If you're tired of riding trails where it's unlikely you'll see a marmot, it may be time to head up to Copper Mountain Resort and ride the first portion of Section 8 of the Colorado Trail. The trail is rated anywhere from intermediate (MTBR) to black diamond (mtbproject), and is about 15-17 miles long, depending on whose report you trust. The ride is most easily done as an out-and-back, which means you climb for over seven miles, gain 3500 feet of elevation, turn around, and shed it all. By some accounts, this ride will take you six hours, but it probably will take you closer to four. Five if you dawdle.
Park at the Copper Mountain Resort. The trail begins just east of the American Flyer lift. The thirty second ride from your car to the trailhead will be the last flat portion of ground you see for a few hours. Take a picture.
There's a belgian waffle restaurant just out of frame to the left. We would've planned around it had we known. Please learn from our mistake.
The trail starts as an unmarked service road. If you look all over for a Colorado Trail sign and don't see one, you're on the right track. About a mile or so up the hill, you'll see a white rock about the size of a beach ball with the Colorado Trail marker etched into it. There are a couple of forks in the trail early on, but you'll know you've made a wrong turn if you stop climbing.
So, there's a lot of climbing. First, you climb through a bunch of pine trees. You'll cross a couple of small creeks and pass a group of old men who won't want to let you pass. Then you'll climb up a bunch of stuff that looks like this:
You'll continue this business of climbing for quite some time. It's not as bad as I may be making it seem. If you can ride front range trails, you'll have no problem. Take delicious snacks and some oxygen and you'll be just fine.
There are a few short technical sections, and a few punchy little climbs that are probably not all that steep, but since you'll likely have been climbing for over an hour, they will seem just downright mean. It's nothing you can't handle though. And what the hell, walk them if you want; it's pretty darn pretty up there.
Eventually, the trees will get short and then disappear entirely. Once again, your friends will get smaller and smaller until they disappear entirely.
(Somewhat Uncalled-for Editorial Aside: You know, there have been several things circulating on the internet recently involving motorist-on-cyclists road rage. If you've seen them, you know what I'm talking about--death threats that include anyone who's even thrown a leg over a top tube. If you haven't seen them, it's probably for the better, but just know that it's a bunch of jerks who can't stand cyclists for unarticulated reasons, and promise high-speed encounters between their assuredly truck-nutted Suburban and your spandexed body. It's blanket hate bred from ignorance and/or an unexplainable fear of spandex. I'm wondering, however, if there's any way that a cyclist-hating potential hit-and-runner could maintain their stance after riding just a portion of this ride. It's that good.)
So, above tree line, the trail gets a little wetter, and you may even encounter large snow fields to serve as your canvas for some design or another that might not thrill your mom.
Unless you enjoy carrying your bike, you might as well leave it a couple hundred yards below the summit. The photograph doesn't do the terrain justice, but let's just say this would be an easy place and also an inconvenient place to break a collarbone.
The view from the top is obviously terrible, and it will make you glad, if you live in the city, that you live in the city. You will hate the clean air and dumb fuzzy alpine animals. It will be more or less the low point of your week, altitude aside. You'll eat a sandwich or something up there, and then be like, "I could be eating at Masterpiece Deli right now (sigh)."
The descent is a smile-till-your-face-hurts-like-there-is-a-lobster-hanging-from-each-cheek kind of descent that lasts for a very long time. Should you pass that group of old men again, and should you be at the back of the pack, they will call you something unflattering and emasculating and tell you to go on and catch that other guy.
If you ride this trail and don't have the awesome time I promised, I'll refund the fee you paid to read this blog. Guaranteed.