For the last 30 years, the Baxter Gulch area has been off-limits to public recreation, at least if you wanted to access it from town. Soon, thanks to efforts by the Crested Butte Land Trust, the Town of Crested Butte, the US Forest Service, the Crested Butte Mountain Bike Association, and many others this historic piece of singletrack will be reopened to the public.
Last Wednesday I rode my bike out to help CBMBA with one of their Wednesday Workdays in an effort to finish the last mile or so of singletrack needed to connect the Baxter Gulch trail to the Carbon trail. The trail is incredibly close to being finished and with the help of the Crested Butte Conservation Corps and town citizens they hope to have it done before the first snow hits.
While the trail isn’t technically “open” yet because it’s not finished, I did get to ride most of it as an out-and-back. Here’s my opinion on the matter, and once you get out there to ride it yourself you can tell me if you think I’m right or wrong.
The Baxter Gulch trail starts from Avalanche Park, a town-owned parcel next to the Public Works depo just before you descend into town. The trail begins with a handful of bermed switchbacks and a gentle grade that I found pleasant enough to climb. Once you begin to traverse around the side of the hill the grade picks up a bit and several short, punchy sections will push your heartrate up a good bit. At about the 1 mile mark the trail descends to the creek in order to work its way around the easements granted by private landowners in this section. Once you cross the creek the climb gets a bit tougher with more rocky sections, tighter turns, and a generally steeper grade.
Once you cross the creek the second time, things start to relax. I was still climbing, as this trail does for its entire length, but the meanders and bends evened things out and the hardest part was over for a while. Soon enough, around the 4 mile mark, I reached the start of the work so I ditched my bike, put on some work gloves and headed up to build some trail. This section that we worked on climbs a bit more steeply to the small gap at the top of the watershed, but it still seemed like it would be manageable. Considering my late start and the earlier days I was only able to put in about an hour of work before the crew called it quits, but in that time we bermed out a delicious corner, cut down some trees in the way, and put in about .3 miles worth of track.
Now for the descent. I have to say it’s one of my favorites in the valley already, and once it’s completed I’ll definitely be riding this trail at least a couple times a summer. Its closest relative is Green Lake trail, another town-accessed piece of singletrack. The difference here is length, and the fact that you don’t have to ride through a neighborhood in the middle. The other reason I’d choose to ride this as a descent over Green Lake is the connector trail known as Para Mi Para Ti. This rutted and rocky climb from Green Lake to Baxter Gulch contains a lot of hike-a-bike regardless of your direction of travel.
On the way down most of us jammed up in a pack as we picked up various crews working on sections lower down. That didn’t stop the fun though as the trail crews have put in a handful of side hits, booters, log rides, and berms all the way down. In most places there was an easy line and a harder line and I think I cleaned almost everything except the one rock garden before the final creek crossing. The climb out of this crossing is tough and goes on for about a half mile, but it does ride clean. Once at the top the view of Crested Butte Mountain’s rugged southwest side is your backdrop and the beautiful switchbacks to the parking lot are perfectly bermed for riding.
It took me about an hour to ride up to the worksite from the parking lot. I walked a few times and definitely needed to catch my breath, but I didn’t find it much harder than riding Green Lake up. The ride down was about 35 minutes and stellar. Add on about another 15 minutes to climb up and 5 to descend once the trail is completed and you’ve got the full picture. Once it’s done it’ll need all the traffic it can get to smooth it out so get out there and ride!