. The 105-mile section that runs south from Swan River to Seeley Lake in northwestern Montana can be ridden in four to five days on dirt or gravel roads.

A fairly easy first day's ride of 22.2 miles leads to Swan Lake. For the next 60 miles, the route passes first through an old-growth forest of larch and Douglas fir and later through clear-cuts that, despite their post-apocalyptic eeriness, afford grand views of the mountains. Good lodging is scarce, but in most cases you're allowed to camp (free) on U.S. Forest Service land. Plan on spending a night at Holland Lake Lodge (doubles, $66; cabins, $78-$125; 406-754-2282), with lodge rooms and lakeside cabins 47.3 miles from Swan Lake.

About 15 miles past Holland Lake, the route rises roughly 2,500 vertical feet to a high-alpine basin beneath Richmond Peak. The going can be tricky; avalanches, rock slides, and downed trees have damaged the road in places. After that comes a steady descent into Seeley Lake, where there are several motel-style inns, such as the Wilderness Gateway Inn (doubles, $50-$54; 406-677-2095). Adventure Cycling Association (406-721-1776) provides maps and also leads guided trips covering other Montana trail sections.

Copyright 1998, Outside magazine

©2000, Mariah Media Inc.

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