ToHelluRide – Mountain Biking and Vanlife, Telluride CO

Being a Colorado native and a lover of the outdoors you would think I have visited the incredibly scenic mountain town of Telluride. Seeing how this summer is my summer to check off all my Colorado bucket list items it was time to visit. Telluride is packed with world-class mountain biking, ghost towns, unbelievable views, and a neat little ski town. I loved my time in Telluride. I had an awesome campsite that was at 10,300 feet near the old town of Alta Colorado.

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It was wonderful to be camping that high (lol no pun intended) because Colorado is having a hot summer and it takes alpine elevation to beat the heat this year. I was able to set up my camp with 360-degree views of the San Juan’s Mountains surrounding me and quickly made friends with a family of marmots that had a den just 10 yards from my front porch. I was immediately feeling relaxed and enjoying the views.

Here is a video of my marmot friends. I affectionately named them Big Bear and Little Bear. Little Bear seemed very comfortable with me and let me take pictures and videos freely. But if I had neighbors nearby they would stay in their den. Most of the time it was Little Bear splayed out with this stomach resting on the warm rock catching the suns rays. I want to say we enjoyed each others company.

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A couple of miles up the road was the Gold King Basin. This is where I originally wanted to camp since it’s above treeline and thought it would be awesome to camp with these kinds of views every day. On my way up to find a spot, the road became incredibly steep and I decided it would be best to turn around. You never know unless you try! I ended up finding an excellent campsite about midway to the top just below the old ghost town of Alta. You can find the campsite’s location HERE. This place is no secret and was very busy during my stay in mid August.

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I enjoyed exploring the old mining town of Alta. It was only a short walk from my campsite. It seemed that at one time this was a very busy mining town. There were lots of broken down structures and debris left from the old mining operation everywhere.

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Awesome mountain biking was just a pedal away. For my first mountain bike ride I wanted to check out the freshly built Magic Meadows Trail.

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Lets just say that the Magic Meadows trail was packed with fun flowy twists linking up several small meadows and aspen groves along the way.  The Magic Meadows trail was about 7 miles long and really well thought out.

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I was getting good use out of my ARB Deluxe Room and love my Pro Bike Tool covers.  I use my 50 watt Renogy Eclipse solar panel to charge my RockPals 300 power station. Every evening at 8pm I would witness alpenglow to the Ophir Needles to my southeast. Breathtaking to say the least. I ended up acquiring some neighbors as the week progressed and had a good conversation with a Forest Service worker. He gave me some good advice on how to apply for Forest Service jobs and also recommended to me that if a Forest Ranger asks me where I live, give him the address on my drivers license and don’t hesitate. He reminded me that the National Forests are for recreation and not residence. I also met a couple of Buskers! I never knew what a busker was but Chuck and Lilly have been on the road for a couple of months and have a bluegrass band in Atlanta called High Lonesome. They have been traveling around and playing gigs for tips at various mountain towns. Lilly and Chuck said they made out really well in Durango.

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After a couple of days chilling it was time for some more mountain biking. I wanted to ride Magic Meadows again but this time add in a couple more trails that looked good for a bigger ride. I climbed higher and completed the Prospector Loop before riding the Magic Meadows trail again.

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Prospector took me out to the lifts that included excellent views of the valley. The riding up here was supreme.

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The single track finished with the T-35 trail which is the highest rated trail in the area. This picture does not illustrate the steepness but there was a couple of times I let my brakes go and was overcome by speed! The ride back to camp was rough. It was a combination of paved and dirt road. On the climb back up the paved road, I had a road biker pass me. My competitive side got the best of me and I pushed to hold his wheel for a couple of miles thinking we would reach a summit soon. After reaching the top I could tuck in and try to tail him on the descent. I was wrong and ended up burning myself out for the rest of the climb and bonked on my final 2 miles back to my camp. Still, a fun ride and I would highly recommend linking the Magic Meadows to the T-35 trail!

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This was my last night at the Alta Lakes area and it was time to say goodbye to my marmot friends. I packed up most of my stuff and got ready for an early departure the next morning. I had a big ride planned! The whole reason I wanted to go to Telluride was to ride the infamous Wasatch Trail Loop. I have known about the Wasatch Trail from my MTB guide books from the early 2000s. This was before we found out about trails on the internet. The Wasatch trail was described as an expert-level trail not for the faint of heart starting from the town of Telluride climbing to 13,000 feet. During this ride plan on spending ample time exposed above treeline. To make it worse the descent was one of the most treacherous ones I have ever encountered, packed with tight switchbacks, exposed ledges, and crazy steep talus fields. As an alpine trail junkie, this loop has been on my bucket list for over 15 years and was excited to check it off.

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After leaving town the route started on some easy bike path then climbs up a dirt road to Bridal Veil Falls. Coming in at 350feet Bridal Veil Falls is the biggest waterfall in Colorado. It was getting to be late season so the runoff was over and the falls are not as spectacular as they would be early summer. I was still excited to see this spectacle.

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After passing the falls I followed an old mining road that is only open to hikers and bikers. This mining road was rough and I pushed my bike most of the way up to the 13,000 ft. pass.

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The route turns to single track and continues to climb steeply. I ended up spending a couple of hours exposed above treeline allowing for great photo opportunities of the basin. On the way up I captured this picture of Three Needles Peak and is one of my favorite photos of all time. Something about the subtle beauty of the yellow flowers contrasted by the vast basin and rugged mountains. If I was to say I had an artistic style in my photography it would be this style.

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Here is my bicycle dwarfed by views of the Silver Mountains as I take a quick break for photos and snacks. I did not spend to much time here as clouds were moving in and I knew the downhill was going to be tough. Getting to the top was half the battle as the descent is steep, highly exposed, and very dangerous. This one of those amazing trails in the Rocky Mountains that was not made with mountain bikes in mind but you can ride it any way.

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Here is an excellent photo of the descent. Much of the downhill is navigating the steep Bear Creek drainage that quickly takes you back into town.

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After wrapping up the ride I was feeling like celebrating and found a shower at the campground and park in the middle of town. Afterwards I was ready for a whiskey and some food at one of the bars downtown. While searching to find a place to eat, I ran into Chuck and Lilly and got to hear Chuck play and sing for a minute. Chuck is very talented! Lilly did not preform but does the social media and probably keeps Chuck in check!

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Main Street in Downtown Telluride

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One last look at the San Miguel River before saying goodbye to this beautiful mountain town.

2 thoughts on “ToHelluRide – Mountain Biking and Vanlife, Telluride CO

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