While technically part of the Colorado Trail, the section from CO Highway 285 to Georgia Pass is commonly referred to simply as the Kenosha Pass Trail, and is typically ridden as an out and back. It features 24 miles of signature Colorado Singletrack and includes roots, rocks, creek crossings, stunning scenery, a long, death march climb going in, some fast, twisty downhill and a steep, soul crushing climb on the way back out. Add in the likelihood of rain or hail, the chance to see some fall foliage, and the fact that there are no feasible bailout points, and it has everything required for an epic day on the bike.
There are a couple of moderately technical rocky sections, with the rest of the trail being totally rideable; the main challenge here is the altitude and sustained climbing. Total climbing is around 4,000 feet, and almost all of the trail is above 10,000 feet elevation, only dropping to 9,800 for about 2 miles. As an out and back, beginners can have a go at it and just turn around when they run out of steam. Solid intermediate or expert riders should have no problem making it all the way to Georgia Pass.
Navigation is easy: when you come to a fireroad, cross it, and there are only three trail intersections. In each case, make the turn that keeps you on the Colorado Trail and leads to Georgia Pass. All three intersections are well marked. Two of them are close together and about one third of the way in, the last is almost at the top, withinsightof the Pass.
Once at the top, put on a jacket, take some photos, eat some snacks and then decide how you want to descend. You can retrace your steps, or take a left at the intersection and come down Jefferson Creek Trail. Jefferson starts out as extremely narrow singletrack across an alpine meadow, some of it with stone blocks placed similarly to trails in the UK. Once you drop into the trees, it is rooty, rocky, and has some tight switchbacks. The terrain from here to where it rejoins the main trail sort of reminds me of Golden Gate Canyon. Personally, I prefer coming down the main trail, but Jefferson is fun and should be tried at least once.
From Denver, take CO Highway 285 to Kenosha Pass. There’s a sign on the right, and parking on both sides of the highway. There is a bathroom across the highway about a quarter mile in on the dirt road. The bathroom just in from the trailhead is technically for the campground residents, not for day use.
What to bring
Plan on 3 – 5 hours in the saddle, and count on the weather changing dramatically. You will want warm clothing, lots of water and enough food to keep you going over extensive climbing at high altitude. With all the roots and rocks, bring flat repair stuff as well as tools and miscellaneous items for common trailside repairs.
Cell service in this area is very spotty, so tell someone where you are going! Ride smart, pay attention, and know your limits. A Flight for Life helicopter ride is expensive, and they leave your bike by the side of the trail.
The Kenosha Pass section of the Colorado trail is long, rugged and beautiful. If it’s on your wishlist, now is the time to ride it before the snow sets in next month!