|NATIONAL PARKS QUICKLINKS|
Backpacker Magazine – BACKPACKER.com Online Exclusive
Mountain vistas: the ups and downs of a mountain-biking/hiking paradise.
Little Known Fact: The Colorado Trail totals 469 miles ~ for mountain biking or hiking.
You've got a long weekend coming up, three full days if you leave immediately after work Thursday and return late Sunday night. You want to go where your lungs gasp for air, your legs groan for relief, and your mind explodes with joy, solely because of where you are.
And you definitely want your mountain bike. You want to go self-contained for three days and two nights, camping wherever the mood strikes you. You want mountains, crystal waters, and skies so blue they make your eyes ache. You want the stars close enough to tickle you. What you want is the Colorado Trail, specifically the sections immediately north of Durango, Colorado.
Usually the distance is broken into three distinct sections: from Molas Pass to Bolem Pass; Bolem Pass to the head of Hotel Draw; from Hotel Draw to Kennebec Pass and on to Durango. Each can be ridden in a hard, fast day, with easy access via car or truck. But to really savor the trail, to fully appreciate just what a magnificent land it traverses, you've got to take your time, hiking or riding slowly, camping wherever night finds you.
The best part is the first two sections. If you're in no hurry whatsoever and enjoy lingering, take all three days just to ride to Bolem Pass, where you'll take the dirt road to the Purgatory Ski Resort. Stash your gear there and pedal back up the highway to Molas Pass and your car.
Elevations are high, very high. You'll spend most of the time near timberline, which in Colorado hovers around 12,000 feet. If you've never been to that altitude, you'll feel weak. But don't worry, because altitude affects everybody that way. Just get in shape beforehand and drink lots of water (more than a gallon a day if the sun's out).