Crested Butte: Ride the Iconic 401 Trail

Added by J.J. Benson

Mountain Bike one of Colorado's most famous biking trails filled with fast, flowy single track. 

There are many reasons Crested Butte is famous for its single track and the 401 trail tops that list with its endless views of Colorado's spectacular Maroon Bells and Elk Range and its fast and flowy downhill that winds you through majestic backdrops, fields of wildflowers, shoulder high skunk cabbage, and aspen groves. While 401 technically begins at the top of Schofield Pass (10,709 feet), there are a couple ways to do the ride depending on ability and endurance level.

  • The more ambitious route would be to ride approximately 12 miles from the town of Crested Butte to the top of Schofield Pass, and then onto 401.

  • More commonly riders will drive 7.5 miles from Crested Butte up Gothic Road and park at the Copper Creek parking lot (there is overflow packing along the road) just past the historic town site of Gothic and then ride up the remaining 4.5 miles by bike, past Emerald Lake to the summit of Schofield Pass/Trail Head for 401.

  • It is also possible to “shuttle” to the trail head. In order to do this, one car will need to be left at the Copper Creek Parking lot and another will drive up the 4.5 miles to the top of Schofield Pass where it can be parked and retrieved after you ride the 401 loop back down to the car parked at Copper Creek. (You will need vehicles with a decent clearance and depending on road conditions, 4WD or AWD to do this).

The 401 loop itself begins from the right and immediately throws you into a physically challenging mile and a half forested climb. Once you come out of the trees, the climb will continue on at more gradual grade and eventually open up with views of the West Maroon Bells.

And then it happens.

That downhill you’ve been waiting for - and it is so worth it. Miles of fast and flowy single-track (with some switchbacks) with the most unbelievably majestic views of Mount Baldy and of the valley. Be careful though, don’t get too distracted by the views, there are some tricky spots (depending on skill level) that might require you to hike-a-bike, and narrower parts of the trail that hug the hillside.

Towards the end of the downhill you will enter into some fun aspen groves with root features which will eventually open up at Rustlers Gulch where you will see campsites and cars. From here you have the option of riding out to the road and back to Copper Creek to your car or continuing on for the second part of the loop system. The second part begins by crossing a bridge, riding through a meadow and back into a more technically tough rocky climb which rewards you with another small flowy downhill segment before dropping you back off just upslope from the Copper Creek parking lot.

401 is usually open about July depending on yearly snowfall and remains open through mid -late fall. Both seasons offer incredible views for different reasons. During the summer you will likely see fantastic wildflowers (CB is the wildflower capital of Colorado after all!), and fall will present you with amazing changing colors of the hillside, foliage and surrounding vegetation.

High fives and happy riding!

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Tags

Mountain Biking
Hiking
Scenic
Wildflowers

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

Great Ride

Really enjoyed this ride. Emerald lake was gorgeous and the views at the top of the trail are simply breathtaking. I was curious if this is open for hikers as well? Or just bikers?

Unforgettable

Some muddy sections, but it's better than when it's dusty, the climb is definitely worth it when you are flying down a handlebar high tunnel of wildflowers. One of the most satisfying rides of my life.

🥈 Contributor

about 5 years ago

Best MB Ride in Colorado

July can be super muddy, but the wildflowers are absolutely ridiculous!

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