Steamboat Springs: Finding trails at Emerald Mountain
I didn't get many pictures, camera+dead battery=no success. But I used my iPhone for a lot of footage. Here's a quick summary of what I covered while riding Emerald Mountain at Steamboat Springs, Colorado.
Below is what my gps mapped out. I had some issues with it on this go around. So you'll notice that the data isn't quite right. But hopefully it is useful.
I wish that I had taken a picture of the trailhead location. It's a little ridiculous. But once you find it you're good to go, until you start thinking that you're on a fire/service road ride. Soon, with some patience, it become nearly dedicated single track in a variety of environments. You start by arriving at the baseball fields, near the rodeo grounds and skate park. Then you be looking up the mountain between 2 pairs of baseball diamonds. It's a dirt road with a trail head layout. There's a map. Study well. Maybe take a picture and bring your device along. Head up that there road and stay on it when it climbs to the left. You'll see a single track bail to the right.
Once on that trail I was just happy go lucky and somehow met up with Lupine, having been looking for it because the map indicated that it would take you to the top... Well, My experience was different. Like the video says, I picked up Lupine, followed it to Larry's, MGM, at the top of which there is a spring piped up with 2" PVC, I wouldn't drink it but used it to cool my noggin. Here is where the trail splits, again, and, as usual. Facing uphill, the left quickly takes you to a road, take a right there. The right from the spring takes more single track to the same road as the left. At the road, hang a right. It was up that road that I met with Blair Witch and we danced for a while, she's on the left.
The trails are really buffed, well-manicured. I was impressed at how smooth and flowy they were. The one problem, nothing is really well marked (read the note at the bottom of the page, The signage is on the WAY!! Yay!)
Riding across Blair Witch was really pretty cool. You can see how much the locals care about good trail maintenance. There was a spot with super-wet ground that would normally be a pain in the rump of mud, but instead there were these burly planks lined up to lead you across. Really cool!
As I climbed up Blair Witch there was another trail junction on the uphill side of the trail, Quarry Mountain, so, being the backcountry skier that I am with my point and shoot ways, I went up. This trail is spectacular! It gets you out of the oak and scrub oak and deserty fauna into the cool and majestic pine setting. Cruising along you go through deforested patches, I'm sure because of that damn pine beetle.
Quarry Mountain kept on going until I arrived at a ridge where there was a road. There was the rest of the trail, just there on the right so I took it. This was by far the best part! There were little spring board style G-outs which popped you up and there were some super flowy trees in there too! And all of a sudden you're on the upper part of the ridge road again. So, seeing tire tracks from other riders I followed, not fully knowing what I was going to get myself into. The road drew me to this map:
The Rotary Trail depicted on the map is done but is also new. It didn't entice me because I knew I was already if for it.
I wasn't fully aware of my bearings. Go figure. I thought if I followed the Ridge trail I would end up on Beall's (pronounced locally: Bells) which would drop me onto a road just west of town. Boy was I in for it. I had no idea that I had totally miscalculated my direction of approach. Beall's ended up being one persistant climb where I also ran out of food, having only packed 3 GU's...
Booking down the Ridge Trail is super irresponsible... but fun. I only ran into 2 up hill riders. There are a lot of blind corners. There are a ton of loose places so be careful. But overall it is a great and refreshing descent which you'll need before cruising onto your next climb, Bealls.
Here's the gate that you pop out of at the end of the Ridge Trail. Be careful, you're surrounded by cows. They're not fond of cowards. They'll eat you. After the gate you'll head up the road for 1.9 miles, according to GPS, where you'll find an identical gate. Be sure to shut it after entering, it's how we keep the cows off our trails. And from hunting you.
You start climbing immediately and soon enter some enchanting forest of pine and aspen. It's an amazing part of the ride, unless, you're like me and running on fumes with a 35 pound all mountain bike. This is not a great trail for a heavy bike! Bring your hardtail here. This trail climbs steadily with 2 distinct descent sections that set you up for more climbing. I think you're on this for just over 8 miles and there is no bail out point. Soon, you get to your higher points and you can start to see Steamboat ski area. Then you realize how far east you are. Then you start thinking, really?
The climb continues and finally you pop out back at the silly map which is where you started the descent down Ridge. Now it's all games. I was done and tired. I went down the road that was on the mountain ridge back toward Quarry Mountain trail. I turned too soon onto some other random trail and was behind the saddle before I knew it descending roots and dusty corners. I was loosing elevation fast, just the way I ski. So I continued down and passed through roads and trail and randomness. Soon I arrived at familiar trails. I found myself on a road descending and passed the trailhead for Blair Witch. I instantly knew where I was. So I descened a minute more to the MGM spring and soaked my head again. So cold and So refreshing.
I took a picture of this trail for Abby, a good friend and a good rider back home in Park City area.
Descending the lower part of the mountain you get a new appreciation for variable descent options. They're seriously everywhere. It was super cool. And the burms, or switch backs if you like, were well built and you can rail them. I kept on going and soon smelled the familiar odor of a sulphur spring, the thermal cave at the trail head. I was done. What a gorgeous, epic 25 mile ride. Next time though, I'll bring a lighter bike!!
For information about the trails here, visit the Routt Country Riders website. After I got home I looked it up having chatted with a youth group leader I met on the trail who told me about the trail advocacy there. So I emailed the group about the lack of trail indication. They instantly replied, even though it was way late at night..
"Great news! We have wayfinding signage on the way for all the trails. They will link the town, ski area, Howelson and county trails; and should start being installed next month. Also there is a bike guide that is FREE that you can pick up at all the bike shops and the chamber. Be sure and ask for it the next time you're here. It will also be on line by spring. I'm so glad you will be back. We're pretty stoked about what we have to offer!" -RCR Executive Director
While that was way helpful and exciting for my next trip, I do have to thank Steve over at Steamboat Ski & Bike Kare in town. What a cool shop. They're on the the main highway cruising through town. 442 Lincoln Avenue, Steamboat Springs, CO 80487, (970) 879-9144?
Update: I returned recently to ride here again. It was super fun and I just took my ski mentality with - Point and Shot. I went for it. I was on my Specialized Epic, a fast, lighweight bike. I went up relatively close to the same path but descended the other side of the mountain, the more eastern slopes.
Part of Abby's trail, which I had the pleasure of actually riding this trip!
I have no idea, but there's a pretty good chance that this is part of Blair Witch.
On my descent I made a turn and this came into view.