FALL SUNDAY: ANY GIVEN SUNDAY
November is the time of year when people leave towns like Telluride for warmer spots such as Mexico, Arizona or California. The mountain weather is unpredictable, restaurants close and those residents without kids in the schools flee.
Yet, on any given November Sunday in southwest Colorado, you can find somewhere perfect to ride your mountain bike. Most of the time, during this fall “off-season” I feel I’m in on a little secret. And that secret is the surrounding area.
Sixty-four miles from Telluride lies the small town of Dolores. It’s easy to pass by on your way to Cortez or further to Phoenix, but then you’ll miss two of its hidden gems — The Dolores Brewery with fresh salads, brick oven pizzas and cold beers and the Boggy Draw Trail System. (One could also validly argue that the Dolores Food Market is a third gem you’d miss and the greasy burgers and milkshakes at The Depot would be the fourth).
Nine miles further down Highway 145 is Cortez. If you take 145 to 160 and take a left, you’ll hit Phil’s World in about four miles. Phil’s World is 28 miles of twisting single track – my kind of world. Cortez’s high desert terrain provides for warmer weather and consistently dry single track. Last year I rode there during a warm January weekend.
Phil’s World’s trails are a welcome respite from the relentless climbing endemic to Telluride mountain biking. Instead, cyclists are welcomed by gradual climbs and sweeping down hills that playfully dip and turn through sections appropriately named The Vertebrae and Rib Cage.
If you want to do the “whole enchilada” and ride all 28 miles of Phil’s World trails, take a left at every intersection and include the Ledges Loop. If fun is more important than miles, I recommend linking Coco Race, to Bob’s Loop heading up Abajo, adding Stinky Spring and hitting the Rib Cage. Look carefully at the bottom of Rib Cage for a right hand turn that will take you back up Abajo so you can do the Cage again. For more miles, add Lemon Head, Maze and The Elbow to the beginning of your ride.
The best map of the area is quite creatively named, The Mountain Bike Map for Cortez, Dolores, Mancos and Rico and is published by Big Loop Maps. It, and any information you need, can be found at Kokopelli Bike and Board on Main Street in Cortez.
For the Telluride local during off-season, Cortez offers much more than just mountain biking. There are also the two things every Telluride mom pines for: a City Market and a Recreation Center. Cortez has both. Suffice to say, I, and all of the moms I know, know where all of the Rec. Centers are within a 200-mile radius of Telluride — Fruita, Moab, Durango and Cortez. Weekend camping decisions are often attributed to the locations of these coveted meccas—indoor pools, low-gravity entry water slides and an under $5 admission fee. Weirdly, and luckily, they’re all located in towns with exceptional mountain biking.
This November, until the snow starts to stick, I hope you’ll find a good ride (or a Recreation Center) every given Sunday.