Ride Report: Lupine Loops Part 1

Lupine Trail in June 2016.Because it’s so close to town, and because it’s a relatively easy trail, people ride Lupine a lot. If I hammer, I can ride it in about an hour door to door making it a good lunch ride. It’s also an aptly named trail and is one of the best spots in the valley to see lupine in bloom.

Up until this summer, I’d only ever ridden it the “normal” way. In fact, just last week I made the comment that people who ride Lupine go out to just ride Lupine and don’t really connect it with other trails that often.

I now recognize the sheer foolishness of that statement and have no choice but to recant it. The best way to make amends seems to be to ride it as many different ways as I can and I’ve embraced that goal in earnest.

Lupine Trail The “Normal” Way

Riding Lupine the “normal” way is a great trail for “advanced beginners,” “beginning intermediates,” and even seasoned bikers looking for an easy day to start to acclimate or just a cruisy, ripping fun downhill.

I start from the Crested Butte Visitor Center and head for the east side of town to pick up the Mt. Crested Butte/Crested Butte Recreation Path at the corner of Gothic Avenue and 9th Street and climb up the rec path.

The rec path will pop you out just before Mt. CB and then it’s time to climb up Saddle Ridge via the road. At the top of the cul-de-sac, head up the singletrack. By the time you reach the rollover on the fence line, you’ve done most of the climbing you’ll do for the day.

mountain biking near Crested Butte, Colorado

Old shot from the first time I rode the Lupine Trail.

Right after rolling over the fence, you’ll contour around the hillside and reach the flowers. Lupine everywhere. As you continue rolling around the hillside, there are a few spots of pretty significant exposure below. If you’re not comfortable riding them, jump off your bike and push. I’ve done that a few times myself. If you’re game to ride, keep your eyes well out ahead of you and give it a go.

The first downhill has some nice switchbacks and a little bit of tech. Even though I’ve already ridden this trail close to a dozen times I like to take it a little easy on the first couple of switchbacks. With all of the flowers on the sides of the trail, the turns can sneak up on you. I’ve almost blown past a couple. This trail is popular with hikers, too. Be a good neighbor and ride in control so you can stop on a dime if you turn a corner and come upon a family hiking. It’s fun to open it up a bit near the bottom as the trail gets slightly more technical and the line of sight gets better.

At the bottom of the Lupine 1 downhill, climb up the two-track road. It’s a 0.6 mile climb up to the start of the “Lupine 2” downhill, which you’ll see take off on your left. I love Lupine 2 an unhealthy amount. It’s beautiful, fast, and flowy with a really great downhill to the river and some fun little squiggle turns for leaning your bike over at the end.

If you’re in a rush and only have a little while to do the ride, turn left and pedal back Slate River Road to town in your big ring (if you still have one of those..). All told, I can do this loop in about an hour and I am not a particularly fast mountain biker.

Lupine via Gunsight Connector

I rode Gunsight Connector a couple of times last summer. It’s a beautiful trail in a beautiful spot and it was built impeccably by 200 Crested Butte Mountain Bike Association and Crested Butte Land Trust volunteers in a single weekend. Another fun fact about the Gunsight Connector: it was designed by Doug Bradbury. If you’re not familiar with him, he’s the guy that invented the mountain bike suspension fork.

Here’s a confession. I don’t like Gunsight very much as a downhill. I can’t find my flow on it. And to ride it, you have to skip the Lupine 2 downhill. I’ve already told you how I feel about Lupine 2.

Last summer, I heard that the guys from the gO-Ride bicycle team had taken to climbing up the Gunsight Connector so they could climb on singletrack and then ride down Lupine 2. To me, that sounded both outstanding and hard and I pegged it for my first hard ride of the season, to be ridden Sunday, June 12. It was both outstanding and hard.

We parked on 3rd and Maroon and jumped on the bikes to ride across the bridge at Totem Pole Park and then out to the Woods Walk and Peanut Lake Road. We rode the Lower Loop singletrack to connect to the KB trail. The KB is a short, narrow connector that allows you to skip most of the doubletrack on the Lower Loop by winding through the trees above. I recommend it.

climbing the Gunsight Connector on a bike near Crested Butte, Colorado

Climbing up Gunsight Connector.

Then we cruised out the Lower Loop along the Slate River to Gunsight Bridge. Gunsight Connector came into sight and I gulped. It looked steeper than I remembered, but we were committed. Up we went.

It was hard. It’s just steep enough to be a good downhill. That means it’s steep enough to be a pretty challenging uphill climb. It’s two solid miles of climbing fairly narrow singletrack with some steep switchbacks. There is one spot about halfway up where you turn and get to go down to a single, perfect berm that made me whoop with joy. This same berm makes me curse when I’m riding the trail the other direction and I have to go UP in the middle of the down.

By the top, I was sweaty, frustrated, tired, and bruised. My attitude was turning sour. But, we cruised down the two track at speed and made our way to the top of Lupine 2. I was hopeful that that downhill would make the climb worth it.

It did. We popped out at the bottom of Lupine 2 giggling and happy and headed back for the Upper Lower to return to town and get some ice cream.

Lupine Trail via Tony’s and the Upper Loop

I did this one on Sunday, and it was fantastic. I’m still recovering from breaking my back during the Fat Bike Worlds this winter, so I’m trying to both ease back in to things AND get as many base miles as possible so I can tackle my list this summer. It’s a tough balance.

We rode out to the base of Tony’s and picked that up to snake our way up to the Upper Loop. Tony’s is a nice, relatively easy climb. Then we took a left onto the Upper Loop and contoured around the base of Crested Butte Mountain until we hit the aspens and started to climb more steeply. There are rock gardens galore in the woods and one particularly hard and long one has a step-up of about a foot. Be ready.

Riding out the dirt road to Tony's Trail under Crested Butte

Tom riding out to climb Tony’s and the Upper Loop.

Tom on the big rock garden on the Upper Loop Trail

Tom climbing the rock garden with the big step-up.

After making it through the trees, we climbed a somewhat steep sidehill with gorgeous flowers and popped out onto Hunter Hill Road. The verdict: the Upper is a great way to add a little extra singletrack to a Lupine loop.

After coasting down from Hunter Hill Road to Gothic, we popped up to the top of Saddle Ridge and climbed to the top of the Lupine 1 downhill. It was good as always. Then we cranked up the two-track to the Lupine 2 downhill. A lot of folks will keep climbing past that to the Gunsight Connector for the longer downhill from further up the trail. I am not one of those people. Like I mentioned before, I love the Lupine 2 downhill an unhealthy amount and Gunsight Connector isn’t my favorite downhill.

Mountain Biking back along the Upper Lower Loop with Crested Butte Mountain in view.

Riding the Upper Lower back to town. That view!

At the bottom of Lupine 2, we hung a right and headed for the Gunsight Bridge. We crossed over the bridge and then headed toward Gunsight Pass Road and rode down to connect with the Upper Lower Loop. I am in love with the Upper Lower right now. It has little tiny stretches of technical rocks that I can clean, but they give me a chance to practice getting out of the saddle. It also gets you off the Lower Loop with all of its hikers and bikers. We rode the Upper Lower back to the Lower singletrack and popped on that then the Woods Walk back to town. All told, we rode 15 miles with nearly 1500 feet of climbing in about 2 hours.

More Ways to Ride the Lupine

These are only three of the many ways to loop up the Lupine Trail. In fact, I’m already scheming for a Snodgrass-Lupine ride later this week.

I’m not ready for a big ride like Doctor Park yet (I did hear it’s ready to be ridden though!), but I’m getting those post-broken-back base miles in. It sure does feel good to be back on the bike. The Lupine, in all of its seemingly infinite combinations, is a great way to regain my confidence following a pretty harrowing crash last winter and the mental demons that linger.

Yes, this ride report includes trails named lower lower loop, upper lower loop, upper loop, lupine 1, lupine 2, and kb. Yes, they are confusing, even for locals. The best way to stay on track while riding in the Gunnison Valley is to head on over to cbgtrails.com with your phone browser and download maps for the areas you plan to ride. They’re all free and follow along with you via GPS even when you’re outside of cell range.

Leave a Reply