If you’ve never experienced the joy of rushing headlong through handlebar and head high flowers, then you need to ride 401. The downhill can get so thick that the plants keep you centered on the trail like a bobsled run. Wahoo!
There are a couple of ways to do 401. The most popular way is to ride north out of town on Gothic Road toward Mount Crested Butte, checking the clouds as you do. Ride out past the ski area, past Snodgrass, down past the town of Gothic and continue out Gothic Road into the beauty of Scofield, Avery, Baldy and Bellview. (The bike path starting on the east end of Teocalli Avenue is a great way to get up to the ski area and avoid the traffic on Gothic Road.) The climb up past Emerald Lake is a joy and the snow plug across the road is hopefully long gone. At the top of Scofield Pass, a newly rerouted climb is on the right. This new section was completed last year thanks to efforts of the Crested Butte Mountain Bike Association. It climbs much easier than the old route, so enjoy.
The trail eventually breaks out of the trees and continues to climb up to an intersection. At the intersection, the trail left goes into wilderness area and joins the trail to West Maroon Pass.
The ride continues right on the singletrack after you’ve taken in one of the more extraordinary views anywhere around here. The first part of the downhill has gotten a bit rutted and watch out for hikers coming up from Rustler’s Gulch. With the warnings aside, this is the part that makes you glad you’re a biker. This is Botany 101 at its’ best. The downhill is buffed, packed, and fast. It’s worth doing as many times in a week as your legs can handle it. Careful on some of the switchbacks, the water bars can be kinda’ slick and are strategically placed for extra excitement.
By the time you get down to the doubletrack at Rustler’s Gulch, you’ve probably stopped several times to pick the leaves out of your brakes and the bugs out of your teeth. Turn right down the rough road and ride down a couple of switchbacks. At the bottom is a sign for Trail 401 to continue to the left.
If you’ve had enough, or the weather is chasing you, you can stay on the road, cross a creek and ride out to Gothic road where left takes you home. Otherwise take the singletrack, ride over the creek on the bridge (if you dare) and continue on your botanical tour. Climb up, cross a creek, and roll through the woods to Avery Campground Road.
Here’s another out if you need it. Right takes you down the road, through Avery Campground (now a picnic area) and back out onto Gothic Road. Again, left on Gothic Road takes you home. Back where the singletrack comes out, if you take a left and climb shortly up Avery Road, after several switchbacks, you’ll come to a singletrack on the right. Take this down to the final road crossing at Judd Falls trail. Right takes you down to the Judd Falls parking lot and Gothic Road. Left on Gothic and one last climb out of the Gothic valley brings you back into “Condoland”.
The other way to do 401 is to do it as an out-and-back on the singletrack. Start at any of the three road crossings: Judd Falls, Avery Campground or Rustler’s Gulch; and ride up the trail to the top. Turn around and blast it back down.
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