Whoever said there was nothing new under the sun? It’s hard to believe in a mountain biking mecca like Colorado, but the Del Norte area is experiencing a renaissance, and mountain bikers are the main beneficiaries. Del Norte is situated such that its trails run through both high alpine and desert ecosystems, and new trails are continually being developed, thanks to efforts by the Bureau of Land Management and nonprofit organizations like Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado (VOC), plus the local Del Norte Trails Organization. Mountain biking here has been compared to the world-class trails you’ll find at other Colorado MTB destinations (think Crested Butte and Durango), but without the crowds you’ll find elsewhere.
What Makes It Great
You’ve probably driven through Del Norte: if you’re coming from the Front Range, it’s on the way to Wolf Creek Pass, Durango, and other big-name destinations. But Del Norte is worth a stop all on its own, especially if you happen to be on two wheels. There’s no shortage of phenomenal mountain biking in the Del Norte area, and trails are being developed, improved, and connected all the time.
First, head to the Stone Quarry trails, which provide an excellent introduction to the area. These trails aren’t super demanding, technically speaking, though some confidence and experience will go a long way in this mostly intermediate system. Stone Quarry’s been compared to some of the newer MTB developments in the Moab area (think Intrepid trails in Dead Horse Point State Park).
For an intermediate to advanced ride, head to Penitente Canyon, known for its sport climbing. The rocks here offer more than just climbing, though, and a lap on the well-built Sunshine Kitty Trail, in conjunction with some of the area’s other, slightly less difficult trails, including Blue Sky and South Witches Canyon, doesn’t disappoint. This is one of the area’s best and most varied trail complexes (think rock gardens, big drops, and twisty singletrack) thanks in large part to efforts by the local BLM office and VOC.
All warmed up? Make for Bishop’s Rock, where you’ll find zero trails whatsoever. Instead, this 40-acre slickrock playground is literally one big rock. Whether you’re in the market for a white-knuckled descent, mellow rollers, big jumps, or some combination thereof, there are endless combinations of ways to ride it.
Who is Going to Love It
There’s something for every level of mountain biker in the Del Norte area, but be sure to read specific trail descriptions before heading out: some advanced trails will find beginner and even intermediate riders in over their heads. Once you’re done for the day, head back to town, where Three Barrel Brewing is a must-visit for your post-ride beers.
There are also some exciting plans on the horizon for the Del Norte area trails. In 2016, local groups built 10+ miles of trail in the Pronghorn Trail System, and eventually, those trails will be connected to Stone Quarry. Stay tuned.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Trails in the Del Norte area are mostly managed by the Bureau of Land Management, though the popular Middle Frisco Trail is managed by the US Forest Service. In general, neither agency charges a parking or day use fee. (Still, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to donate to one of the non-profit organizations that helps to build and maintain trails here). If you’re camping, pitch a tent at Penitente Canyon, where first-come, first-served tent sites are $11/night. For indoor accommodations, check out the lovely Windsor Hotel in Del Norte.