Stage 13: Strand Hill Trails

We woke for another delicious breakfast at the Elk Mountain Lodge and fueled up for another day of riding. Still achy from the 401, we decided to do a shorter loop that wouldn’t require as much climbing, and decided to ride the Strand Hill trails, just west of downtown. There were several shorter trails that we could connect to make a ride however long we wanted. Also, the Strand Hill Trail itself was reputed to have one of the best descents in Crested Butte. We headed out of town...

and picked up the singletrack paralleling hwy 135, then picked up Brush Creek road. The road soon turned to dirt, but didn’t climb to the sky as steeply as Gothic had yesterday. We followed this road all the way up the side of Strand Hill until it turned into a jeep trail,

then split off on a steep, downhill piece of singletrack to a creek crossing. We shouldered our bikes and forded the shin-deep, freezing cold water to reach the trail on the other side.

We descended the Strand Hill Bonus trail for about 3 miles, through a tricky little rock section,

And down to the bottom of the Strand Hill trail itself. The hilltop at the crest of this trail was supposed to have a nice view of the surrounding mountains, and we would have climbed straight up it. Fortunately, we ran into a fellow rider at the bottom who advised us to continue on the Bonus trail and take a left on a forest doubletrack rather than ride up Strand. We heeded his advice, and even though the doubletrack turned out to be a mile-long slog over baseball-sized rolling rocks that my beat-to-death legs just couldn’t handle, the descent of Strand Hill was one of the best downhills I have ever ridden and was worth every second of suffering on the climb. Strand was fast, smooth, with naturally bermed corners formed of perfect hardpack, punctuated with occasional rooty sections or rock drops to keep you on your toes. The trail tightened up near the bottom, threw in a couple of quick switchbacks in between pump bumps and point-and-shoot rock sections where all you could do was point it straight, feather the brakes and hope for the best. Great fun. From the bottom of Strand Hill, we cruised ever downward on the Canal trail, a smooth, easy section that humped up and down over the hillside rollers on the way back down to the dirt road, and home. This ride was a good 2 hours shorter than our 5-hour day on 401, but didn’t allow for much of a recovery.

Back in Crested Butte, we were ready for another late lunch/early dinner and walked to Teocalli Tamale for Mexican food and Margaritas. After a pitcher of margs, an enchilada plate for India and some delicious fish tacos for me, we cruised the strip in search of postcards, and found some good ones at the Crested Butte Mountain Museum and Mountain Bike Hall of Fame. We decided to save the $3 entry fee into the museum for another trip, but came away with some good postcards. We walked down to the dirt jumps to see if anyone was riding. I really wanted to see someone airing out the big doubles on their BMX or mountain bike. The jumps were empty, but we had a good chunk of daylight left so we trekked back across town to the hotel and grabbed our bikes and lowered our saddles for a little session on the pump track. It didn’t take too long before our legs and lungs were howling for mercy, and by then the sun was starting to set. I aired out the jumps one last time for the crew of local kids that showed up, then we rolled back to the hotel for some well-deserved rest before our drive the next morning.

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