May 17, 2015
While visiting my folks last week I had my Dad take me out to the far southern TH and rode the whole trail all the way back to Cloudcroft.
Here's my Strava link in case anyone wants the map of that:
Southern end is no fun to ride at all. Its an old road covered in rocks that climbs straight up and down a series of higher ridges. No switchbacks, no flow, hike-a-bike uphill and rock surf downhill. Does have the best views and a remote feeling, but I can't recommend that anyone should ever go expect a fun ride on that end. Took me three hours to get through that first 11 miles.
Trail slowly gets better as you get closer to Cloudcroft. The section near Sunspot Observatory had some grassy meadows and at least contained more actual singletrack. Still an extremely loose and rocky section for the most part. I was riding my 6" trail bike Yeti SB-66C and that is the main reason the downhills were still pretty fun. I would have hated it on my cross country bike.... just too loose and rocky to ride fast (for me at least) on a bike like that. At least I could plow through that stuff on my Yeti.
Final 8-ish miles to Cloudcroft are really fun trail! I was pretty worked and could not enjoy it quite as much as I wanted, but I would love to go back and ride this part fresh. Trail was MUCH more flowy and fun in this section. Still rocky in places but nothing like the constant rock-surfing battle of the miles before.
So I do highly recommend the Northern End. My 4-star rating is for North only. Only ride the southern end if you hate yourself.
Entire trail took 7 hours 15 minutes with 6800' climbing over 31 miles.
Sargeants Mesa section of Colorado Trail on the Southen End.