The route described here is just over twenty miles long and can be ridden in three to four hours, making a nice half day ride. It is well marked, so donít worry about getting lost. There are no extreme challenges so any reasonably competent single-track rider should enjoy it. The loop features an easy road ride uphill, feeding into miles of single-track, and finishes with a fast, somewhat steep downhill. You can make it longer by riding from town or adding in other segments that are close by. As with most Crested Butte Trails, avoid this area if it is wet. The trails will appreciate it and your body will appreciate it,.
From the Deadman Gulch trailhead, head up the valley on Cement Creek Road (740). After a few miles you come to the intersection for Italian Creek Road (759). Take a right on 759 and head uphill. Now you start the real climbing. This is a steady uphill that, after a few miles, will crest at the top of the Reno Divide. Look for the obvious sign marking the top of Flag Creek Trail (422), your first downhill. This is a nice, easy ride down a mellow valley for a few miles. Keep in mind that this is a shared use trail, which means motorcycles, which means occasional whoop-dee-doos and ruts that, if you arenít paying attention, can send you sailing. Pay attention.
On the right you will see the start of the Bear Creek Trail (415). Remember all that altitude you just gave up on Flag Creek Trail? Well now you get to gain it back. Cross the creek and start pedaling uphill. After a couple miles you will come to a dirt road. Important! If you cross the road and keep going up the (now very steep) trail you will end up on the top of Reno Divide. That is a fine ride, but you will miss out on the best single-track in this loop, the downhill portion of Bear Creek Trail. Go left (south) and follow the road for three quarters of a mile. There you will see a sign for the remainder of Bear Creek Trail. Take a right and cruise down into a wide open meadow. As the valley narrows you will go thru a fence line. Wahoo! This is what you have been waiting for. A fast downhill, winding down the valley, with swoopy rolling turns. Part way down you will realize this is why you coughed up the extra dollars for a full suspension bike with disc brakes. It is over way too soon, but is way fun.
Just before you cheek muscles start to ache from all the grinning you will encounter the Deadman Gulch Trail (420). Guess what. You get to ride uphill again! Take a right and follow the trail to the crest of Reno Ridge. The last quarter mile will get your heart pounding. On the crest you will see the Reno Ridge Trail come in from the right. Think about trying it the next time you come out.
After your heart has quit pounding check your brakes ñ you are going to need them. The ride back to the trailhead is a series of fairly steep long switchbacks, dropping about 1200 vertical feet in a bit over a mile. By the time you get to the bottom your arms will probably be tired and your brakes will definitely be hot. This is the only section of the ride that may be trying for a neophyte single-track rider, especially if the trail is wet and slick.