Get Outdoors! Pedal the North Fork

May 30, 2015 by     No Comments    Posted under: Highlight, Lifestyle

Mountain biking in the North Fork Valley for the past year has been amazing!

by Gabriel Vest

So many places to ride and great people to share them with!


The Jumbo Mountain area, which borders the Town of Paonia, is being considered by the BLM as a Special Recreation Management Area, which would protect the area for its unique and accessible trail system as well as its natural and backcountry qualities.

Exploring the trails of Jumbo Mountain never disappoints.  This popular area, which sits right at the edge of the town of Paonia on public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management never seem to be crowded, but on almost every ride a friendly local or two are encountered.  The area is perfect for any length of ride, even if it’s just a solo ride up to the hammock for a quick gaze at the Golden Eagles who nest in a cliff aerie above (and maybe grab a short nap swaying in the breeze).

The locals in Paonia are about as welcoming as could be. They are happy to bring newcomers on group rides, proud to have a trail system right in town that is used and enjoyed by riders and hikers old and young. And the youngsters Paonia are great: they ride all the time, work on the trails, and even keep the jump lines dialed and fun. Keep it up Groms!

Only slightly further afield, on the National Forest, the Ragged Trail is about the most fun you will ever have getting lost, muddy, bloody and destroying your bike. When I first got to town, some NFV residents were nice enough to take me out on some gnarly trails over on the Uncompahgre Plateau. I loved it, and they told me that next on their list to explore was the Ragged Trail – a ride that runs from the top of McClure Pass down to the Erickson Springs area at the base of Kebler Pass.

The first time I took a stab at it, we went with an out of town visitor, and three locals. One of the locals was wearing sandals, which seems like a risky move for a 30 mile back-country mountain bike ride over rough terrain. We were warned about the trail’s overgrown nature, impassibility, and the high probability of getting lost by some locals who had made the attempt in the past.


A bit of bushwhacking and bravado may be required. If you like crowded trails and packed trailheads avoid this area at all costs.

We ignored all warnings, loaded up on “Paonia courage” and went for it. Two of the locals were wrecking all over the place right off the bat.. One was very bloody and seriously damaged his ride. After a long delay for some creative bike repair, we were able to complete the ride. After one more high speed crash near the end, we had three banged up riders, and two bikes that were falling apart!

Naturally, a redemption run was in order. This time, I took two local shredders who had never tried the ride. I assured them that being a veteran of a (mostly) successful run, I was the perfect guide for our ride. I proceeded to get us super, super lost and we hiked back and forth on various cow trails (with cows on them) for several hours. Turns out that the large number of cattle that went up there since the first ride had made it really hard to find the trail. We found our way back to the trail right at the main “bailout” point right as it started to rain.

Our third try was with some out-of-towners, and one crash and minor injury. Try number four was on a rainy day (against the advice of everyone), but we went for it and finally had a full run without damaging our bikes, getting lost, or hurting ourselves. Full success!

Sidewinder – the best trail around! If you want to have fun riding your bike, go to the Sidewinder trail on the rim of the Gunnison Gorge. Fast and flowy, slow and techy, steep and scary, big rock moves, wash riding, and it’s all mixed together for over 20 miles of trail that rides great in both directions. You can literally put in anywhere on the trail and have a great out and back.

The Eagle Valley descent (at the South end) is the crown jewel of the trail and is not to be missed! A small group of NFV riders try to ride the Sidewinder without lights on in the full moon whenever weather allows. Half bike ride and half Vision Quest, it’s a great way to not get enough sleep!

Paonia and the NFV are great not only because of the awesome locals you find here to ride bikes with, but also because of the folks that come to visit. Trails, mining roads, and cow paths are a great way to explore on a mountain bike around here.

sidewinder trail

The ‘Sidewinder Trail’ offers many opportunities for different length rides in the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area, accessed from CO HWY 92 at Peach Valley near Austin.

Getting away from purpose built trails helps to find new spots to explore and challenge yourself. Stevens Gulch, Lone Cabin Road, Leroux Creek, and tons of spots up on the Grand Mesa have amazing terrain and old trails and jeep roads that can really get you out there.

The local flavor of the trails here is awesome, and the consciousness and direction of the dedicated locals is likely to keep it that way for the foreseeable future. What a blessing!







Road Biking in the North Fork Valley will introduce the rider to some of the best and most scenic roads with the fewest and most courteous motorists you’ll find anywhere.

by Sid Lewis

Indeed, here in the North Fork and throughout Delta County are some of the best and varying rides one can find in the state, ranking right up there places that I have ridden on the mainland of France and the Isle of Corsica.

I have developed a passion for my riding starting some thirty years back and have spent a few of those years not only as a recreational cyclist but raced and trained as well while living in Austin Texas and Steamboat Springs.  But the beautiful riding on the surrounding mesas have spoiled me.  And it’s all right out the door, no horrifying traffic to wade through. We are gifted with an extended season of cycling both in fall and spring and for that matter, this past winter, we found ourselves on our two wheelers on a fifty degree day in February when the snow was less than desirable for skiing.

For the most part, very few folks these days don’t have access to either a computer, android or smartphone that can be used to either map and print their rides to carry with them or even refer to their Dick Tracy wrist device for that matter while on the road.

Thanks to the collaboration between Todd Sheets, Sydney Shaw (Woman On The Move) and The Delta County Tourism Board, there soon will be mapping available to find your way around during your rides here in the County.

Now, how to stay safe out there.

This blog happens to also be a good venue to hit not only on where to ride, but also on how to ride safely in traffic with an awareness of bike etiquette, not only while riding with other cyclist but towards motorists as well.

A few years back, with the help and guidance of Bicycle Colorado, an organization I recommend we all join and support, a couple of our state laws were passed that recognize our rights to ride two abreast provided we are not impeding traffic. At the same time they made it legal for motorists to pass riders and cross a double yellow line while still giving us a three foot safe zone (same law as with farming and ranching vehicles). This is where the etiquette comes in.

Always ride to the right side of the road, whether you are riding single file or two abreast, when at all possible it says much to ride single file when there are cars back and when there is time and the effort  isn’t going to create a dangerous situation for you or anyone you may be riding with. Calling out to your fellow rider “car back” is often a good practice for cyclist.

Well, there are many more elements that make riding a pleasurable experience while being and feeling safe.  I hope to share those with you at some time, hopefully while riding somewhere on our beautiful mesas.


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