Crested Butte and the surrounding Elk Mountains are classic mountain bike country. And the advanced-intermediate 401 Trail ranks among the best routes not only in the Crested Butte area but also in all of Colorado. The 1.3-mile climb from the top of Schofield Pass to just below timberline is a steep trial-by-fire ascent. Switchbacks climb through dense forest, but then open up into stunning alpine meadows and unparalleled views of the Elk Mountains. The pay off is a fast, single-track descent. Fields of wildflowers surround the trail in July and golden aspens take over in fall.
I’m convinced that you can’t understand how steep a trail is until you’re ascending with thirty pounds worth of expensive camera equipment on your back and in your arms. Part of OutThere Colorado’s summer film shoot was mountain biking in Crested Butte so it was the support crew’s job to make sure the film crew was fed, hydrated, and that they had the gear they needed. We jumped on the 401 at the trailhead at the top of Schofield Pass. The initial switchbacks were brutal but worth the trouble once we climbed out of the trees and into high alpine meadows full of wildflowers. Though the trail is undoubtedly a more exciting adventure on a mountain bike, the scenery was no less stunning on foot.
- Take your time on the descent. The single track is steep and with some exposure in the form of drop-offs on the right side. If you ride the 401 in summer, the wildflowers are among the best in the state so slow down and enjoy the ride.
- Because of the trail’s popularity, it can get quite busy in summer and fall. Always look down trail before taking off at full speed. The trail is also open to hikers and horses so there’s likely to someone on foot or horseback just around the corner out of sight.
- The 401 doesn’t typically open until late June or early July because of persistent snow conditions. Mid- to late-July is the best time of year to ride this trail.
Recommended season(s): Mid- to late-July for wildflower season.