Fossil Ridge is backcountry riding at its finest. Secluded, minimal traffic, poorly marked (make sure you have the CBGTrails app), and one of the best downhills in the valley that rarely gets ridden. Brilliantly white limestone covers most of the peaks in the area, and large sections of above alpine riding and stupendous views can be found along these trails. Also of note, there are several alpine lakes with trail access making this a bikepacking heaven with direct access from Gunnison and connectivity to the Monarch Crest area.
Lost Canyon Rd. to One Mile Rd. (FSR 686) to Beaver McIntyre Trail (#472) to McIntyre Gulch (#609) to Alder Creek (#577) to Willow Creek Rd. (FSR 882) to Willow Creek Trail (#479) to Fossil Ridge Trail (#478) to Beaver McIntyre Trail/One Mile Rd./Lost Canyon Rd. (Mileage: ~18 miles Elevation Gain: 3900’)
Not for the faint of heart, this is the classic ride in the Fossil Ridge Area. Start by riding or driving up Lost Canyon Rd. (CR 10 and later CR 743), a 2wd road in dry conditions, for about 10 miles depending on if you’re coming from Gunnison or Crested Butte. Once at the intersection with One Mile Rd. (FSR 686) take a right. Follow this to the Beaver McIntyre Trail (#742) and begin a climb up to the 3-way intersection with Fossil Ridge Trail(#478) and McIntyre Gulch Trail (#609). Enjoy the 1.5 mile downhill to Alder Creek Trail (#577).
This intersection can be tricky. Find the trail in the meadow winding between old cabin ruins. Make sure when you hit the creek crossing at the bottom that you start to climb.
From here it’s a grind of nearly 2800’ in elevation gain. Intersect with Willow Creek Rd. (FSR 882) at 10,100’ and turn left. Keep climbing up the rough 4×4 rd until the fence and singletrack of Willow Creek Trail (#479). Just past here is a great place for a break. An old mine on your right and a cabin ruin on your left offer a great view. This is located around the 11,000’ mark.
Above the ruin and mine is a beautiful section of trail that would be an excellent downhill if it wasn’t so short and inaccessible from the other direction. Top out at the intersection of Willow Creek Trail and Fossil Ridge Trail (#478) and turn left. From here it’s nearly 5 miles of pure downhill to the 3-way intersection that you’ve already been to. Keep the stoke alive for another 2 miles back to One Mile Rd. (FSR 686) and then spin your way back to the trailhead on Lost Canyon Rd.
All together this 18+ mile ride is one of the most strenuous in the valley, but also has a downhill that rivals Dr. Park, Teocalli Ridge, or Agate with a continuous 7 miles and 2200’ of descent.
Gold Creek Rd. (CR 771) to Quartz Creek Rd. (CR 76) to Willow Creek Rd. (FSR 882) to E. Willow Creek Rd. (FSR 888.1D) to East Willow Mine Trail (#609) to Bear Gulch Trail (#610) (Mileage: 9.8 miles Elevation Gain: 1900’)
Probably not a classic by any means, but definitely a beautiful ride that almost guarantees you won’t see anyone all day. To cap it off is a steep technical downhill through Bear Gulch straight to your car.
Start your ride at the old Comanche Campground just past the Bear Gulch Trail on the left as you head up Gold Creek Rd. It can be hard to spot since the Forest Service has decommissioned this site and there’s not really a trail marker for Bear Gulch Trail. It’s basically the only place to park 2-3 vehicles on this road and is located about 2 miles up from Ohio City on the left.
Once parked ride back down Gold Creek Rd. and turn right on Quartz Creek Rd. Keep an eye out for the right turn through a gate to access Willow Creek Rd. (FSR 882). Climb up Willow Creek Rd. for 1.8 miles and then bear right on E. Willow Creek Rd. (FSR 888.1D). There’s a bit of singletrack that splits from the road in a few places and if you’re looking for Trailquest miles you better ride them while you’re out. If Trailquest isn’t your jam then stay on the road until the it turns to singletrack.
At the top turn right on Bear Gulch Trail (#610) and continue to climb for another mile to the top. From here it’s all downhill to the car through aspens and then fir forests. There’s some fast flowy sections up high and then the gradient gets steep and a chunky, technical downhill finishes off the last little bit. When you hit the road turn left to get back to your vehicle.
The biggest strategy in gaining Trailquest miles in the Fossil Ridge area is to ride as much as possible every time you go out. The first big loop mentioned above does a great job of knocking out a lot of the mileage, but several dead-end spur trails exist throughout this area. If you see one, go ride it. A couple of them may be difficult or impossible to find. Trail #611 off Bear Gulch comes to mind. It may be easier to leave the bike and go for a bushwhack if racking miles is on your list for the day.
High up on Fossil Ridge Trail, east of the intersection with Willow Creek Trail is a section of marked private property. We aren’t sure of the friendliness of the owner, but it is trespassing to cut through this very short section. This effectively limits full use of the Fossil Ridge Trail from east to west. Hopefully some kind of access will be allowed in the future, but for now we can not recommend a full ride of Fossil Ridge.