Fat-tire rides in Crested Butte

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of June 13-19, 1996
Grand Teton guides
Preparing for Manitoba
Fat-tire rides in Crested Butte
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Four Corners mountain biking

Fat-tire rides in Crested Butte
Question: Where can I go to enjoy the mountains on my bike?

Alex Beltran
Ensenada, Baja

Pay-per-view rides: biking from Crested Butte to Aspen, Colorado
Adventure Adviser: I can certainly think of a dozen places that I'd love to go with my bike. But Crested Butte, Colorado, always finds its way to the top of my list.

An immense, wheel-shaped trail system of dirt roads and singletrack, spectacular alpine scenery, and plenty of lung-busting climbs make C.B. (as biking insiders fondly call it) the granddaddy of Rocky Mountain riding.

Give yourself time to adjust to the thin air by starting off with a no-brainer spin along Slate River Road, a relatively flat 15-mile route that winds through wildflower-laden meadows before reaching mind-boggling vistas at Paradise Divide.

Another good bet is Trail No. 403. It's a 26-mile loop that'll have you grunting up 2,500 feet of vertical as you pedal out of town on Washington Gulch Road to a singletrack at Washington Gulch. The steep switchbacks lead to an open meadow with phenomenal views of Avery Peak. From there, the trail brings you back toward Gothic Campground on Gothic Road, leaving you with an easy nine-mile spin back to town.

If you're feeling ambitious and if the timing's right--late July through mid-September--try the 39-mile slog from Crested Butte to Aspen. This ultra-challenging ride follows mostly hard-packed dirt and four-wheel drive roads, with a 14-mile section of pavement and a lung-busting climb over 12,705-foot Pearl Pass. Not surprisingly, there are no services along this remote ride. So a well-equipped repair kit, plenty of extra warm clothing, and rain gear are essential. As is a tolerance for steep, sometimes brutal, stretches of loose gravel over nearly 4,000 feet in elevation gain.

When you're not on your bike, base yourself at C.B.'s first-come, first-served Cement Creek Campground, about five miles south of town. Or, for something a little more plush, stay at one of C.B.'s several condos.

For more fat-tire info, call Paradise Bike and Skis (970-349-6324) or the experts at Fat Tire Bike Week (970-349-6817). For lodging, call the Chamber of Commerce at 800-545-4505.

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