No matter which way you look at it, Deer Creek is a classic: a classic cross-country ride or a classic suffer-fest.
Even if you’re a die-hard cross-country rider heading out on your hardtail sans seat-dropper, be prepared for a grind. It’s a 30+ mile ride, with most locals riding it as a loop from town. You’ll want to bring plenty of snacks, water, and maybe your most fun riding partner to help you lighten the mood. Keep in mind that Deer Creek is a difficult ride due to the climbing and physical difficulty, not due to the technical challenge of the trail.
Some Crested Butte locals claim that they only ride this trail once every 10 years, just so they can claim they’ve ridden it. But don’t let that scare you, that doesn’t mean it’s all suffering.
Why should you ride Deer Creek? The views are some of the best in the valley. It’s the only trail that travels from Crested Butte to Gothic on the east side of the valley. This angle gives you a different perspective on Crested Butte Mountain, Mt. Emmons and Gothic Mountain. The wildflowers on Deer Creek are phenomenal, and the wildlife sightings (maybe even a herd of elk) are more consistent. But maybe the best part of this trail is the quiet. With such a tough reputation, it sees considerably less traffic than Strand, 401, 403, and Snodgrass.
There are two ways to ride Deer Creek, and both have die-hard fans on their favorite direction. The most common is to start in town, and head south towards Gunnison. Take a left at the Skyland sign onto Brush Creek road. From here, continue out Brush Creek, pass Strand and the Starr Pass turn out. After a moderately pitched road climb, the trailhead will be on your left. From here, the trail continues to climb on double track until you hit the first descent. There is one steep, single track climb that many push their bike up. From here the trail rolls through undulating terrain for a fun, cross-country style ride. There are no major technical sections on this trail, just fast and flowy riding!
To ride Deer Creek in the opposite direction, pedal from town (or ride the bus!) to Mt. Crested Butte. Continue to pedal up Gothic Road after it turns to dirt. You’ll continue down the dirt road until you see the first cabins from the Gothic town site coming into view. A trailhead sign will be on your right, at the bottom of what appears to be a cabin driveway. Turn right here, and pedal up the road until you see the singletrack on your right. The singletrack climb will be a little more gradual on this side of the adventure, and you’ll meander through aspens before popping out on the first ridgeline. The bonus from this direction is that you get to ride the steep, hike-a-bike.
Either way, give yourself at least 5 hours if you’re planning on riding from town, 3+ if you plan on shuttling.
Trail Heads 2
- Brush Creek Main
- Visitor Center
- 409 1/2
- Canal Trail
- Ditch Trail
- Farris Creek
- Point Lookout
- Strand Bonus
- Strand Hill Road
- Teocalli Ridge
- The Wall
- Waterfall Creek