Pearl Pass

Aspen

Crested Butte

Salida

The iconic 4x4 road ride the helped launch the sport of mountain biking.

Mountain Biking Difficult

Distance
61 km
Ascent
1.6 km
Descent
1.9 km
Duration
5-6 hrs
Low Point
2.4 km
High Point
3.9 km
Gradient
Pearl Pass Map

The Pearl Pass road traverses through the high Rockies of Colorado between the iconic mountain towns of Crested Butte and Aspen, crossing the top of 12,705-foot Pearl Pass along the way. While this rocky road is a gorgeous ride no matter the context, this route is significant as an iconic ride that helped launch the sport of mountain biking in Colorado—and by extension, the world.

Description

In September 1976, a hardy group of cyclists from Crested Butte decided to ride bicycles over the top of Pearl Pass, and into Aspen. Now known as klunkers, these were some of the first so-called mountain bikes.

According to an article from the Crested Butte Pilot, here's what the final descent into Aspen was like all of those years ago: "The descent was nothing but horrifying, rough and rocky," said Starr. "The original drop-outs jumped out of support vehicles at the tip and all 15 rode their klunkers down the pass until just before the pavement at Ashcroft where the brakes were smoking and rear ends were seizing up.”

The ensuing annual event helped motivate local cyclists to work tirelessly to improve their bikes. These technological advancements helped the creation of dedicated mountain bikes move from pipedream to reality.

Mountain bikers are still pedaling across Pearl Pass, and it's now known as the oldest mountain bike event in the world. Over the years, the road has continued to erode, and it's now known as one of the rockiest, gnarliest 4x4 roads in the state. As such, mountain bikes are still the preferred mode of human-powered transport through this wild and secluded area.

Sources: https://mmbhof.org/mtn-bike-hall-of-fame/history/pearl-pass-tour/ http://cbklunkers.com/

Difficulty

Difficult

Mostly stable trail tread with some variability featuring larger and more unavoidable obstacles that may include, but not be limited to: bigger stones, roots, steps, and narrow curves. Compared to lower intermediate, technical difficulty is more advanced and grades of slopes are steeper. Ideal for upper intermediate riders.

Medium Exposure

2 out of 4

The trail contains some obstacles such as outcroppings and rock which could cause injury.

Remoteness

3 out of 4

Little chance of being seen or helped in case of an accident.

Best time to visit

July, August, September

Features

  • Technical
  • Road sections
  • Rock Gardens

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area