I have been taking a 1 week summer mountain biking vacation for the last 7 years or so with a group of friends from Asheville, NC and Hood River, OR. We seem to have become fixated on Colorado, and this year was no different as we ended up in Breckenridge for the second time. It is a gorgeous place (what place isn’t when you are on vacation?) and other than a couple of breathless days of altitude acclimation it was a great time. Breckenridge started as a mining town, but is now a national class ski resort that just happens to have one of the best trail systems in the nation, including a big helping of the Colorado Trail. The first two days we got hailed/rained off the mountains early in the afternoon, but quickly learned our lesson and got the “musicians” in our group out of bed early and rolling by mid morning. We rode all 7 days we were there; every day was great (even the rainy/haily ones) but there were a couple of standouts (for wildly different reasons).
The most epic loop (Wagon Trail – Wheeler – Miners – Peaks) was one that started right at our front door (10,800′ above sea level) and quickly went up a jeep road (The Wagon Trail) to 12,500′. It looked like a relatively moderate loop ride on the map and had been recommended by a number of locals. Fortunately we got an early start; unfortunately, we didn’t do the best job of initial route finding and wandered across the face of the mountain for an extra hour or so. The Wagon Trail goes from a fairly steep dirt road, to a pretty steep 2 track, to a heinously steep, boulder strewn jeep track, before finally meeting up with the Wheeler Trail. After that, the Wheeler Trail turned into a sketchy traverse along a rocky scree field which pushed us over the spine of the 4 mountains that make up the ski area. Of course at this point the weather started to look more ominous, with dark clouds moving in and thunder sounding. This ride could have turned into a REALLY nasty epic with some showers and lightning, but we were spared a made dash off the mountain and the weather remained hospitable for the rest of the ride. After a brake burning, nasty descent down the second half of Wheeler (towards Copper Mtn) we got on Miners Trail (which is also part of the Colorado Trail). Finally, the part of the ride that seemed to have the most potential for fun riding – NOT. This turned into a 1.5 hour hike a bike up and along a very steep, boulder strewn trail and when we could ride it was for approximately 30 feet before being forced to dismount and push my bike. At this point my bike was becoming more of an anchor than an enjoyable recreation tool – I considered pitching it over the edge into a scree bowl – I thought, “hey, maybe the marmots could use it?” I was also starting to use a lot of foul language and the mood in the group was going the way of bad episode of Survivor. At some piont – I can’t say exactly where on Miners Trail, we got to easier descending, the boulders become smaller and more widely spread out, we stopped for some food (very smart idea) and actually saw some marmots and big eared field mice. After that, the rest of Miners Trail and Peaks Trail were a wonderful roller coaster of swooping descents, aspen groves and pleasant cruising next to old mining dikes. It’s funny how just a little bit of great riding can make a whole day worthwhile! What was planned as a 3 hour loop turned into 5.5 hours and 4,000′ of climbing (all in just 32 miles).
The other ride that was less epic but equally breath taking was a shuttle ride. We paid a shuttle company to take the 7 of us from Breckenridge to Kenosha Pass (about 1.5 hour drive) and then we rode the Colorado Trail back to Breck. Although, by my one sentence description you might think we simply clicked into our pedals and coasted for hours – this is very far from the truth. From the Kenosha Pass, the trail did initially descend for a few miles, but after that we had a 6 mile slog up to Georgia Pass, another exhilarating descent that got steeper and rockier as we got closer to the Blue River valley and finally some easier dirt road riding back into Breck. All in all, the best route of the week and the most fun!
Finally, there is a lot of wild life in Breck (not just at the bars). We saw a fox regularly in our back yard – she seemed to like the little grey squirrels that populated all the nearby pines. We also had a black bear come in the garage and help himself to the trash.