A Mountain Bikers Dream. Five Days on the Colorado Trail

The top of Searle pass on Day 5 and my favorite picture from the Journey. To me this one says it all.

Wow what can I say about this adventure. Well it was one of the best experience of my life! I was in the best riding shape of my life. I had my best bike ever and rode what seem like endless incredibly buff single track trail for 5 days straight. It all started in ’05 when my dad bought me The Colorado Trail Official Guide Book and spent may days and nights studying the sections and dreaming that one day I could ride a multiday adventure on this amazing trail system. The Colorado trail spans 500 miles from Denver to Durango over the best parts of the Colorado Mountains. We chose to ride the first 9 sections of the trail from Denver to Leadville. These first 9 sections are considered some of the best for Mountain Biking.

The Colorado Trail had it all. Long descents grueling climbs, high alpine meadows and plenty of buff single track. There were several occasions where I caught myself gasping at the amazing beauty of the trail and the scenery surrounding it. I was in love!

Believe it or not we rode 180 miles without a single mechanical. Not a flat tire, broken spoke or chain. Hats off to our Mechanic Chis Kuhn for setting our bikes up perfectly for the ride.


Our food planning has gotten really good. Although we were running low on day 4 prior to getting to Breckenridge to resupply. My favorite would be the tuna wraps I have been bringing on my backpacking and bikepacking trips. It consists of a packet of albacore tuna, tortilla wrap, and mustard/mayo packet. Mmmm good stuff!

My favorite camping spot was in Lost Park. Such a beautiful valley tucked away next to the Kenosha Mountains.

Best Day
By far day 5. I felt like superman this day. Somehow everything was clicking and the riding was phenomenal this day. There was a 4 miles stretch of alpine riding from Searle Pass to Kokomo Pass that was to die for.

Worst Day

By far day 2 when we made the choice to disassemble our bikes and strap them to our backs to cross a 6 mile wilderness section. It took 5 hours to cross this and was one of the most painful experiences in my life!

Most Memorable Moment

Before Kenosha pass I remember zipping through this aspen grove that was lush with thick green ground cover all over. There was mist floating along the ground. It almost seemed almost supernatural.

The Gear

I really feel like I got my gear dialed in. Most bike packers these days are running bike bags to carry most of their gear. Personally I feel bike bags are going to take away from your bike handeling. By using backpacks and a small seat bag I could rip the descents like no other. Also since we had two people we could divy up the gear between the two of us. In the past we each had a stove, waterfilter, tools etc. Now we share and just bring one of what we need. This really lightens up the load.

Packing List:
REI quarter dome 2 man tent minimalist set up. This means just the rainfly and footprint.
Katadyn water filter
Jetboil Stove
Jacks Quilt with a Thermolite liner (awesome warm comfy combo)
Big Agnes Insulated aircore pad
Maps Tools and Headlamp

Day one Waterton Canyon to Buffalo Creek

Here we are at the official CT Trail head. We left the day before the closed Waterton Canyon for a reclimation project. We were pumped!

One of our few wildlife encounters on the trip. This scraggly looking goat needs to eat!

I have never ridden section 1 of the CT. We finished riding the 6 mile dirt road though the canyon and started the singletrack. Good stuff!

The Colorado Trail was marked ok. I had brought my GPS and downloaded the official waypoints that corresponded with my map. Turned out to be very handy and made navigation a breeze.

Here overlooking the South Platte Canyon. Off in the distance you can see the burn area which we hit at mid day. I knew we were in for a hot climb.

Indeed it was hot. And the heat was taking its toll on both of us.

Still some really nice trail. The climb through the burn area was about 4 miles.

Mike taking off his helmet to try and stay cool.

After what seamed like forever we reached the top of the world area and we were making a good pace again.

Here we are at the day one campsite in buffalo creek. It felt good to rest after battling the heat all day. Next time I will plan the ride differently so we don’t hit the burn area at the peak of the day.

Day two Buffalo Creek to Lost Park

It rained non stop the first night. For the most part we stayed warm and dry. Our gear ended up a bit damp but no biggie. Here I am filtering water for our next segment.


Buff single track that seemed to run forever.

Les Grills says “A positive mental attitude is key to survival”

Being minimalist bikepackers we used our cell phones as cameras.

We stopped for a minute to let our gear air out and prepared for what turned out to be the most difficult part of the journey. We are at the Lost Creek Wilderness boundary and you cant ride a mechanized vehicle in the wilderness. So we took the wheels off our bikes, strapped the frames to our pack and hiked for 6 miles over some tough terrain. This turned out to be a bad idea and we should have taken one of the suggested detours from the guide. Our packs were not designed to carry the weight of the frame and the straps dug into our shoulders with excruciating pain.

This is how it went for 5 hours. Walk 100 feet. Stop and lean forward to shift the weight off your shoulders because they were screaming in pain. Rest for a minute then repeat.

This picture shows how beat down we were. Talk about suffering. But looking back you forget about the pain and remember the adventure.

Day 4 colorado trail
Tired and weary we set up camp in lost park. Here we are inside our tent. It was roomy and often we cooked inside because it rained every night.

Day 3 Lost Park to Middle Fork of the Swan River

Lost Park day 3
So we woke up to one of the most amazing views. Lost Park was beautiful. Day 3 was off to a great start. We aired out our gear, ate some breakfast and got ready for another day of adventure.

Right off the bat we had a sweet descent.

We exited the trail briefly to detour a short wilderness section.

A quick check of the GPS and we are back on trail.

The Section of CT on the East side of Kenosha pass was really nice. We were running a bit behind schedule and was hoping to make it to Breckenridge this day. Judging by our pace we were not going to make it. We were worried about the amount of remaining food we had. Lucky we met a very cool thru hiker named Tony that was kind enough to part ways with one of his dinners. The extra food turned out to come in very handy. Tony if you ever read this Thanks!

We hit another really good descent before crossing Kenosha Pass. Zipping through aspen groves is one of my favorite things you can experience on a bike.

We crossed Kenosha Pass and came upon the “real South Park”

Here we stopped for some lunch. Spagetti!

We are climbing again. This time up to the 11,800ft Georgia Pass.

Day 3 Georgia Pass
The air was getting thinner and we crossed treeline. A little hike a bike never hurt anybody.

Ahhh! Nothing feels better than reaching the summit of a high alpine climb.


We descended a few miles on the backside of Georgia pass. It was getting dark so we found a cool campsite and got some rest. Day 3 was great. Lots of great trail and I recall 3 amazing descents all in one day.

Day 4 Middle Fork of the Swan River to Breckenridge

Here is a shot of our Campsite. It only rained a couple of hours that night. Not bad compared to the nonstop rain we were used to. For the most part we were lucky and the rain would hit us as soon as we would crawl in the tent.

Getting some much needed water.

So we had one good climb before getting to Breck that took us over 11,000ft. We ate the last of the food that Tony had given us the day before and were very anxious to get into town for a real meal.

The descent down to Horseshoe gulch was one of the best. You could tell this section of the CT was ridden frequently and there were lots of fast buff sections of trail with nice banked corners. We both had huge grins on our faces during this section.

Finally! Heading into Breckenridge for some much needed R&R. I couldn’t peddle my bike fast enough on the 4 mile bike path into town.

After eating a plate of nachos and a huge hamburger in Breckenridge we found a hostle to stay in for only $31 a night. An easy choice after A cold front had moved in and it was rainy and quite chilly. A warm dry bed sounded to good to pass up.

The folks at the fireside in were very nice and even washed our clothes and let us use wear some comfortable threads while we stayed. We grabbed a six pack of PBR’s and relaxed in the hot tub for for a few.

Picture of our room.

Day 5 Breckenridge to Leadville

So we skipped Segment 7 of the CT and took the 10 mile bike path detour to Copper Mountain. It was nice. Here we are starting to ascend the first part of the Copper section.

Here we stopped for some water before climbing some more.

The climb up to Searle Pass was really chill.

Dank Trail!

The Carins were huge!

We crossed tree line and were feeling the anticipation of reaching Searle Pass.

Alpine Time!

We had reached the top of 12,040ft Searle Pass and celebrated a bit. Also we made a furry friend! We knew from here the hard part was behind us and were going to make it to Leadville this day.

After Searle Pass we were treated with about 4 miles of smooth Alpine riding to Kokomo Pass. Mikes having such a good time his tounge is sticking out!

After what seemed like a quick descent we stopped for a rest at a waterfall by Camp Hale.

Mike contemplating his life on one of the CT bridges.

Some final Single track before reaching Tennessee pass.

Hy 24 off in the distance

And here we are at our finish line. Completing one of the most amazing journeys of my life. After this we rode about 10 miles of highway into Leadville. We stopped at the Pizza Hut and waited for Mikes girlfriend to pick us up. 180 miles total!

4 thoughts on “A Mountain Bikers Dream. Five Days on the Colorado Trail

  1. Jay, Mike and Les, fantastic pics and ride report. Glad you're enjoying the CT. Makes our maintenance work even more worthwhile. Let us know if you'd like to receive info about The Colorado Trail. We try to keep everyone in our database in the loop via email and newsletters. Don't hesitate to connect with our little office in Golden. We'd value your involvement.Bill Manning, Mg DirThe Colorado Trail Foundationhttp://www.ColoradoTrail.org


  2. What up J?! Glad you guys had such a good time. Great pics and captions. Really puts things into better perspective. I guess I'll have to join you two next season on your next leg. Thanks for the mechanic shout-out, by the way =) It really does give me a bit of satisfaction to hear you two had no probs.


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