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Crested Butte is one of two places in the United States that can claim to be the birthplace of mountain biking.
4x4 roads and historic singletrack trails crisscrossing the beautiful mountains of the Elk Range around Crested Butte provided the perfect proving grounds for cyclists to adapt their bikes for off road travel.
Since the history of mountain biking in Crested Butte is so lengthy, Trail 401 has long been an iconic mountain bike pilgrimage for riders from around the world. While the trail itself is sweet bench cut singletrack, the main draw is the views.
The singletrack clings to the steep mountainside of a narrow valley, passing through high alpine meadows that are filled with wildflowers in the summertime that are higher than your handlebars! The wide-open fields of flowers provide gorgeous vistas of the sharp mountain peaks all around.
Even dropping into the aspen groves in the forest provides a different type of beauty. To access these gorgeous views, the ride begins with a grind up a dirt road--like all good Colorado epics.
But even the views from the road are beautiful as you look up at the peaks soaring high above, and pass by a deep green alpine lake.
Once at the top of Schofield Pass, it's either a stiff pedal or a tough hike-a-bike on the first section of singletrack to the route's high point, depending on your fitness and your drivetrain gearing.
The high point provides expansive views of the valley you'll be riding down, as well as back into the Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness.
And finally, the fun part begins! The singletrack begins its epic descent, with views in every direction and sweet singletrack clinging to the mountainside, flowing down the valley.
Alternating between fields of wildflowers, aspen groves, and eventually dropping into pines lower down, the scenery is always top-notch and is constantly changing. Some sections of the trail drop into sharp switchbacked turns, and others cross washed-out gullies.
The gullies can be challenging and dangerous, with a steep tumble down the mountainside as a consequence, but they're rideable for advanced riders.
If you don't feel comfortable, simply get off and walk those sections.
If you choose to walk the gullies, this trail is easily rideable by an intermediate rider with decent fitness. The lower portion of 401 is still excellent singletrack, but after a few hours of riding it suddenly starts to throw steep, punchy climbs in, which can be tiring if your reserves of energy are already depleted.
This is why some riders choose to bail out at Rustler Gulch.
But if you still have the legs, complete the whole route so you can confidently check it off of your bucket list!