Late season So. Colorado trip.


Sep 7, 2004
Despite rampant reports of the best early season conditions in years, I continued to ignore the boards this weekend and took off for a mini-road trip centered on Mountain Biking. The destination was Durango, with riding to be done at points between and beyond. Summer seems like the time to do the Big, Famous, Epic rides, this unresolved time between Autumn and Winter seems like a perfect time to pick up the lesser known and downright obscure rides.

The weather was definitely unresolved. In fact as I left Denver, the forecast indicated that the safer riding bet was here on the Front Range, while Durango was favored for a winter storm. Whatever, I loaded up and headed out. It was 16 degrees when I left the house that morning.

South Park

And the northern reaches of the Sangre de Christos. Unresolvedness abounds.

The first destination was a place that has intrigued me for years. Penitente Canyon near the town of La Garita, just a bit east of Wolf Creek pass. Two of the more significant events in this area were as follows: About 33 million years ago there was an active (and no doubt exciting) period of Volcanism, which spread around heaps of ash, which hardened into rock, and now fills the canyon with interesting terrain. Also a tiny sect of the Catholic Church named Los Hermanos Penitentes holed up in here and gave the place its name. This area is much better known for rock climbing than camping, but there is a designated Mountain Bike trail, and I figure if the BLM was nice enough to put it in, I’d return the favor and ride it. I had no illusions about this being an epic ride, merely a nice stopover for the journey. The weather, by the way, turned nice.

All in all, it was a perfect way to break up the drive and stretch the legs out. I wouldn't say that there is enough trail here to constitute an MTB destination in its own right.

I had to hop back in the truck and bust over the pass, because the second ride of the day was scheduled to commence soon. Horse Gulch in Durango, specifically the deliciously tasty new trail off of Mike's

A view of the La Platas and Kennebec from the top of Mike's. The weather was back to being mercurial.

Nice stuff, and a good addition to the network of trails already in Horse Gulch.

(...food..beer...much needed rest...)

The next day we headed south, out of Durango and down to Aztec, New Mexico to ride the Alien Run trail. Supposedly back in the fifties a UFO crashed here and the government moved in and cleaned it all up and hauled it away and erased everyone's memories. But that's all by the way because what concens us here today is the existence of a nice little ten mile loop.

Open only to mountain bikes.

This is a fantastic trail. It alternates between twisty, winding-through-rocks sections and exposed slickrock.

Trail blazes for the slickrock sections.

Apparitions. There is, or was a plaque there describing the UFO crash. Someone elected to swipe it though. A dissapointment. Does anyone out there have a picture of it?

There's a rider in there somewhere.

(...more food..a lunch consisting of a burger, two beers and a tequila shot...then a trip to the BMX track...thrilling....then rest)

The next day I found that the new trail in Horse Gulch was calling mee out for a repeat, so off I went.

The Meadow, with the Telegraph Hill climb in the background.

Different conditions on that day. A layer of corn snow, which was still quite frozen (no mud) and amazingly tractionable.

The next morning it was up and out early for the drive back.

Temperature 9 degrees.

I came home to find snow, all of that storm that was supposed to land in Durango but instead had smacked the front range.

The rest of the pics can be found at the bottom of this page: