The views are something else on the 401 Trail, but so is the elevation gain

The 401 Trail is Crested Butte, Colorado’s, most popular mountain biking trail. While many opt to ride the 401 in the summer for the fields of wildflowers, fall is just as excellent for the changing aspens.

mountain biker 401 trail crested butte colorado
Riding among giants.Terrance Siemon

A short and scenic drive north out of Crested Butte will get you to the trailhead. The 401 is either ridden as a 13.6-mile loop or an 8.3-mile shuttle, with the option to drop out at Rustler Gulch to cut off the last 3 miles. 

Whether you’ve had the 401 Trail on your bucket list or are just learning about it, here’s what you need to know about Crested Butte’s iconic high country ride.

schofield pass summit sign
The sticker-covered Schofield Pass sign indicates you’ve made it to the top of the pass.Terrance Siemon

Be Prepared to Climb On a Dirt Road

Park at the Judd Falls trailhead just past the ghost town of Gothic and hit the road once more, but this time on your bike. For the next 4.5 miles, you will gradually make your way to the summit of 10,707-foot Schofield Pass. 

mountain biker 401 trail ascent crested butte colorado
Heading out of the pines on the steep uphill climb.Terrance Siemon

You’ve Got to Get Up to Go Down

Once at the top of Schofield Pass, you might want to take a quick breather before tackling the biggest climb of this ride.

The trail is smooth, steep singletrack that switchbacks as you climb about 600 feet in the next 1.3 miles.

If you feel like you’re working hard, it’s because you are. Not only are you climbing, but you top out at 11,330 feet. This ride definitely gets you up there.

mountain biker mount crested butte 401 trail
Mount Crested Butte as seen from the 401 Trail.Terrance Siemon

Those Views

Before you know it, you’re out of the trees and surrounded by 360-degree mountain views of the Elk Range. From the highest point of the ride, the Maroon Bells are visible. As you start your descent and head south, Mount Crested Butte becomes more prominent in the distance. 

mountain bikers 401 trail descent crested butte colorado
Descending on the 401 Trail.Terrance Siemon

And Now for the Fun

It’s all downhill (mostly) from here.

The downhill starts off steep, then begins to ease into a fast and narrow singletrack that runs across the hillside. Be careful here, as some spots are more exposed than others.

After the big traverse, you’ll drop into aspen groves and wind your way through smooth singletrack that’s broken up by rooted and rocky sections that’ll keep you on your toes.

mountain biker aspens 401 trail crested butte colorado
Riding through aspens.Terrance Siemon

Rustler Gulch

After about 5 miles of downhill, you’ll come to the road crossing of Rustler Gulch. If you opted for a shorter ride and parked at this trailhead, then you will take the road down and across a creek back to your car.

The Final Push

From Rustler Gulch you will make one final push to around 10,184 feet, with the descent equal to the elevation gained in this last climb. As you make your way to the end, you’ll pass through pine forest, a creek crossing and aspen groves. 

As you near the end of your ride, pay attention to the trail signs and be respectful of private property.

Things to Know

  • Ruts

The steep section at the beginning of the downhill is extremely rutted, with several other sections throughout the trail having rutted spots as well.

  • Rocky Spot 

As you turn a corner on the long downhill, you’ll come across a rocky, exposed section. Proceed with caution, and walk your bike if you need to.

  • Cows

Don’t be surprised if you find yourself sharing the trail with a cow or two. Also, keep an eye out for cow patties on the trail. Your bike might need a good wash after this ride.

  • Drainage

Toward the end of the ride is a rocky drainage that you might need to walk your bike across.