Uncompahgre National Forest


Biking in the Uncompahgre National Forest can be a complicated proposition: Much of the Forest is made up of land that is also federally designated wilderness, where no mechanical vehicles are permitted, including bikes. Even so, there are still many miles of typically breathtaking single-track to pedal, not to mention countless jeep roads accessible to cyclists.

The Tabeguache Trail is part of the Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Trail and winds some 142 miles through the Uncompahgre Plateau canyon country. Starting eight miles west of Montrose, the Tabeguache includes some difficult single-track sections near the scenic Roubideau Canyon.

Probably the widest trail network for mountain biking, as well as the least traveled, lies in the extreme northwestern end of the Uncompahgre Plateau in the Grand Junction Ranger District. One particularly beautiful ride is the Unaweep Trail, a 13-mile jaunt around the rim of the Unaweep Canyon that offers views of distant Utah hills. Most of the other trails here, such as Ute Creek (11.5 miles) and Basin Trail (5.3 miles), are accessible to 4x4 vehicles and used extensively by hunters in the late summer/early fall hunting seasons. The terrain here is moderate to difficult, so be ready for some hill action.

Around the Ouray area, trails are generally too steep or the land too fragile for mountain biking. Even so, a bike is still a great way to reach choice vistas along the Cascade Trail and the Portland Trail, with views of the town of Ouray and the Sneffels range. Also accessible to bikes is the Bear Creek National Recreation Trail, a sharply undulating single-track and one of the most scenic trails in the Forest.

Northeast of Ouray in the Little Cimarron region, the Alpine Loop Trail offers one of the longest rides, a rugged 17 miles along the High Mesa and Big Park ridges. Water is plentiful along the trail; riders should keep their eyes open because ATVs and motorcycles also have trail access.

Around Telluride, the options increase. The Wasatch Trail is a scenic climb to above the timberline, with old mines dotting the route. Topping out around 13,000 feet from a beginning elevation of 9,640, this is one of the highest biking trails in the Forest. The Silver Pick Trail is another ride in the clouds through relatively barren country, an area where ghosts of grizzled prospectors haunt dilapidated mine buildings. The Sneffels Range Loop is a 70-mile network of old 4x4 roads that connect Ouray, Telluride, and Ridgway in a series of searing climbs and glorious descents.

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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