Top Three Rides: Crested Butte, Colorado

There’s no two ways about it- Crested Butte is incredible.  Whether you’re there in the summer with chest-high wildflowers, or in the fall surrounded by golden aspen forests, it’s an absolutely magical place to ride.  The high-alpine terrain features some of the best rides in the country, and for good reason:  flowing singletrack and out-of-this-world views aren’t something you can find everywhere.

The Crested Butte valley (that runs from the south end in Gunnison to the town of Mount Crested Butte) and its surrounding areas have over 750 miles of singletrack, so to say you have options is a little bit of an understatement.  Some of our favorite trails are the big-name epics, but we like to get off the beaten path a bit too.  Here are our top three rides in Crested Butte- maybe you’ll join us to experience these for yourself next July or September!



Trail 403 to 401


Everyone’s heard about the 401 Trail in Crested Butte, but very few people think to combine it with the 403 Trail, an equally stunning (but more difficult) ride.  This is a must-do for our groups if the weather allows.  Start out by heading up Washington Gulch Road for about 6-7 miles; we prefer a shuttle to the 403 trailhead, which cuts out quite a bit of climbing and a long dirt road ride.  Once at the 403 trailhead, take a look around you and back down Washington Gulch- the view is drop-dead gorgeous.  Don’t get too comfortable though, because you’re in for a nice stiff climb to the top of 403.

After 40-45 minutes of a grunt climb, get ready for three miles of steep, tight singletrack that will make you forget about the suffering you just endured.  The 403 descent is one of the steepest in the area, so make sure you’re on your game!   After a roller coaster descent, you’ll pop out onto Gothic Road- settle in for a steady (but beautiful) climb to the top of Schofield Pass and the top of 401, which will likely take about an hour.  Again, don’t worry too much because as we always say:  the climbs are ALWAYS worth it.

The large open area where 401 tops out is beautiful in itself, but just wait for what you have ahead of you:  six miles of some of the best descending anywhere on earth.  Huge views, tight singletrack, and a feeling that you’re on top of the world.  The 401 Trail is a bucket-list ride for a reason!  You’ll ride through chest-high wildflowers, tear through huge aspen forests, and even experience a little bit of technical and exposed trail too.  After finishing the descent, there are options to add mileage and time to the ride- we usually prefer to stop for a quick ice cream in the tiny town of Gothic before hitting Snodgrass on the way back into town.  It’s a day you’ll never forget!







Strand Hill


Strand Hill- although one of the shorter trails in the area by itself- is one of our favorites due to a combination of a rewarding (but stiff) climb, incredible views, and some of the best singeltrack descending in Crested Butte.  The loop itself is only about 6 miles when you start at the Brush Creek trailhead, but we always find a way to make it a longer day in the saddle!

The Strand Hill climb is almost all double track, which is fine with us since we’re breathing hard and going slow to take in the views.  It’s a combination of wide open meadows and shady aspen forests until you get to the top, where the road veers right and the proper Strand Hill trail breaks off to the left.  Buckle your seat belt, because you’re in for an incredible descent that will have you hooting and hollering the whole way down.  Tight, twisting singletrack.  Steep, rocky and rooty.  A creek crossing that might be 2 feet deep in the middle of the summer.

After getting all the way back down to Brush Creek Road, we prefer to hit Strand Bonus, which means doing the first half of the climb again to have 1.5 more miles of ripping downhill.  Want to make this a longer day?  Start your ride from Mt. Crested Butte and hit the Upper Loops prior to Strand Hill.  Or, you can head south on 409, 409.5 and Point Lookout before coming back over to Strand and ending there.  SO many options for you to explore!




Reno – Flag – Bear – Deadman’s… and Doctor Park!


What’s better than one of the Crested Butte classics?  How about two Crested Butte classics combined to make for one long, EPIC day on the bike?  Most everyone has heard about Reno-Flag-Bear-Deadman’s, as it’s a ~20 mile ride that combines some tough climbs with loooooong descents.  However, we like to make for an even better finish by descending Doctor Park at the end, which makes for a 23 mile ride with 15 of it being downhill!

We start the day by shuttling up Reno Ridge Road, a 5-mile climb that eliminates almost 2000 feet of climbing.  You can thank us later!  One at the top of Reno Ridge, get ready for some of the best riding in the west.  In order, you’ll get:  a 3 mile descent, a 3 mile climb, and then a 6  mile descent all the way down to Spring Creek Road, where Doctor Park begins.  What did you just experience?  Pure epic- Flag Creek, Bear Creek, and the lower portion of Deadman’s have views, amazing singletrack, and ridiculously fun riding that will have you giggling all the way home.  Many of our customers call this ride the best of their lives.

It’s not over yet though!  Once we cross Spring Creek (we’ll get wet and cold for a minute here), there’s a stiff climb that will make you hate us for a bit… but don’t worry, because “the climb is always worth it!”  The Doctor Park descent is one of the best anywhere; six miles of technical terrain and smooth singletrack that is always a favorite on the Enduro World Series circuit.  Just ask anyone who’s ridden it- the two mile section aptly named “Jedi Woods” is worth the suffering alone!






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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.