The Colorado Super Loop is 244 miles of mixed gravel roads, singletrack, high alpine passes, a bit of pavement, and plentiful resupply towns.  The route has about 30,000 ft of climbing with some hike-a-bike thrown in.  I rode the loop last summer with my friend Gaven Gunderson in five days.  You can start the loop in any of the following towns:  Leadville, Aspen Crested Butte, Pitkin, or Buena Vista.  There is tricky route-finding so, the gpx file and good maps of the areas are recommended.

Colorado Super LoopWhat to Know

Start: Leadville, Aspen, Crested Butte, Pitkin, or Buena Vista.  We rode the loop in a counter clockwise direction, starting in Leadville and going to Aspen, CB, Pitkin, and Colorado Super Loopthen Crested Butte. The Trail: The route consists of a link up of backroads, gravel roads, singletrack, and alpine terrain across the beautiful Central Colorado Rockies. Below is a suggested 5 day trip.

Day One – Leadville to Larkspur Mountain Road: Leaving Leadville, head down County Road 4 to Turquoise Lake.  Follow the Turquoise Lake road to the start of Hagerman Pass, the first big climb of the day.  After crossing the Continental Divide, head down to Ruedi Reservoir and turn left up a gravel road just as you arrive to the Lake.  There is a small campground here that has water.  It is a good idea to fill up here as there is a long dry stretch of trail. The next section can be difficult to find. You’re looking for the FS1930 trail, an old pack trail that whose trailhead starts just inside a private gate.  There is Forest Service signage for this trail so I took the liberty of hopping the fence, kind a pain.  Heading uphill through a meadow full of stinging plants and insects, the route finally enters a shady hillside on a much more established double track road.  GPS is handy here as there are a few cut-offs and the trail crosses between large wilderness areas.  Eventually the trail turns to singletrack just ahead of an old mining site.  The trail becomes faint at times but leads to a stream and then a gravel road which will take you uphill toward Larkspur Mountain and eventually Aspen.

Day Two – Larkspur Mountain Road to Taylor Pass: Day two found us climbing a long but pleasant grade towards Forest Service 103, which descends dramatically towards Lenado.  There is a great singletrack paralleling the left hand side of this road for most of the descent – look for it on your left as you swing around to the right after a steep gravel descent.  From the town Lenado, take the Hobbit Trail system into Aspen where it’s time to refuel and push on for Crested Butte.  Heading out of Aspen on the Castle Creek Road, look for the Express Creek Road on the left. Heading up towards Taylor Pass, the route climbs steeply up a rock-strewn trail, requiring some hike-a-bike.  My partner and I camped below Taylor Pass for the night after it started raining.

Day Three – Taylor Pass to Somewhere in Gunnison County:  This day brought us to dramatic alpine terrain from the top of Taylor Pass to the top of Star Pass and the start of the 400 trail.  A super fun descent brings you down into Cement Creek where you can pick up the highway at the bottom of the road and head into Crested Butte.  After resupply take the highway out of town towards Gunnison, turning at the Jack’s Cabin Cut-off towards the Taylor River Road.  From the campground on the Taylor River Road, head right up the One Mile Cattle Trail.  This dirt road follows the fall line aggressively up and down for many miles, and may not be the ideal way to go, but is a more direct line to the town of Pitkin and avoids the highway.  Night found us at the top of yet another hill, exhausted and out of water.

Day Four – Gunnison County to the Colorado Trail:  From the One Mile cattle road, look out for the Beaver Creek Trail on the left, then the McIntyre Gulch Trail.  GPS is probably pretty critical through here as route-finding can be challenging.  The McIntyre Brook Trail is excellent fun, leading to the bottom of the Alder Gulch Trail, which is unfortunately climbed instead of ridden down.  This trail eventually connects to FS882, which drops to CR76.  Take a left on CR76 and spin the road to the town of Pitkin, which has a decent resupply restaurant but no grocery store.  Head up towards the Alpine Tunnel on a spectacular road, and climb the singletrack over the Alpine Tunnel at the top to descend down into the Arkansas River Valley.  There is an opportunity to resupply and soak at the Mount Princeton Hot Springs at the bottom of this descent.  From the Hot Springs, head north to the Colorado Trail.  We camped on one of the only flat spots on the side of the trail well after midnight, almost out of water after forgetting to fill up earlier.

Day Five – Colorado Trail to Leadville:  The last day includes a lot of beautiful Colorado Trail, with a wilderness detour to Buena Vista and north towards the first spot you can get back on the Colorado Trail near Clear Creek Reservoir.  Follow the Colorado Trail north to Twin Lakes, which has a small general store.  Climb up the Colorado Trail above Twin Lakes to the bottom of Mount Elbert, and enjoy spectacular singletrack towards Half Moon Creek.  From Half Moon head back to Leadville, taking either Highway 24 or head back towards County Road Four near Turquoise Lake where the trip began.

Disclaimer:  After loosing GPS data I recorded during the trip, I had to recreate the route from memory.  A detailed map is highly recommended: the Latitude 40 recreation topo map for Aspen, Crested Butte, and Gunnison gets you from Leadville to the Alpine Tunnel after which route finding is much easier.  There are big remote sections of this route- be prepared and self-sufficient. Camping: There are many locations to put down for the night.  We camped outside of Lenado (night one), Aspen (night two), Gunnison County (night three) and on the Colorado Trail outside of Buena Vista on the fourth night. Weather: Typical for the Rockies; be prepared for hail, snow, sleet, cold temperatures, etc. Be sure to check the weather a week in advance to get an Idea of what to expect. Monsoon season typically last from July to September, if you travel during this time, be prepared for afternoon thunderstorms and downpours. Resupply: Resupply:  There are a number of town along the way where you can grab a burger, beer, or just basic resupply Items. Leadville, Aspen, Crested Butte, Pitkin, or Buena Vista. Pitkin has a small restaurant and supply store with limited hours open. Princeton Hot Springs also has a general store, just be sure to check their hours if you are depending on that resupply point.

Resources

GPX File Leadville Weather Alpine Tunnel Weather Crested Butte Weather Colorado Trail Website

12 Comments

  1. Nice loop! Lots of room for adding in more singletrack though. Maybe consider adding in: Hannon Creek trail from Larkspur to Lenado, Sunnyside trail from Hobbit to Aspen, Little Annie Road or Midnight Mine Road to Richmond Ridge to Taylor instead of pavement to Express Creek (not great riding but not on pavement if one wants to miss that), Farris and Strand in Brush Creek on way to Crested Butte, 409, Deadman, Doctors Park to Taylor Creek instead of highway. Also, there’s a restaurant (Harmels) in Taylor Creek. Just some thoughts. Thanks for the great route description and trip report.

    • Cameron Millard

      @NT, It’s great to hear that there is more singletrack that can be done in this route! I see the current route as a backbone to further exploration and variation. For example, I’d like to find a better way from Crested Butte to Pitkin. I had originally thought about the Fossil Ridge trail but it seemed too gnarly and the developer Tom Chapman has closed that trail anyway. Also, I had intended to do the Crested Butte trails you suggested but realized in Crested Butte that it meant a lot more climbing and we were already a bit tired out. I think the Aspen area trails sound great, and as far as more CB trails it would be neat to incorporate them into this loop. I’d invite you to post back to this thread with links to any additional info you’d like to share. Thanks!

      • Neil Beltchenko
        Neil Beltchenko

        Here is an idea for a different route from CB to Pitkin: Brush Creek Road – 409 – Point Lookout – Double Top – Walrod Cutoff – Reno – Flag – Bear – Doctors park and that bumps you out to Harmels, a great resupply point. Then continue on the original route to Pitkin. EDIT: also after star pass you can take on the Deer Creek Trail to Gothic, then Gothic to Mt. CB, Mt, then take Lupine – Gunsight connector – Lower loop into the town of CB.

        • Matt Hubach

          Neil, do you a GPX of that route from CB to Pitkin?

          • Neil Beltchenko
            Neil Beltchenko

            I don’t, but I can easily make one. I may do this section this weekend, or at least a version. I will share a Dropbox link in the next day or so.

          • Thanks! I am starting in Leadville Sat morning…I’ll keep a look out for it.

  2. Awesome! Just changed my weekend to do this. Thanks!!

  3. I would like to cut the top quarter of that off and ride Twin lakes to Aspen, and do the southern route.

  4. A friend and myself are interested in doing this route towards the end of July 2016 and I was just looking at downloading the route over to my Garmin Etrex 20, but when I click on the GPX file it says that it is unavailable. Is there another way I can upload this route? Some other programs I have are Garmin Connect and Basecamp. Thanks!

  5. Highlander

    Cameron, thank you for putting this fantastic loop together! I’m looking forward to riding this with my kids this summer. Are there sections that have ATV traffic? We much prefer to avoid ATVs. Thanks again!

  6. @highlander, there may be a little ATV traffic here and there. Motos will likely be more prevalent near the top of Taylor pass and on various sections. Parts of the route, such as the climb up to the Alpine Tunnel, are open to all types of vehicles. That being said, this route didn’t feel crowded with motorized traffic.

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