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Colorado Trail (southern segments)

Durango to Silverton, CO

One of the few iconic long-distance trails that allow mountain biking, the Colorado Trail does not disappoint. Breathtaking views (literally as the trail crests nearly 12,500’ above sea level) are secondary only to the variety of singletrack encountered — taxing passages at high altitudes are interspersed with pine-needle duff lines weaving through the sub-alpine splendor. An amazing backcountry adventure awaits the hardy souls who tackle this nearly 75-mile segment, which ends in Durango, a town with knobby-tired roots.

Ned Overend, the legendary racer, IMBA honorary board member and long-time Durango resident, raves about this adventure: "Truly an epic ride! Beginning with top of the world scenery of the San Juan mountain, then climbing and descending all the way to Kennebec is as good as it gets. The last 23 miles dropping into the Junction Creek drainage is a great way to finish."

Total Distance: 72.4 miles, with more than 10,000 feet of climbing.

Route: Segments 25-28 of the Colorado Trail, heading West from Molas Pass to Junction Creek.

Ride Time: Pro riders going full-bore have posted 8-9 hours times. A very fit amateur rider might do it in 10-12, assuming good acclimization and significant experience with high-altitude exertion. A more enjoyable pace for most mortals requires two days, each with 6-7 hours of ride time and breaks to soak in the scenery.

Terrain: Most of the challenge derives from the altitude and sustained climbs, rather than extreme technical difficulty. However, you will encounter plenty of rocks and the occasional drop-off.

Altitude and Weather: You will encounter several passes above 12,000 feet and long stretches of riding at or above 10,000 feet. High summer offers the best chance of snow-free passage, but be prepared for sudden storms, especially after noon. Get an early start, keep an eye on the forecast and always pack extra layers and a rainjacket.

More info: Mountain biking the Colorado Trail by the Colorado Trail Foundation.

Photos by Chris Bernhardt.