(Last Updated On: November 7, 2011)
On Halloween weekend, Brittany and I headed over Kebler Pass to check out the riding around Paonia, CO. We’d been hearing good things and with snow on the Crested Butte trails, we had to get out of town to get our last bit of riding in before winter truly sets in and we get to ski. We made it to the trailhead in under an hour and a half, so for Crested Butte riders looking to mix it up during Hartman’s Rocks’ season, it isn’t that much farther.
First, some background on the riding in Paonia. A dozen years ago, while returning from a trip to Fruita via Kebler Pass, I looked around the Paonia area and wondered “Why isn’t there any riding here?”. Then I proposed a business idea- why not charge a local chamber of commerce/ town to build new trails/ clear out abandoned ones/ and get the word out via internet and print to transform these towns into the next MTB Mecca. Fruita is a great example of a town that mountain biking has greatly helped, as anyone visiting over the last 15-20 years can certainly attest. I never really looked into it, but maybe someone should. Meanwhile, the handful of riders in Paonia 10 years ago are probably lamenting the loss of their well-kept secret riding area. But that’s a different story.
We met our friends Jason Trimm and Alison Gannett, who recently made the move from Crested Butte to Paonia (a move that a number of Buttians have made in the last few years). After riding from their farm to the trailhead at the end of Pan American Ave, we got on our first singletrack of the day, a roller coaster of a ride aptly named Elitch’s, followed by a nice climb up Slant’n’dickular.
This reaches a high point under Jumbo Mountain where most of the riding can be seen. Both ridges in this photo have trails descending them, and some trails descend the valley as well. If any of this reminds you of 18 road in Fruita, you’re right- it is a lot like that area.
The Paonia folks have it going on- want to chill in a hammock and stare at Lamborn and Lands End mountains- no problem, they’ve got it covered. The trails are largely on BLM land, which tends to be pretty open to trail networks. Similar mountain bike trail netowrks on BLM land include Hartman’s Rocks near Gunnison and Fruita’s 18 road trail system.
From the bottom of Jumbo Ridge, we rode a number of other trails whose names I cannot remember (nothing is marked here), but eventually we made it to a trail named for a local dentist who built many of the trails here. This trail was probably the highlight for me.
Final thoughts on the riding in Paonia… It’s good here, and it’s definitely worth the trip, possibly in conjunction with Fruita and Grand Junction. The riding is really easy from a technical standpoint, but that doesn’t make it that easy as there is quite a bit of climbing and the navigation isn’t straightforward right now. We’ll probably be making it into an annual fall ride, since it’s pretty close for us. Keep in mind that the dirt here is clay- if it’s wet, it isn’t rideable. Inquire with Galaxy Bikes for current conditions and maps of the area. For the ladies, consider checking out Alison’s bike camps: Rippin Chix.