Analysing terrain data
The exposure grade describes the potential consequences of falling or slipping off the path.
Low Exposure: The path is on completely flat land and potential injury is limited to falling over.
Medium Exposure: The trail contains some obstacles such as outcroppings and rock which could cause injury.
High Exposure: Some trail sections have exposed ledges or steep ascents/descents where falling could cause serious injury.
Extreme Exposure: Some trail sections are extremely exposed where falling will almost certainly result in serious injury or death.
The Colorado Trail (COT) is widely regarded as one of the very best long distance mountain bike trails in the world.
Running for 535 miles between Denver and Durango, the trail crosses high alpine mountain passes and drops into beautiful valleys as it traverses the most beautiful portions of the state of Colorado.
The COT forms one third of the Triple Crown of Bikepacking, along with the Arizona Trail and the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. The Searle and Kokomo Pass section of the COT is arguably one of the most scenic and enjoyable sections.
Of course, like the rest of the Colorado Trail, in no way is it easy: a long climb from either direction greets the rider, almost guaranteeing a hike-a-bike.
That hike-a-bike pays off with a ripping descent, whether you’re descending to Camp Hale or to Copper.
Rock gardens litter both descents, but no massive obstacles will require advanced-level skills to negotiate. What makes this segment so spectacular is the high alpine stretch of trail between Searle Pass and Kokomo Pass.
Both passes lie above treeline, with several miles of high alpine singletrack separating them.
Including the climb up to the top, the section between the passes, and the descent to treeline, riders can expect to spend several hours riding stunningly-beautiful above-treeline singletrack.
In a state like Colorado that boasts so much alpine terrain above treeline, it’s still relatively rare for a mountain bike ride to break out of the trees and then stay there for a decent length of time.
Rather, if the singletrack does climb above treeline, it usually crosses a pass and descends back into the trees quickly.
The Searle Pass/Kokomo Pass section of trail, in comparison, spends a very long time above the trees—an absolute treat! Of course, this means that caution must be given to the weather.
Start your climb early, and plan to be back below treeline before noon.