Del Norte is home to a very diverse climate, with everything from high alpine trails above treeline to low-desert, and everything in between. For more on Del Norte’s geography and what the local scene is like, be sure to read my Del Norte overview.
But what if you just want to show up in Del Norte and ride? Here are the 5 trails that you must hit while you’re in town.
The Middle Frisco Creek trail is a stiff 6.5-mile 2,500-foot climb from 9,500 feet up to a high alpine lake resting just above tree line at 12,000 feet. It takes some serious effort to get up there, but the views of the wildflowers, deep forests, majestic peaks, and mountain meadows will make you forget your pain. Also, you’ll know that since it’s an out-and-back, every pedal stroke or step you take means more delicious high-speed descending!
This trail is still on my wishlist, but by all accounts it’s a must-ride! There are reportedly a variety of ways to gain the Divide and then to descend off of it, both down towards Pagosa Springs or down towards South Fork / Del Norte. While this ride is admittedly a bit of a drive from Del Norte, if there’s less snow the next time I visit, this is the first trail I’m riding.
Located about half an hour north of Del Norte, Penitente is the most complex and expansive trail system in the region. While the first two trails on the list offer great high alpine riding, the remainder are low country desert riding. And this trail system is the pinnacle of desert mountain biking in the region: expect to encounter plenty of rock ledges, twisty singletrack, rock gardens, cacti, and the occasional rattlesnake or two. At this time signage at Penitente leaves much to be desired, but one of the BLM/VOC’s main goals for the year is getting this system well-signed and mapped.
Whether or not Stone Quarry is a “must ride” might depend on what you’re looking for in a mountain bike trail. I would characterize it as an early intermediate introduction to technical desert riding. Nothing here is really that difficult, but there’s plenty of chunk to keep even advanced riders entertained at the very least. But if you’re a newer rider or not very technically proficient? This area could pose a real but approachable challenge.
This purpose-built trail is very reminiscent of the easier intermediate trails that have been built in Moab in recent years–and that’s a big compliment to the folks here in Del Norte who’ve been investing in Stone Quarry. More mileage is planned, so keep an eye on this place as it continues to grow.
Be forewarned: Bishop’s Rock is the exact opposite of Stone Quarry. This is an advanced-to-expert mountain biker’s technical playground. Without a single designated trail that you must follow, this 40-acre rock dome is full of incredible natural features to explore! Want to learn more? Be sure to read my detailed report on Bishop’s Rock.