The last stop on our summer road trip was Telluride, Colorado. The plan was to spend a few days mountain biking and then head home. Unfortunately, mother nature had other plans. It rained the entire first day we were there and rain was predicted to continue through the weekend. We decided to cut the trip short and head home.
We stayed at the Matterhorn campground which is about 20 minutes outside of Telluride. It is a beautiful campground but there was too much highway noise for our liking. The campground has 28 sites and we stayed in site 27. The sites on the inner loop of the campground have electricity but are very open. The sites on the outer edge are tucked nicely into the trees. The bathrooms have (free!) showers but the doors to the bathrooms were always open. I’m not sure why and never asked. It wasn’t so much of an issue during the day but we noticed at night they were still open and the bright lights were flowing into the street and the sites nearby. I would not recommend staying near the bathrooms unless you are prepared for a night light.
The campground loop made for a fun circle to ride our bikes on and there’s even a little bridge that goes over a stream.
The campground is right off of the Galloping Goose trail so you have quick access to hiking and mountain biking. The trail is accessed from the back of the campground near the three walk-up sites. If you take the trail towards site 14 you will see a small trail that veers off to the left. Once you are to the road, you can go right which will take you down a dirt road (which is part of the Galloping Goose) to the trailhead at Lizard Head Pass. The road also goes left which is not part of the trail and I’m not sure where it goes. This intersection is where the trail switches from jeep road to single track. The single track is right in front as you come out of the campground. There is a sign but no arrow pointing up.
One of the reasons we came to Telluride was to ride the Galloping Goose trail. Last summer we rode the Route of the Hiawatha mountain bike trail and were hoping for a repeat of that experience on the Galloping Goose. Turns out, they are two totally different experiences and information on the Galloping Goose is rather hard to find. While we didn’t ride more than a mile or two of the Galloping Goose, we did a little scouting which will hopefully help anyone trying to figure out how to ride it. The Galloping Goose may be scenic but judging by the lack of available information, it not is not a popular trail. It probably doesn’t help that there is a free gondola in Telluride with tons of trail access. The Galloping Goose has no shuttle so unless you are ready to ride 18 miles uphill, the gondola is a better option.
The trail officially starts at Lizard Head Pass which is 30 minutes up the highway from Telluride. The Galloping Goose mountain bike trail is 18 miles long and ends on the Telluride valley floor. One of the cool things about Rails-to-Trails trails is that the grade is pretty mellow since they were old rail lines. This means that there should be no steep climbs or descents. The Route of the Hiawatha has a shuttle bus that picks up riders at the bottom of the trail. I tried to find a shuttle service for the Galloping Goose but could not. There is a company in Telluride that offers guided rides (with a shuttle) but we didn’t want a guide and didn’t need bikes. Unfortunately, they do not offer just a shuttle and neither does anyone else in town.
Our campground was 5.6 miles from the trailhead so our plan was to break the trail into two segments. Ride from camp to the trailhead and back and from camp to the valley floor. We decided that The Husband would drive to the bottom, leave the car, and ride the trail back to camp. (He can ride 12 miles uphill – the rest of us cannot.) We would then all ride back down to the car. That was our solution to not having a shuttle. Once we decided that was the plan we had to figure out where the trail ends. This was obstacle #2. There are several end points. One is down a dirt road and another is in the middle of a neighborhood. The trailhead in the neighborhood is not marked and was really hard to find. We did find it though after driving down every possible street.
To find the trailhead, turn west on Society Drive off of the 145. Drive about 1/2 – 3/4 of a mile and turn right on San Miguel River Road. On the righthand side is a dirt lot with no parking signs everywhere. The trailhead is right next to the parking lot and you should see a Galloping Goose sign. If you reach Telluride Mountain School you’ve gone too far. Just south of the dirt lot is a road down to some sports fields with a parking lot where you can park. You can also access the trail from where the 145 and Society Drive intersect. There is a small dirt lot on the east side of the 145 and the trail is across the street. We didn’t see any noticeable signage though.
The other issue we found is that the trail is not all railroad grade downhill. The trail alternates between jeep roads and single track. The single track right next to our campground actually had a big uphill climb. A train certainly couldn’t make the jaunt up the hill so I’m not sure where the tracks actually went. We didn’t ride the entire trail so I’m not sure if there are anymore sections with an unexpected change in elevation. Oh, and you’re riding at 10,000 feet.
The few blog posts I’ve read about the Galloping Goose say it’s a fun, beautiful trail. It was definitely beautiful and I wish we could have experienced it, but we’ll have to take a raincheck. The Forest Service has a brochure and map with the trail segments and a few of the trail highlights. They had a few at the trailhead but you might want to save a copy to your phone before heading out.
Overall, we had a short, enjoyable stay in Telluride. We drove through town and got to see the sights that make Telluride so popular. The houses are adorable and oh so expensive. We had a blast looking up the prices of houses we liked and realizing we will never own a house in Telluride.
Telluride is set in a box canyon and the east end has mountains, waterfalls, and switchbacks going right down the middle of the mountain. That switchbacks are a 4×4 trail called Black Bear Pass. It’s only for expert drivers and is not for the faint of heart. I read something earlier that said in order to really live you have to come close to dying. That seems like a fitting statement for Black Bear. The switchbacks are one way and barely wide enough for a Jeep. If you want to get an idea of what the trail is like this is a good video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=blz2pzrdzao&feature=youtu.be. As a kid we spent may summers four-wheeling in the San Juans and I always wanted to go down Black Bear Pass. I was excited to learn that you can drive a little way up Black Bear Pass. Not all the way but far enough that the GPS says driving on Black Bear Pass! We went up the road a ways, stopped to admire the waterfall, and turned back around.
Telluride has great mountain biking, skiing, hiking, four-wheeling, and so much more. There’s a river that runs through town that you can even tube down. That was on our agenda but rain and cold weather do not make for good tubing conditions. This wraps up another fun summer vacation.
If you’ve missed any of our other posts from this vacation you may catch up using the links below: