A Closer Look: Our Summer 2023 Trips

Continuing on with our “Closer Look” informational series of articles, we’re pushing into summer… and summer for us is all about big mountain riding.  Our three summer destinations are quite different and offer a variety of trip styles, and we couldn’t be more psyched about all three!  From high country epic rides in Sun Valley, to shuttle-based enduro trips in Salida for the Monarch Crest, to full-on backcountry adventure in Durango, we’ve got something for everyone.  That said, each trip is quite different both in form, function, and appealing to different types of riders.  Read on for our full breakdown!





Technical Level: Intermediate

Fitness Level: Intermediate-Advanced

Summary:  Sun Valley in late June is our first taste of big mountain riding each year, and we couldn’t be more excited to head to Idaho to sample the goods.  Typically we’ll find perfect weather (highs in the 60s and 70s) along with tacky trails, amazing wildflowers, and non-existent crowds.  This trip is all about big rides in the backcountry, and we’ve put some killer point-to-point routes together to show you the best of what’s on tap.

What should you expect in Sun Valley?  Big rides, and loooong flowy descents with views that go on forever.  The climbs are long- don’t get us wrong- but they’re never steep like you’ll see in Crested Butte.  That said, you should definitely put in lots of training miles before joining us in late June.  Even though the terrain in Sun Valley is on the “more mellow” side in terms of tech, the rides here always have a way of beating you down over the course of a long day.  We’ll mix things up with a couple of shuttles, point to points, loops, and maybe even finish at a couple of our favorite bars in town for post-ride beers.



Expected Itinerary

Ride Day 1: Oregon Gulch P2P w/ Shuttle.  We’ll start our trip with a shuttle about 15 miles north of town to a drop point at the bottom of Oregon Gulch, where we’ll gradually head back to town via a series of loops and connector trails.  This is the perfect first-day ride with some gradually longer climbs (but never too steep) and some killer descents to get you used to the bikes and the terrain.  We’ll even let you pick the post-ride bar at the end of the day… Lefty’s or Grumpy’s?

Day 2: Castle Creek to Red Warrior to Warm Springs.  Yep, another shuttle… today’s ride is a true backcountry experience where we’ll hit a long 7+ mile downhill that few people ride.  The route starts with a 20-25 minute climb on Osberg Ridge before heading over to Castle Creek, which is one of our favorite raw, rugged descents anywhere.  Once we hit Warm Springs Road, we have our biggest climb of the day up to the top of Red Warrior (about 5 miles), but it’s totally worth the effort since RW is always a customer fave: 5 miles and over 2000′ of ripping tech and flow!  All told we’ll knock out about 21-22 miles with 2500′ of climbing and another 5000’+ of descent.

Day 3:  We’re going to start with another shuttle ride, and this one is to the start of Osberg Ridge.  Osberg’s all the way back to town is an absolute classic, but make sure you’ve got the legs and lungs to tackle it.  Expect long climbs, huge views, incredible singletrack, and some rugged backcountry riding.  Today’s ride will clock in around 25 miles with over 3500′ of climbing (and 6000′ of descending).

Day 4:  We’re going to treat you to one of our favorite “short loops” anywhere… just south of town in Greenhorn Gulch.  Greenhorn-Imperial is an incredible 11 mile, 2000′ loop that is the perfect topper for an incredible trip.  If you’re feeling good on today’s ride and want a little more, we’re happy to add some climbing and descending to make it closer to 15 miles with 3000′ of climbing/descending.



Expected Weather: Sun Valley in early summer is absolutely perfect, with highs in the 70s and typically minimal chances for rain.  Occasionally we’ll get a “heat wave” coming through that will push higher elevations close to 80*, but that’s fairly rare.  If it does rain, it’s a passing shower/storm and not something that lasts all day.

Recommended Bike: Sun Valley is all about efficiency and flow, so we recommend one of our trail bike options for these trips.  Something like the Revel Rascal or GG Trail Pistol is absolutely perfect.  If you’ve got the fitness and don’t mind climbing with a bigger/heavier bike, then you could definitely go with a little more travel like the GG Smash.

Final Word: To us, Sun Valley is the epitome of “high country epic” riding.  You’ll be wiped out at the end of each day, but honestly- we can’t think of many places we’d rather spend all day in the mountains.  The rides will be big and long, but the descents are truly epic and we’ll have the trails to ourselves.  Make sure you train for this one, as we’ll be in the saddle for 20+ miles every day with options to lengthen rides and push even harder.. and farther into the rugged backcountry of the Idaho mountains.





Technical Level: Intermediate +

Fitness Level: Advanced

Summary: Durango is officially a new destination for us in 2023, and we couldn’t be more psyched about another incredible Colorado high country-based trip.  If you’ve been on our trips before, we see Durango as a mix between Crested Butte and Monarch Crest: that is, you’ll get some big climbs, huge descents, and enough technical riding to keep you on your toes.  Most all of our rides here will be shuttle-based; both to improve the “climb to descend ratio” and to allow us to put together some killer point to point rides.

If you want to be prepared for this trip, you’ll need to dedicate yourself to getting your fitness level up and putting in big miles beforehand: Durango is not to be taken lightly.  These rides are big, rowdy, and typically at an elevation of between 9,000 and 12,000′ throughout the day.  Durango is the epitome of high-country adventure riding.



Expected Itinerary

Ride Day 1: We’ll get things going in Durango with a shuttle up to Hotel Draw and a “relatively easy” 20+ mile ride today… as we traverse across the ridge on the Colorado Trail, we’ll drop down Stagecoach which is a great warmup descent for the group to get you ready for what’s to come.  After descending on a doubletrack road for a bit, we’ll hit the Hermosa Creek Trail.  Hermosa Creek mainly goes downhill for almost 14 miles, but it does have a handful of punchy climbs mixed in, with one “good one” coming out of Dutch Creek later in the day.  The purpose of today’s ride is to acclimate everyone to the bikes, the terrain, and the altitude… it’s going to be a good one, but it’s just a warmup for what’s to come!

Day 2:   Today we’ll shuttle up to Coal Bank Pass where we start with a stiff 1,000′ climb for the day.  After that, we’ll traverse Engineer Mountain Trail over to White Creek, which packs a punch in just a few miles.  Big exposure means big views, and some of the coolest technical riding in the high country as well.  We’ll hit the Colorado Trail from here, on our way over to Graysill Creek which is one of our favorite downhills in Colorado!  All told, expect about 21 miles and just under 3,000′ of climbing today.

Day 3:  Epic alert!  Today we’ll shuttle up to Bolam Pass, where we’ll once again tackle the Colorado Trail… but this time, it’ll be up Blackhawk Pass which is one of the toughest climbs, but it’s also one of the most scenic sections of trail you’ll ever ride.  From there we’ll traverse over towards the Stagecoach Trail (again) where we have multiple options for the descent.  Today’s ride will blow your mind, but it’ll also test your legs and lungs so be ready!

Day 4:  The last day… but it doesn’t mean we’re going to take it easy on you.  Today we’ll head back up to Coal Bank Pass and hit the Engineer Mountain Trail descent, which is about 6 miles and 2500′ of pure bliss (for a total of 10 miles and 1300′ of climbing).  For those with something left in the legs and feeling a little frisky, we’ll have the option to extend the ride and drop into the always rowdy and sporty Engine Creek (14 miles, 1800′ climbing).



Expected Weather:  Monsoon season in the Colorado high-country can be a real thing, but hopefully by running our trip in mid-July, we’ll avoid a majority of the afternoon storms that we typically see.  That said, there’s always a chance for thunderstorms when you’re above 12,000′, and we’ll make sure you’re prepared with regular pre-trip email updates.  In terms of daytime temps, you can expect highs in the 60’s and 70’s, which is perfect for big rides!

Recommended Bike:  Durango is another one of those “it depends” recommendations, as the terrain here definitely warrants a bigger enduro-style bike if you’ve got the fitness.  If you want a little more efficiency on the climbs, then by all means go with a trail bike like the Propain Hugene.  If you’re a solid climber and want to get rowdy on the descents, then we’d recommend a longer travel bike like the Tyee or Revel Rail 29.

Final Word: We absolutely love the tough style of rides you get in Durango, as the efforts are big but the payoffs are huge.  Incredible descents, forever views, solitude, and some of the sweetest singletrack you’ll find in the western US.  That said, these rides are quite difficult, so just make sure you’re prepared… but in our eyes, it doesn’t get much better than putting in big work and reaping the rewards with rides you’ll never forget.





Technical Level: Advanced

Physical Level: Advanced

Summary:  Our Monarch Crest Enduro trip is the most “well rounded” of all our trips… that is, you’ve got to have both a high level of fitness, and a high level of technical ability to crush the rides on this one!  With three days of shuttle-based riding and one big pedal day, this trip has it all.  You can expect LONG descents on this trip, with varying levels of tech: from the loose, rocky, above-treeline steeps of Canyon Creek to some of the flow found on Starvation Creek, to the awesome steep tech on the Methodist Mountain trails.

This trip is definitely focused on high-country alpine descents.  We’re super excited that our Monarch Crest trip has become a regular on the calendar- it’s more epic than we imagined.  The IMBA Epic-rated ride is over 35 miles with a whole bunch of descending, but very few know that the best descents aren’t on the epic ride!  That’s why we’ll take four days to show you the goods, just like we always do with Chasing Epic.  Be prepared to be totally worked over these four days, as the combination of rowdy descents, altitude, and long days on the bike will wear even the fittest and best riders out.



Expected Itinerary

Ride Day 1:  Since the Monarch Crest is the backbone of our trip, we’ll start with one of the best descents off the pass, Starvation Creek.  This ride starts at Monarch Pass with a gentle climb, followed by a slightly stiffer climb and quite a bit of high-alpine downhill, before we get to Starvation Creek proper.  This descent follows its namesake (Starvation Creek) for 7 miles and about 2500 feet of rowdy, primitive downhill riding.  If you’re feeling up to it in the afternoon, we’ve got an optional bonus ride on the Cottonwood trails available to finish you off!

Day 2:  Today is our main “pedal day”, which means we’re going to put you to the test… enduro style.  Canyon Creek is a relatively unknown loop just west of Monarch Pass, but it’s slowly gaining popularity because of the 10+ mile downhill.  Yes, that’s what we said: 10 mile downhill.  But it’s not without a big effort, as we’ll climb 3800 feet today with a nice long hike-a-bike above treeline.  Don’t worry though, the suffering is always worth it, as you’ll have a descent today you’ll never forget.

Day 3:  Double shuttle day!  Today we’re going to put your skills and stamina to the test, with a combo of shuttles that should be on every mountain biker’s bucket list: Greens Creek and Fooses Creek.  Each trail drops about 4,000 feet over 7 miles, so expect some rowdy high country riding and a full day of effort that totals about 30 miles.  Greens is full-on rowdy, while Fooses is a mix of rocky, rooty, and flowy.  This is one of our biggest downhill days with Chasing Epic, and we can’t wait to show you the goods.

Day 4:  Today is departure day, but that doesn’t mean we’ll take it easy on you.  We head just west of town to the Methodist Mountain trails, and we’ll start the day with a healthy “bump” where we start the ride with a cruisy 20-min climb.  The descents today are a great mix of steep, tech, flow, and fun… all told it’ll be about 13 miles with over 3,000 feet of descending; it’ll be the perfect way to top off an amazing four days of riding!



Expected Weather:  Summer in the Rocky Mountains is always unpredictable (just like Durango), and our Monarch Crest trips are the epitome of that.  “On average”, you can expect daytime temps at altitude to be around 60* with afternoon thunderstorms.  In reality, however, you never know what’s going to happen…80 and dry, or 50 degrees with thunderstorms.  We’ll do our best to prepare you for what to bring and expect, but know this: the weather above 10,000′ always makes it fun.  We promise.

Recommended Bike: We recommend a true enduro bike for this trip: 140-160mm of travel for the long, hand-busting descents we’ll do each day.  If you’re a little more skilled with the bike and like a quicker-handling feel, then you can definitely get by with a well-equipped trail bike like the Revel Rascal or GG Trail Pistol.  But honestly, we’d go with something like the Revel Rail or Propain Tyee to maximize the fun factor.

Summary: Our Monarch Crest trip has it all, based around one of the most famous trail systems in the US.  For 4 days, we’re going to focus on the incredible Colorado high-alpine descents… which to us, are some of the best in the country.  This trip is for our more advanced riders, since these trails are steep and technical, and the descents seem to last forever.  Each day will build towards the next, until you can barely move by the time we head home after four full days of kick-ass rides.  It’s hard to describe how tough and rewarding high-altitude riding is, especially at this level.  But in all honesty, this trip delivers in spades and we can’t wait until next August!

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AUTHOR: Steve Mokan

Steve is the owner (and founder) of Chasing Epic Mountain Bike Adventures, and contributes regularly to our blog. He's passionate about providing customers with incredible mountain bike vacations, and he loves photography and travel when he's not working. Truthfully, he loves those things when he is working too.