We like showing visitors around to the best mountain biking that we have. So, when our friend Larry came from Steamboat to check out the riding in Crested Butte, we put on a good show. Just a 2.5 weeks prior, Larry and I stood on top of Condundrum Peak, about to ski down the long-lasting couloir. From the summit, I pointed out Star Peak and told him about the superb mountain biking just on the other side of it. I told him he needed to go there. So, Star Pass became a destination for his Crested Butte trip.
We started out on the Cement Creek trail heading up the Cement Creek Valley.
Once that trail ended, we following up the road where we caught trail 583. We were amazed at the condition of this trail. The Forest Service has been hard at work this year — rerouting the trail in some places, and digging out the trenches in others. 583 is very steep, but because of their hard work, I was able to ride every inch of it.
Frank and Larry.
Riding the Monarch Crest used to be at least a yearly experience for me. But for the past several years, we haven’t done the classic Crest ride. There are several reasons- finding the time, finding the motivation to drive to a trailhead when we have single track right outside the door, or just wanting to ride new trails. On top of that, it’s tough to decide what the best trail on Monarch pass is. Is it Agate? Starvation? Fooses? Greens? Ask 10 people and you may very well get 10 different answers.
But there’s one sure way to find an excuse to ride the Monarch Crest. Know someone who hasn’t ridden it! Our friend Natalie recently realized that mountain biking is a lot more fun than hiking- or at least a lot easier on the knees. Luckily for her, she’s already strong and athletic so she can already do bigger rides like the Crest. Brittany and I both agreed we couldn’t have ridden Monarch Crest after only a couple months of mountain biking. So there we were- enjoying the high alpine:
We are lucky to live in Crested Butte and lucky to have hundreds of miles of singletrack in our very own back yard. Frank and I make it a point to never do the same ride more than once or twice in a summer – and to be honest, it’s not that hard with the plethora of trails that surround us.
Larry Fontaine enjoys the serene scene of 401 during an evening ride.
401 is always on our list to ride during the season. Yet, it’s easy for us to scoff at it too as it is typically overrun with tourists. Still, Trailriders 401 is popular for a reason, and it’s a reason that I remember every time I start riding among towering wildflowers while I descend into the emerald green landscape of the valley below, with majestic mountains rising in the distance. The beauty of 401 is hard to parallel. It doesn’t matter how many tourists are there. I smile every time I ride it.
The beauty of 401 is not just seen, it is felt – one of those Earthly magical places!
After our nice easy day on Sundance, Brittany and I tackled something more typically summer-like: Apache Peak. Apache doesn’t require the longest of approaches, it’s still a 13 or 14 mile day, and most of that was spent with the skis on the back. It would be a bit shorter if the road was open past Brainard lake, but unfortunately it’s almost always closed there- at least when the skiing is still good. At least the trail was heavily trafficked and in good shape, so we made good time to Lake Isabelle.
I’ve really been liking the Indian Peaks Wilderness and Rocky Mountain National Park zone the more I ski it. Sure, it gets hammered with wind and it isn’t the snowiest spot, but the peaks are legitimately steep and rugged with plenty of ski lines. It’s certainly one of the better places to ski in the summer in Colorado. Up we went:
Brittany ascending the last few feet towards the summit, with the appealing north face of North Arapahoe behind her: