Trail Tuesday: Strand Hill, Crested Butte, CO

This is the final installment in my series of ride reports from my vacation to Colorado during the first week of August, 2011. By the time this blog post goes live, it will probably be December. Man, how time flies.

In case you’ve missed them, you can check out my other ride reports here:

Strand Hill

We walked into a local bike shop at the beginning of our stay in Crested Butte and Strand Hill was one of the trails that all of the locals recommended. Most of their other recommendos were already on my hit list, but Strand Hill was something of a surprise.

On a map, this trail doesn’t really look like much. By the numbers, compared to all of our other rides, it wasn’t much either: it ended up being about 8 miles round trip (2-3 of those being gravel road miles) with only 1 hour of total ride time. In reality, though, it was the best way to end an already stellar mountain biking vacation!

The lead up to the actual Strand Hill loop was about a mile of gravel road grinding from the trailhead. After scaling a rickety fence crossing, the climbing began in earnest: straight up a rocky, rutted gravel road. The road ran out in a field with the sunlight burning down through the thin atmosphere: we could almost feel our increased proximity to the sun.

Eventually, the road led into the trees, but it kept on climbing.

Climbing up the washed-out road.

While the climb was steep and anaerobic, it ended much sooner than some of the long alpine climbs we had already ridden that week. Still, it was a welcome relief to drop into some smooth singletrack!

Dropping in to the Strand Hill trail.

This trail was such a fitting end to our long week of fat-tired bliss as it was simply one of the best little downhills that we rode in Crested Butte… and consequently it’s one of the best little downhills I’ve ridden in my entire life!

The trail is swoopy up top with beautiful turns sculpted over the years by thousands of tires. The dirt is amazingly tacky, refusing to let your wheels drift out.

As the trail descends Strand Hill the grade steepens, and the trail gets rockier and rootier with a few small drops thrown in. The turns stay wonderfully swoopy, and the added gnar only heightens the brake-burning bliss!

At the bottom of the Strand Hill trail there is a junction providing a number of different options. We elected to jump on the Canal Trail, and it proved to be a good choice as the flowy descent just kept going! The Canal trail was noticeably flatter and smoother, but it was still a delightful ride back down to the gravel road. A little more gravel grinding, and we were back at the truck.

Yeah, Strand Hill wasn’t a very serious ride: it wasn’t very long, and the descent was not exceedingly challenging or extended. But the upshot is, even if you’re a relative beginner and are willing to brave the initial climb, this ride is guaranteed to put a smile on your face! And even if you’re a grizzled master of the singletrack, the beautiful flow of Strand Hill will make this little out-of-the-way trail so worth your while. Strand Hill is a classic!

Your turn: Have you ever ridden a trail that truly shines despite its short length? What is it?

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