Going Places: Tales from the road: Telluriding, cont.

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
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A longer trail for strong climbers is Sheep Creek, a ten-mile, two-hour loop. This ride is a fall classic because of the dense stands of aspen trees. The trail starts with tough, technical climbing on overgrown jeep roads and singletrack, followed by an hourlong descent on fast, smooth trails. After weaving through a series of steep, tight switchbacks, you cross a meadow with commanding views of Dallas Peak (13,809 feet) and then continue for another five miles on flat and downhill trails all the way back to town.

The Wasatch ride is not for the faint of heart or lung, but when you roll into town you'll feel like raising your arms in victory
Expert riders in search of a challenge should head straight for the Wasatch, arguably the most difficult rideable trail in the country. The route starts by climbing 4,300 feet up the end of the Telluride canyon in seven miles, leaving you feeling not a little like a roller-coaster car clicking up the big hill. The physical difficulty of the climb is compounded by the terrain; the last five miles of the ascent are on a loose, rocky, relentlessly steep four-wheel-drive road. The road summits on a divide that splits two, vast, high-alpine basins with a jaw-dropping panorama. You then plummet back to town on a //trials course//? of a singletrack. There are steep switchbacks, loose scree, and some serious exposure as you parallel Bear Creek, with a 500-foot cliff wall on one side and a 50-foot drop into the stream on the other. The ride is not for the faint of heart or lung, but the terrain is sensational and when you roll into town you'll feel like raising your arms over your head in victory. The Wasatch epitomizes the San Juan Mountains surrounding Telluride; it's hard-core, backcountry mountain biking at its best.

Perhaps the best part of a biking vacation to Telluride is the number of options just outside the immediate vicinity. You can easily add a one- or two-day trip to any of the famous, aforementioned biking towns surrounding Telluride. Or if you have an extra week, book a trip on the San Juan Hut System, which travels 240 miles from Telluride to Moab with stops at six huts along the way. The route follows jeep roads over the San Juan Mountains, across the Uncompahgre Plateau and into Utah's canyon country. Each hut has surrounding singletrack if you need more than the daily 40-50 miles from one hut to the next. For $350, the folks at the Hut System will stock the huts with sleeping bags and three meals a day, leaving you to carry only your clothes.

Freelance writer Dave Rich is author of Tellurides: The mountain bike guide to Telluride

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