The Hidden Mountain Biking Gems of Gunnison County

While Crested Butte gets more traffic, there are many other amazing places to explore

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Fall colors on Fossil Ridge.

Fall colors on Fossil Ridge. Photo by Dave Kozlowski

Editor’s Note: This sponsored post is courtesy of CGBtrails.com.

If you ride a mountain bike even casually, odds are you’ve at least heard about Crested Butte. The four-season resort town situated high in the Colorado Rockies has long been synonymous with fat tire fun. However, if you’ve been-there-done-that when it comes to riding in Crested Butte or if you are just looking for nearby alternatives to 401, Deer Creek, Doctor Park, Teocalli Ridge, and Strand Hill, then a trip to Gunnison County, CO is your solution.

Gunnison County as a whole boasts upwards of 750 miles of sublime—and diverse—singletrack. Just 30 miles down the road from Crested Butte, Gunnison offers remote hidden gems that are well worth exploring—especially in this time of social distancing, when a little extra backcountry solitude is just what the epidemiologist ordered.

Gunnison is filled with great eateries, well-stocked bike shops, and varied lodging options ranging from well-appointed hotels to rustic camping to just about everything in between, including VRBOs, a hostel, and an RV park.

By staying in and around Gunnison, you’ll likely encounter fewer summertime tourist-season crowds, and be availed easier access to some of the area’s best mountain bike rides, such as Fossil Ridge, Canyon Creek, and Agate Creek. So what do you need to know about these off-the-beaten-path adventures? Read on to learn more about exploring this 2 million-acre swath of supremely scenic public land.

Related: Top 5 reasons you need to ride Crested Butte

Gunnison has plenty of great food and drink options. Photo by Dave Kozlowski

Gunnison has plenty of great food and drink options. Photo by Dave Kozlowski

For starters, consider basing your next visit to the area in Gunnison. This small city is just a half-hour drive down valley from Crested Butte. Gunnison is filled with great eateries, well-stocked bike shops, and varied lodging options ranging from well-appointed hotels to rustic camping to just about everything in between, including VRBOs, a hostel, and an RV park.

By staying in and around Gunnison, you’ll likely encounter fewer summertime tourist-season crowds, and be availed easier access to some of the area’s best mountain bike rides, such as Fossil Ridge, Canyon Creek, and Agate Creek. So what do you need to know about these off-the-beaten-path adventures? Read on to learn more about exploring this 2 million-acre swath of supremely scenic public land.

Related: Ultimate Gunnison-Crested Butte MTB (Long) Weekend


Canyon Creek

Situated off the east side of the Continental Divide, this is without a doubt one of the best extended mountain bike descents in all of Colorado. But like just about any ride with a big downhill, you have to earn your proverbial turns. This ride has roughly 4,000 feet of elevation gain, much of it above 10,000 feet. From Gunnison, hop in your car and drive about a half-hour east to the base of Monarch Pass, and then about a mile past the tiny town of Sargents, pick up County Road 888 and drive 10.4 miles to the Snowblind Campground. Park here start pedaling, continuing uphill on the 4×4 road for yet another eight miles before picking up the Canyon Creek trail — and buckle up for even more climbing. The highpoint is above 12,000 feet and includes an extended section of hike-a-bike. Now the fun begins, after rolling along a ridge to a saddle, you plummet back the way you came, starting with several miles of steep, rocky trail above treeline, before dropping into the forest where things are a little more flowy, save the occasional rock garden or log hop as you head back to your car.


Agate Creek

After some early climbing, it’s all downhill on Agate Creek. Photo by Dave Kozlowski

After some early climbing, it’s all downhill on Agate Creek. Photo by Dave Kozlowski

Yet another classic off Monarch Pass, Agate Creek is part of the famed Monarch Crest network. But unlike the more well-known descent that drops down towards Salida, Agate Creek keeps you on the Gunnison side of the Continental Divide. This ride starts at the summit of Monarch Pass, which is 40 miles east of Gunnison. Most riders leave a pick-up vehicle on the side of the road about seven miles down U.S. Highway 50 (or about 3 miles up from the tiny town of Sargents). The ride itself starts by spinning out the spectacular Continental Divide Trail before making the right turn onto Agate Creek. Now get ready for a ripping fast 2,000-foot descent that’s techy and steep up top, before leveling out alongside the creek for several miles of swoopy, smooth fun back to your shuttle vehicle.


Razor Creek/Middle Razor/North Gulch/Middle Barrett/Left Hand

Yet another hidden gem of solitude in Gunnison County, this adventure starts at Needle Creek Reservoir, 45 minute southeast of Gunnison. To get there drive east on U.S. Highway 50, then turn onto County Road 45. You can park at the camping area before the creek crossing. Now jump on your bike and head up Razor Creek Road, and then drop into the Razor Creek Drainage. Here you’ll find Trail 501/Middle Razor. Connect that to Trail 502/North Gulch, where you’ll start ascending. From there you’ll have two choices, take the long (and arguably more fun) way down Middle Barrett/Left Hand Trail, or for a quicker trip back to your car descend Middle Barrett in the opposite direction and take Right Hand back to the trailhead. Whichever path you choose, you’re guaranteed a heaping helping of classic Colorado alpine singletrack, epic views, and plenty of peace and quiet.


Texas Ridge

If it’s solitude and scenery you’re after, it’s hard to beat the Texas Ridge ride. Photo by Dave Kozlowski

If it’s solitude and scenery you’re after, it’s hard to beat the Texas Ridge ride. Photo by Dave Kozlowski

A true local’s secret (and many locals don’t even know much about this ride), Texas Ridge is a perfect social distancing excursion for the adventurous mountain biker who loves backcountry exploration. To get there head to the Taylor Park Area northeast of Gunnison, then roll up Texas Creek Road/Forest Service Road 755 as far as your vehicle allows. Now park and get on your bike, continuing up the road until linking up with the aptly named Timberline Trail. Make no mistake, this is rustic mountain biking at its finest. Hike-a-bike sections, creek crossings, and the occasional log climb-over are part of the deal. Eventually, you’ll top out and then begin the Timberline descent toward the intersection with Texas Ridge, which comes after a creek crossing and sharp left turn. After an initial descent, the trail rolls along the ridge, availing superb high alpine views of the nearby towering mountains. After about 6 miles of rolling fun, the trail reconnects with the road for the final descent back to your car.


Fossil Ridge

Fossil Ridge requires a lot of commitment, but the payoff is long descent. Photo by Dave Kozlowski

Fossil Ridge requires a lot of commitment, but the payoff is a long descent. Photo by Dave Kozlowski

This local’s favorite requires serious commitment—and a strong set of legs and lungs—but the reward is one of the longest descents in the entire Gunnison Valley with some supremely beautiful alpine riding. Just know that after all that descending, you’ll still have some uphill work to do to get back to your car. In addition to stunning scenery, you’re more likely to see wildlife on this remote ride than on some of the better-trafficked trails. The most common approach to this epic ride is to park on Lost Canyon Road, and then ride the Beaver/McIntyre trail to McIntyre Gulch and Alder Creek. From there climb Willow Creek Road to Willow Creek trail, and then enjoy the lengthy Fossil Ridge downhill all the way back to Beaver/McIntyre and on to your car.


Hartman Rocks

Taking the A-Line on Rattlesnake at Hartman Rocks. Photo by Dave Kozlowski

Taking the A-Line on Rattlesnake at Hartman Rocks. Photo by Dave Kozlowski

And of course, any visit to Gunnison County is not complete without spinning some miles around the expansive Hartman Rocks trail network, which is just a few miles south of Gunnison proper. This granite-laden, high desert MTB playground offers up everything from mellow and smooth family-friendly singletrack, to technical expert-level trails with multiple challenging line choices.

If you’re looking for the later, consider this rollicking 90-minute loop that starts from the main trailhead and is a personal favorite of Mtbr tester (and Gunnison County resident) Jason Sumner. Head up Jack’s and then go east on Main Street to Josho’s. From there link Josho’s to Skyline Spur to Skyline to Sea of Sage. Now that you’re warmed up, hop on Rattlesnake, one of the area’s best expert-level rips with high-speed swoopy turns and multiple big rock roll-ins with multiple line choices.

The numerous lines choices at Hartman Rocks make it a mountain biker's playground. Photo by Dave Kozlowski

The numerous lines choices at Hartman Rocks make it a mountain biker’s playground. Photo by Dave Kozlowski

At the end of Rattlesnake, spin up the road to Tech Becks for a short but tricky descent. At the bottom, go right on the road, and then take a quick left up the 4×4 road that leads to the base of the Freefall Trail, where a short climb leads to the Hartman Rocks high point and arguably the best techy descent in the entire trail system.

From the end of Freefall, go left and spin up the road to Behind the Rocks and onto regular Becks, a 60-second sagebrush-lined slalom that’ll have you grinning from ear to ear. Finally, spin up and then down the tricky Notch trail, and then link that into lower Collarbone Alley for the final rip back to your car. It’s bar none one of the best rides in all of Gunnison County, but if you drove past and just rode around Crested Butte, you’d have missed all that and much more.


Want more trails?

This is just a sampling of what the trails surrounding Gunnison have to offer. For more information, check out the official CGBtrails.com website.


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About the author: Mtbr

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