Bikepacking the Colorado Trail by Train

Follow two riders as they hop on a historic narrow gauge train, to bikepack 80 miles of the best high altitude singletrack in Colorado. Right now the area is covered under several feet of snow, but it’s not too early to get inspired. To do the same weekend-friendly trip, check out our Trail Notes below for this segment of the Colorado Trail.

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Diamondback’s Eric Porter planned a unique adventure to bike the famous Colorado Trail from Silverton to Durango – a burly 80 mile bikepack across several mountain passes at some serious elevation. To get to the trailhead, they commuted on the historic Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge train. With a crew consisting of Jess Pedersen, Mason Mashon (filmmaker), and Ben Gavelda (photographer), the foursome was eager to spend their days cruising through long autumn shadows, colorful leaves and views. Right now the trail is covered in several feet of snow, but come mid summer you could ride part or all of it as well. Check out their video for a little inspiration. Happy trails!

“I recommend this trip for anyone who’s into being out in the backcountry, and likes backpacking, but also likes biking. It’s a great way to get out, see the terrain and move faster…” – Jess Pedersen

  • Bikepacking The Colorado Trail By Train
  • Bikepacking The Colorado Trail By Train
  • Bikepacking The Colorado Trail By Train
  • Bikepacking The Colorado Trail By Train
  • Bikepacking The Colorado Trail By Train

Riders: Eric Porter and Jess Pedersen
Photography by Ben Gavelda, courtesy of Diamondback
Filmmaker: Mason Mashon
Editor: Radek Drozdowicz
Check out the full digital feature at Bike Magazine

Trail Notes

Interested in doing the final 78-mile Colorado Trail segment featured in this film? Molas Pass to Durango is some of the very best bikepacking on the CT – and Colorado, for that matter. Some individuals ride this stretch in 15 long hours. But splitting it into 2 or even 3 nights means you can stop and enjoy the views. The terrain in the San Juans is a deliciously lush, craggy, rooty and rocky melange, interspersed with verdant meadows rolling far above timberline. Views into the deepest folds of the La Plata Mountains, a subrange of the San Juans, are as bold as anywhere in the world, streaked and saturated with mineral deposits, and scarred with babyhead strewn scree slopes. The climbs are protracted and test the mettle of even the hardiest riders. The descents – endlessly long and loping – could well inhabit a timewarp of their own. This is bikepacking at its very best; recent trail work means conditions are better than ever, with only short sections of hike ‘n biking required.

  • The total elevation gain of this section is about 8,500 feet (2,591 meters).
  • Camping opportunities are excellent, and water points abound.
  • With elevations topping 13,271ft, this is a challenging, summer ride only.
  • Watch out for rain and thunderstorms come the monsoon season; pack a full complement of rainproofs and layers for whatever time of the year you’re in the San Juans.
  • Logistically, it’s easiest to shuttle out to Molas Pass Road, an hour’s drive from Durango, and ride back from there. Hermosa Tours offers a shuttle for $30 (minimum 3 people).
  • The historic Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge, which will drop you in Silverton, just 13 miles north of Molas Pass for an alternative start point. It costs $104 per person.
  • When you roll into Durango, be sure to hang out at Bread, the best bakery in town and a magnet for local riders.
  • View the full Colorado Trail route and GPS Map.
  • Jon B

    It is March now and I’m pulling a group of guys together to do this exact ride in August. We are novice riders at best but do have the option to make it a 3 night trip. Do you think this would be enough time for us to get the ride done and be able to enjoy it? It’s hard for me to gauge how much time to allot since you guys are pros BUT did slow down for filming purposes. Any guidance would be appreciated!

  • Jon, check out the Pace Chart in our Bikepacking 101 section: … I’d say it’s an accurate gauge; although there is a tolerance factor that comes in to play. Considering this is in the singletrack variety, and the days will be long in August, I’d say 26 miles a day is doable, especially considering the latter 23 miles is [mostly] downhill. That said, it’s still 2,800′ of climbing per day, at high elevations. And if you catch a bad weather event, that could dampen the progress. I’d recommend doing a couple overnighters in advance, just to get the legs worked up. Or at the least, some higher elevation trail riding. Also, if you did make it a 3-nighter, and could get 3.5 days of riding, that would add some buffer.

  • Jon B

    Any chance there is a packing list available for this trip? I saw on another site they stashed supplies 50 miles in.

  • cameron

    First off epic video guys this alone has inspired me to do my first bikepacking trip. Four of us plan on heading out July 10th -12th for this same route. Will this be a passable time to go? Ive read early June is doable some years but we got some late storms this winter and everyone Ive talked to so far has a different opinion. Any help would be greatly appreciated love your site keep up the good work.

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