The iconic 401, a mountain biker’s dream! The scenery on this trail will definitely take your breath away (if the elevation and climb haven’t already done that). Mind-blowing vistas and wildflowers as far as the eye can see are what you should expect from this classic Crested Butte ride.
There are a couple of ways you can access this ride. You can choose to ride from Mt. Crested Butte or from the Snodgrass Trailhead, or if you’ve got the legs for it, combine it with a ride from 403. But for today, in order to avoid the storm clouds that were predicted to roll in around 2:00 pm, we drove past the town site of Gothic, home to the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, and parked in the lot for Judd Falls hiking trail. From there we started to ride up Gothic Road towards Schofield Pass. We have had a lot of rain in the past week or so, so much so that the road was actually partially washed out about a ¼ mile before Emerald Lake, so there was no car traffic past this parking area.
And then at about mile 4 there’s this…
So we enjoyed a brief but snowy hike a bike and headed past Emerald Lake and up to the top of the pass.
Trail 401 begins here. The trail is on your right and clearly marked. The climb is intense (more so at the beginning) but short at about 1.3 miles, with some switchbacks littered throughout. At the top you will get an amazing view of the Maroon Bells Wilderness area as well as an incredible perspective of the surrounding Elk Mountains and the winding East River. At 11,342 you can imagine the scene.
The trail descends and then does a little climb once again. But, oh the downhill! Bars deep in wildflowers and too fast to stop and take pictures. Sorry about that! Twisting, turning switchbacks descend through mile upon mile of corn lilies. There were some serious stream crossings today, some of which were rideable, some not, and a few downed trees that required you get off the saddle. Today’s ride also had some added adventure with some hail on the trail that made things a little dicey at times.
When we got to the intersection at the Belleview hiking trail we took a right and flowed down the switchbacks with giddy smiles on our faces. Conditions today were great and we couldn’t ask for more.
We descended the 4 miles of flowy singletrack and decided to exit out at Rustler’s Gulch since thunder and dark storm clouds were kicking up. We headed back to the parking area for a much deserved rinse off in the river.