Get a unique view of the Gunnison valley seldom seen by mountain bikers. This remote loop will take you on primitive trails most often used by hunters or dirt bikers, and take you to the top of the very idyllic Fossil Ridge. A high alpine area with lots of north facing terrain, this area will not be ready to go until later in the season, but is a great way to mix it up in the later summer of fall. Make sure to wear orange if riding during hunting season, as the Fossil Ridge area is popular with hunters!
The Fossil Ridge area is a great place to see some wildlife, seldom explored terrain, and ride great dirt. Most riders will typically do a counter clockwise loop starting from the top of the Lost Canyon Road, but there are several different ways to approach this ride. Regardless, plan for a long day in the saddle, and some rough terrain. When riding as a loop, riders can start from Gunnison and ride up Lost Canyon Road, or skip the road miles and drive to the top of this segment. A counter clockwise loop is recommended because a rider will maximize their climbable single track, and save the most rugged sections of the trail for the descent. A clockwise loop is certainly a possibility, but be prepared for longer sections of trail that may be unridable due to steep terrain, loose rock, and general difficulty. For those riders looking to ride from point to point, rather than a loop, you can ride from one end of the Fossil Ridge trail to the other and enjoy the area this way. We would recommend riding from east to west, again to maximize the amount of rideable trail when climbing, but either direction is a possibility.
If riding the Fossil Ridge trail as a loop, your first piece of trail will be the McIntyre Gulch trail, Open to motorized users, this trail has lots of roots and holes, and can often be wet in its opening sections. At about the halfway point you will junction into some double track for a short time. Make sure to keep an eye out for the trail diving back into the woods on your left as you descend the double track, as it is easy to miss. Continue descending on McIntyre and enjoy some rock gardens fit for a world cup downhill course. Once you have cleaned and cleared these, you will be treated to a smile inducing high speed section of trail winding through the aspens. Once you reach and cross Alder Creek you will come to a meadow with a dilapidated cabin. The trail is quite primitive here, and head up and to the left to regain it. You will now climb the drainage, riding along the creek for a time before branching away to gain more vertical and head into the woods. There are some short but very steep sections of trail here, and should you manage to clean them, give yourself a pat on the back! Eventually after following this primitive single track trail you will find yourself arriving at Willow Creek Road.
Here, you have a choice to make. Head up Willow Creek Road to gain the top of Fossil Ride, and begin your descent, or head down Willow Creek Road for a short ways until taking a left onto Bear Gulch. Heading towards the top of Fossil Ridge at this point is advised, as you still have some serious vertical to gain, but for someone looking to push themselves to the limit, continue onto Bear Gulch. This trail will take you in and out of the various drainages that separate you from Gold Creek Road. Be prepared for punchy climbs and descents until you reach it. This trail is seldom ridden, and so you may need to look carefully in some of the meadows for signs to keep on the right track. Once you reach Gold Basin Road, ride up the road until you reach Gold Creek Campground. Here you will rejoin Fossil Ridge, and be prepared for a long and arduous climb up to Boulder Lake. Many switchbacks make this section feel never ending, but do help to make the rapid elevation gain a bit more manageable. Still, if you find yourself without a true granny gear, this section will push you to the limit.
Should you choose to ride up Willow Creek Road, you will climb and eventually join into the Willow Creek Trail. Stop and take some photos at the old mining claims as you pass them by. Just before you head into the dark timber towards the top of Willow Creek, you can also rehydrate with a spring where you can collect water from its originating source. Once you reach the Fossil Ridge trail, turn left, and prepare for a smile inducing decent. But before you do, make sure to stop and take in the amazing view of the Gunnison Valley from this unique perspective.
The Fossil Ridge trail is steep, loose, and can be quite challenging. Long and sustained, be prepared for arm pump and hand cramps! The trail will wind down from the top of the ridge and as you do so, enjoy the tight switchbacks, loose open sections, and technical rock gardens as you weave through the dark timber. When you cross Alder Creek, you will have reached roughly the halfway point, and the terrain will mellow slightly, and you will find yourself navigating aspens and green grass. Several more streams and rock gardens will follow, and eventually you will find yourself deposited back on the McIntyre Gulch Trail.