Rio Grande National Forest


Spectacular vistas of mountains and meadows will reward mountain bikers who challenge the roads and trails of the Rio Grande National Forest.

Most forest roads do not receive heavy vehicular travel in comparison to streets and highways. Even on a holiday weekend, an encounter with over a dozen vehicles on a 20-mile ride within the forest would be unusual except on the main road leading to developed recreation sites. Forest roads are generally less steep than forest trails. For beginner and intermediate bikers, forest roads are easier to ride than trails.

Road or trail surfaces can change instantly from rocks to dirt, rutted to smooth, wet to dry, firm to soft. Please be cautious with speed; surface conditions change depending on the weather. Drought or rain can turn a beginner trail into an expert trail.

Some trails receive considerable horseback and foot travel. Please be considerate when overtaking or meeting these users. Trail grades are generally much steeper than road grades; often greater than ten percent. Trails are generally for more advanced mountain cyclists. Trails are indicated by the single dashed line on the Rio Grande National Forest Recreation Map and Travel Map. Some trails are old roads which have been closed to motorized use; these trails are easier to negotiate.

The "degree of difficulty" is in the eye of the beholder. A route noted as intermediate may appear to be expert to a beginning cyclist or easy to an expert cyclist. In addition, the route may contain variable surface and terrain conditions. During drought, the road can be quite dusty. Freshly graded forest roads may have many small rocks on the surface making use more difficult. Even beginner routes require the biker to be in reasonably good physical condition and acclimated to the high elevation of the forest. You will be the best judge of difficulty.

A variety of mountain bike trips is available on the roads and trails of the Rio Grande National Forest. Remember that while the roads and trails listed may be rated for the "degree of difficulty," these ratings are dependent on several varying factors. Be sure to plan for emergencies and ride safely. Enjoy visiting the Rio Grande National Forest!

Mountain Biking on the Creede Ranger District
The roads and trails listed below are suggested mountain bike routes on the Creede District that we feel will provide a high quality cycling experience for mountain bikers.

The Creede Mountain Bike Club is working, under a Volunteer Agreement, to develop a mountain bike trail system in the Bachelor Mountain area just outside of Creede. When the development is completed, this mountain bike trail system will be added into this section of the guide.

Bristol Head Peak Road #532 15.1 Moderate to Intermediate
Stony Pass Road #520 14.6 Intermediate to Expert
Beartown Road #506 5.9 Moderate to Intermediate
Jarosa Mesa Primitive Road 8.6 Intermediate
Regan Lake (House Cnyn) Rd. #521 4.8 Beginner to Moderate
Crystal Lake Road #532a 2.5 Intermediate
West Willow Creek Road/
Rat Creek Road #505
21.8 Expert
Bachelor Mountain Road #502
East Willow Creek Road #502 5.1 Intermediate (begin at Upper End)
Nelson Mountain Primitive Road 3.8 Intermediate to Expert
North Long Ridge Primitive Road 3.6 Beginner to Moderate (start at Top)
Wheeler Geologic Area Road #600 13.7 Moderate to Intermediate
Carson Road #518 9.5 Intermediate
Heart Lake Road #518.1B 1 Moderate to Intermediate
The Colorado Trail (Between Head
of Miners Creek and Beartown)
45.6 Expert
Continental Divide (Between Head of Miners Creek to below Stony Pass on Stony Pass Road #520) 43 Expert
East Bellows Creek Trail #790 8.4 Intermediate
La Garita Trail #787
Phoenix Park - Halfmoon Pass
La Garita Trail #787
6.8 Intermediate
Spring Creek/Pass-Rat Creek 10.6 Intermediate to Expert
Lost Trail Creek Trail #821 11 Intermediate to Expert
Wason Wheeler Trail #789 10.7 Intermediate to Expert
West Lost Trail Creek Trail #822 6.1 Intermediate to Expert
Fern Creek Trail #815
(To Ruby Lakes)
4.5 Expert

Other higher standard traveled timber access roads suitable for mountain bike travel but not otherwise listed or discussed in this guide are as follows: North Lime Creek Road #528; Ivy Creek Road #527; Middle Creek Road #523; Copper Creek Road #524; Black Mountain Road #514; Fern Creek Road #522; and Sawmill Canyon Road #533.

Equipment and Safety Needs

Clothing: Afternoon thundershowers occur frequently over the mountains during the summer. Temperatures can drop dramatically. Wool/silk and some synthetics will keep you warm, even when wet. Cotton next to your body will actually keep heat away and make you colder. A trash bag is lightweight and can be used as a raincoat. A helmet will keep your head cool in the heat and help hold some warmth in the cold. At high elevations most people sunburn much faster; a cap and sunscreen are essential. Sunglasses protect eyes from both sun and dust. A handkerchief over the nose can help when the air is very dusty.

First Aid: A pocket-size first aid kit comes in handy for scrapes and bruises.

Helmet Pads: Traction on forest roads and trails is quite different from pavement, particularly when going downhill. Protect your head.

Matches/Knife: Matches, in a waterproof container, and a knife are always a good idea in the backcountry.

Buddy System: Do not travel alone—always take someone with you. If one person becomes hurt, the other person can apply first aid and seek help. If you can't take someone with you, be sure to tell someone where you are going and when you will be back.

Traffic: It is sometimes difficult to hear oncoming traffic when you're riding downhill. Be careful, particularly around curves.

Bike Repair: Be prepared to perform minor repairs on your bicycle—most importantly, be able to change a flat or fix a chain. Take along the right tools. For example, bring a chain tool, pump, a tire repair kit, and the tools needed to take off the wheels.

Water: Bring a lot of water—more than you think you'll need—or bring materials to treat stream water.

Trail Etiquette: Please stay on designated trails to avoid trampling native vegetation. Minimize potential erosion to trails by not using muddy trails or short-cutting switchbacks. Please observe the practice of minimum impact mountain biking by "taking only pictures and memories, and leaving only waffle prints." Please don't disturb wildlife. Remember that mountain bikes are considered a mechanized form of vehicle travel and are not permitted within wilderness areas.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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