Another Gunnison Valley classic, and the Continental Divide continues to deliver. Canyon Creek will leaving you feeling exhausted, challenged, and accomplished. Enjoy the views as you rest at the top of the divide, and look for the Alpine tunnel to your north east. A ride which takes you through multiple biomes, you will experience high alpine, timbered forests, and more arid and sandy terrain on your way to the bottom. With some great varied terrain and fantastic views, Canyon Creek makes for an excellent destination ride.
Canyon Creek is the primary trail in the area, and provides a full day for most riders. There are two common ways to make the journey, either as a loop, riding up the Tomichi Pass road, or for the single track obsessed, as an out and back. Prepare for a long day both on and off the bike, and make sure you have the necessary gear for true backcountry travel.
Regardless of how you choose to ride Canyon Creek, riders should start at the Snowblind campground for their ride. There is limited parking along the road, and the campground offers a great resource. The loop is straightforward, and you will stay on the Tomichi Pass road until you reach the top off the pass. The Tomichi Pass road is a grind, and can be loose in places, making it a challenge all to its own. Once you crest the pass, take a left to continue heading up! You will complete a short but punchy hike a bike, scrambling over large rocks and loose terrain. Doing the ride as an out and back will keep you on great single track longer, and also offers greater challenge as a result of not being able to spin up the road. If choosing this option, we would suggest starting earlier as the ride will take more time to complete, and you are also less likely to encounter riders descending.
Once you have reached the summit of Paywell Mountain, it’s going to be almost all downhill, so rest up and drop your seat! The ride begins with a long traversing section of trail which takes you down the ridgeline to the southwest away from the continental divide and back towards Highway 50. This section affords great views as you ride high above the tree line on a snaking ribbon of singletrack which has no shortage of rocks to keep you on your toes. After a time you will drop into a large alpine basin, and this will mark your transition to a new biome as you begin to make your way into tree line. You will now shadow Canyon Creek for which the ride is named, and enjoy a high speed, sometimes loose, and altogether rip roaring fun descent through the high alpine forest. Be aware of the water bars and rock gardens which adorn this section of trail, and can come at you fast. Eventually you will find yourself in a well established campground with a double track road running through it. Stop and take a break, you have earned it! Cross Canyon Creek, and continue on your way when ready, sticking to the single track. This section of trail sees a mellower elevation profile, and you will be able to let go of the brakes more often. Manual your way over the whoops, and keep your speed up in the flatter corners for maximum enjoyment. You will be on the left side of Canyon Creek now, and will continue to follow it lower. As the soil begins to become more granular, you will know you are getting closer to the bottom. But you are not done yet. Just as the terrain begins to flatten out, the trail will take a hard left, and there is one more punchy climb left to complete. After cresting this last stretch, some fun switchbacks await you as you ride back to the road.
Watch out for afternoon thunderstorms when doing this ride! And for riders who are looking to add a little more onto their day, ride the Waunita Trail as an out and back. This fast and flowy trail is short, but a lot of fun. Just remember anything you ride down, you will need to ride back up if you want to end where you parked. Finally, the Horseshoe Creek Trail can be ridden to mix this ride up, but be prepared for a very loose and rocky ride. Horseshoe Creek is most commonly ridden as an accent by dirt bikes, and so expect to find a very raw trail which will challenge you!
Trail Heads 1
- Snowblind Campground