Telluride’s early season mountain biking can be touch and go with pockets of snow still prevalent in shaded areas and at higher altitudes, fallen trees and tricky river crossings. But, just a few hours south, in Durango, the single track is primo this time of year and the locals have been riding for months.
With Friday’s snow and rain, we checked the weather a little south, liked what we saw, and packed the kids and the single speeds to visit some mountain biking friends in Durango. I’ve ridden some of the more epic rides around Durango, parts of the famous Hermosa and Colorado Trails, but this trip was quick and dirty –no shuttles or driving to trails. We were looking for what we could get leaving directly from town. We wanted the after-work rides; the, local, late, lazy Saturday morning single track — all of which Durango has a ton, right from town.
First, on Friday evening, we rode the Test Tracks, formally known as Durango Mountain Park, on the west side of town linking to loops called Star Wars, the Dump and Spirit Trail. The single track in Durango offers consistent climbs, with little punches here and there, making it perfect for a single speed. There is no need for gear grinding; the trails are smooth and mellow like the town itself. And the descents offer buff corners and smooth rolls. The terrain perfectly combines the best of mellow desert riding and alpine climbing as the trails morph from sand, to packed red dirt to wooded trees to rocky segments.
I can’t tell you how to get to the Test Tracks (because I can’t remember, I was following a local) — but, we entered from a hidden single track behind a random apartment building in a pretty regular looking neighborhood. And, that’s the beauty of the downtown trails in Durango; they’re no big deal. They’re just part of the town. Although I can’t help you with the Test Tracks, I’m sure any local bike shop can. However, I can tell you how to get to Horse Gulch, another, fantastic, trail system accessible right from downtown Durango.
The trailhead for Horse Gulch is at the intersection of 3rd and 8th Street at the base of the hill where Fort Lewis sits. A network of trails ranging from buff, mellow, hero trails to segments of pulse pumping climbing crisscross 17 miles of Horse Gulch. If you want to keep it mellow, stick to the Meadow Loop and Stacy’s Trail, or to take it up a notch link to Mike’s or climb steadily up Telegraph to a steeper, technical descent on Anasazi.
The options are endless and trails usually well marked, except, as I learned the hard way, after a rainstorm in which the plastic covered maps, that are dispersed on metal stands at most junctions, literally dissolve. My quick 90-minute ride turned into two plus hours, as I unknowingly added a few loops. Yet, every loop, even the unintentional ones, was packed with pretty near perfect single track.
The other great part of Durango, besides its in-town abundant single-track and stellar, laid-back vibe, is its incredible recreation center. For $10.25, my two daughters and myself bought a morning of swimming, water slides and floating the lazy river.
For something for everyone, Durango is well worth the trip.
Snow Sunday is a weekly column by Jesse James McTigue and sponsored by Jagged Edge intended to deliver tips, news, musings and stories about the people, places, events and experiences that make the Telluride winter an epic adventure. It’s extending to the rest of the seasons and will need a new name!