An impromptu opportunity to visit my brother in Crested Butte arose, and of course I had to take it! I’ve unabashedly claimed that Crested Butte is my favorite place of all time… but it had been 3 years since I’d been there. Still, doing a quick visit to CB isn’t without its difficulties: if you only have time for one serious ride, how the heck do you choose from the dozens of options?!
We began by eliminating all of the trails that I’d ridden on my previous two visits to CB, but that still left us with a mind-blowing array of options. However, I had a couple on my mind that I really wanted to investigate: Teocalli Ridge and Doctor’s Park.
We met up with Neil and Lindsay of Bikepackersmagazine.com for pizza the night before, and decided to get Neil’s expert local opinion, especially since he was planning on riding with us. “I’ve only ridden it once, but Teocalli Ridge is my favorite trail ever! We have to do it,” Neil insisted.
While there are so many trails in Crested Butte that Neil could be forgiven for having ridden some only once, with the number of miles that he puts on his mountain bike, that’s not very likely. (Check out his Vapor Trail 125 and Arizona Trail 300 race reports for a small idea of what this guy can do.) However, Teocalli Ridge had been closed for the past 3 years for trail renovations and reroutes by the USFS, and had only just reopened a few weeks earlier. So, over some delicious grub and beer at The Secret Stash, we planned our rendezvous for the morning.
The next morning my brother AJ, Neil, and I rolled out and began the ascent up the 4×4 road to Teocalli Ridge. While Teocalli is renowned for the fantastic downhill back off the ridge, gaining the top is in no way easy. We began to climb… and we climb, climb, climbed until we reached the singletrack… and then we hiked/pedaled/hiked as we climbed some more. While we ended up climbing from a starting elevation of 9,000 feet to our top elevation of 11,300 feet (a net gain of 2,300ft) in just 7 miles, the fantastic views surrounding us on all sides kept our minds off the pain.
At least, the views helped to distract AJ and I… we’d often round a corner to see Neil chilling out waiting for us, camera at the ready to snap some pictures:
Eventually we gained the top of the ridge, and were rewarded for all of our effort with some of the most breathtaking views I’ve seen in Crested Butte! Of course, there are DSLR-worthy panoramas everywhere you turn in this area, but the views from the top of the ridge were truly spectacular:
After a break to eat and enjoy our surroundings, it was finally time to go down! I had been humping my big AM rig up the mountain all this way, and now it was finally going to pay off.
The top of the descent on Teocalli Ridge is what enduro dreams are made of: wide, relatively straight singletrack dug out by motos complete with small cliffs scattered all down the trail with perfect sight lines to allow you to launch at will, without a care in the world! Drop after rock garden after drop, the gnar descended rapidly down the mountain, losing elevation at an astonishing rate. As the trail began to get more and more eroded, I noticed signs of heavy trail maintenance, and then the singletrack veered off onto a brand-new reroute.
The newly rerouted singletrack was smooth and flowy, undulating down the mountain with very sustainable grade reversals, switchbacks, and wonderfully-banked turns located on the tops of cliffs. While I could have blasted through this section all enduro-like, I relished the break from racing, and just enjoyed the coast down the mountainside as the forest switched from pine to aspen, and then gave way to high alpine meadows.
The brand-new singletrack rolled and swooped and switchbacked its way down, eventually ending with a high-speed finish to the dirt road. When I reached the bottom, I realized why Teocalli Ridge had been closed for 3 years: about 75% of the descent had been rerouted onto brand-new singletrack, with some of the turns and berms looking painfully difficult to construct. However, the wait seemed to be worth it, as I looked back up the mountain and relished the past 15 minutes of descending bliss!
Once we regrouped at the bottom, we decided to tack on some additional singletrack fun in the Strand Hill area. Neil led us onto a few little-used connector trails, with one so narrow and exposed, with an out-sloped track 40 feet above a rushing river, that I was pedaling oh-so-gingerly along for fear of losing traction.
Our next connector trail led into a thigh-deep river crossing about 20 feet wide, a slick, muddy climb, and then a flowy singletrack descent to a second thigh-deep stream crossing to end our glorious morning in the mountains.
While at the end of the ride we’d not even logged 19 miles, the steep climbs, world class views, endless descents, exposure, rushing mountain rivers, and absolute solitude made this ride so much more epic than the stats bely!
The next time you’re in Crested Butte, make sure that Teocalli Ridge is on your to-do list.