Colorado Trail - Molas to Durango

This is an absolute classic alpine ride along the Colorado Trail between the San Juan and La Plata Mountains. From on pass to the next through meadows of flowers, this route offers huge views in all directions, techy climbs, and long descents. Enjoy it as a BIG day ride or a more relaxed bikepack over a few days.

silverton, CO

Núu-agha-tʉvʉ-pʉ̱ (Ute) and Pueblos land

10,000

ELEVATION GAIN

summer/
fall

riding season

1-3

days out

8

PHYSICAL challenge (1-10*)

?

women's FKT

71

miles

8

TECHNICAL challenge (1-10*)

?

men's FKT

Stewarded by the Colorado Trail Foundation

Managed by the San Juan National Forest

* Following the bikepacking Roots rating scale

route map and download

Disclaimer: This route and associated information is just a starting point for your preparation, and your safety is your own responsibility. Although this route, its GPS track and waypoints, route data, and the route guide were prepared after extensive research, their accuracy and reliability are not guaranteed. Check for current conditions, route updates, detours, use common sense, obey local laws and regulations, and travel with alternative means of navigation. The Backcountry Bike Challenge and its creators and contributors will in no way be responsible for personal injury or damage to personal property arising in conjunction with following this route or utilizing any of the route resources provided on this website or via RWGPS.

General route description

When asked what section of the Colorado Trail is most worth riding, most riders would say this is the one due to how many miles are up above treeline, amongst meadows bursting with flowers, and negotiating ridge crests and passes. There’s quite a bit of hike-a-bike along the way for most riders, but never for too long at a time. And the good sections of trail are really good.

The preferred riding direction for this route is southbound, starting where the Colorado Trail crosses Molas Pass a few miles south of Silverton. From there, the trail climbs and meanders below a series of peaks and over a few stunning passes well above 12,000 feet in elevation at the southwestern edge of the San Juan Mountains. South of Blackhawk Pass, the trail follows a long drainage divide to reach the isolated La Plata Mountains. The rocky, exposed traverse across and down from Indian Trail Ridge is a highlight for most riders. And from there, an easy hop over Kennebec Pass leads to 6,000 feet of descending to the southern terminus of the Colorado Trail on the outskirts of Durango.

Photos by Kurt Refsnider

additional route information

  • Water is relatively abundant on this route with the exception of the ~30 miles north of Indian Trail Ridge. Of course, earlier in summer, water can be more abundant, and in particularly dry years, many streams may dry up if the monsoon is weak.
  • All surface water should be treated.
  • No services are available along this route. Silverton, just to the north, and Durango offer all services.
  • Virtually the entirety of this route is on public lands
  • Scenic dispersed camping opportunities can be found frequently along the route. Given the popularity of the Colorado Trail, please try to camp in already impacted areas.
  • None of note for this route
  • Be particularly wary of afternoon thunderstorms. These convective storms often are quite electric, and lightning strikes are very common, and fatalities due to lightning strikes can happen. Take this risk very seriously. Plan to be down below treeline by noon at the latest on days when storms are building.
  • This is a relatively remote route, and there are limited vehicle access points. Help is not going to arrive quickly if anything goes wrong.
  • At 11,000-13,000 feet above sea level, this route is high. If coming from elevations below 5,000 feet, riders should spend at least a few days acclimating to the altitude before embarking on this route.
  • When traveling in the alpine (at or above treeline) please be incredibly conscious of your impact by foot or bike. Stay ON the trail. Do not walk, ride, or push your bike off trail or along the side of the trail. When pushing your bike, keep feet and wheels within the tread. The alpine tundra ecosystem is incredibly fragile.

  • Bikes yield to all other users, and always yield to uphill bike traffic when descending.

  • When does the route melt off in early summer? Check out this map to keep an eye on the snowpack and the Colorado Trail Foundations regular snow updates on their Facebook page.
  • The Colorado Trail Foundation’s resources, including their trail handbook and mobile app are excellent resources for the western side of this loop
  • The route can be raced in either direction, although southbound is the highly preferred direction.
  • You must ride 100% of the route in accordance with the FKT rules.

your rides on this route

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