San Juan High Alpine Splendor

This is a beautiful summer or fall-color ride over high alpine four-wheel-drive roads and an old rail trail, coupled with a wonderful overnight stay in Telluride, Colorado. Here's how to do it:

Park a car at the bottom of Ophir Pass, just a few miles north of Silverton. Ride up Highway 550 to the start of Black Bear Pass. 

Black Bear Pass, topping out at 12,840 feet, is a notoriously technical jeeper trail but makes for great mountain biking. It's a one-way road from the summit down into Telluride. There are some steep drop-offs that give you breathtaking views into the Telluride valley. 

Drop into Telluride and, after connecting with the river cycle path, bike to your destination, be it camping at the town park or a hotel. Telluride has some great restaurants; one of them, a Thai place called Siam, is just the best!

The next morning, follow the Galloping Goose Trail out of Telluride. This old rail trail follows the valley outside of Telluride until it intersects with the road heading over Ophir Pass. Climb the nicely graded four-wheel-drive road over Ophir Pass, which summits at 11,840 feet after a 2,500-foot elevation gain. From there, you have a screaming downhill to where your car is parked at the bottom of Ophir Pass.

Get more information about bike overnights.

Tip for this adventure: This is a great ride to do in the fall when the colors are going off. The views are incomparable in all directions. But don't go too late in the fall or you will wish you had brought skis instead!

Favorite local bike shop: Pedal the Peaks for bike maintenance or Velorution for bikepacking gear. Both are in Durango, Colorado.

2 responses so far ↓

Michael Ackerman - Nov 3, 2014 at 12:16 PM

What a classic trip. Cheers to Jody for a great write up! You and Seth sure do live a life of adventure! http://bikepackersmagazine.com/simplicity-living-quest-pure-joy/

Barbara Dahl - Nov 4, 2014 at 12:48 PM

This is a beautiful ride. I have done it going the other direction, and I think you picked the better way to go. Black Bear was an unbelievable uphill slog going out of Telluride going that direction. Even our best (read killer) MTBers had to push lots of it. I seem to remember wearing through my MTB shoes! But GORGEOUS!! Particularly in the fall.

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