Pass Creek/Colorado Trail at Little Molas
High Country Ride
These two trailheads provide access into some of the most glorious high-country terrain anywhere. The Pass Creek trailhead is at the top of Coal Bank Pass about 45 minutes north of Durango and 15 minutes further at Little Molas Lake the Colorado Trail (CT) heads west. The CT east of Molas Pass heads toward the Weminuche Wilderness where riding bikes is not permitted.
These two trailheads are combined because the offer the easiest access into the near and above timberline terrain of the San Juan Mountains. The riding season for these areas is late June through September in general but depends when the snowpack melts and returns each year. July into August is primetime for wildflowers which can take over vast areas of the tundra that takes the landscape to the next level. There is quite a bit of parking at each trailhead but on peak summer weekends they can fill up easily.
One of the more popular rides and really the only non-expert ride in the area is setting up a shuttle to descend the Engineer Mtn Trail (EMT) from the top of Pass Creek trail (Trailforks Link). The bottom vehicle can be parked at a lot at the USFS cabin that is one mile north of the start of Coal Bank Pass at Cascade Creek. From the Pass Creek trailhead at the top of Coal Bank Pass the trail climbs steadily for two miles with very technical roots and rock sections to navigate with mandatory hike a bike sections for most riders. The 30-60 minute climb is well worth it as Pass Creek trail ends at the base of Engineer near timberline with spectacular views of the San Juans. Now for the good part, after turning left on the EMT, the 5.5-mile descent down the Engineer Mtn Trail which seems to never end until you pop out of the aspen trees at the bottom.
From the top of the Pass Creek trail and turning right on the EMT there are many other amazing shuttle and loop rides to do. Coal and Deer Creek trails take off on the right after about a mile and drop back down to HWY550 on the north side of Coal Bank Pass following ridge lines before dropping into the drainages. Continuing on the EMT another popular ride is to turn left on Engine Creek trail which descends 3.5 miles to the Cascade Creek trail and is chock full of technical riding with and a handful of drops. There is also White Creek trail on the left and if riders continue on the EMT it ends at the Colorado Trail.
Travelling west from Little Molas Lake, the Colorado Trail (CT) climbs the shoulder of West Turkshead Peak to near timberline before traversing the entire Lime Creek basin through some of the most spectacular and unique terrain Colorado has to offer before connecting with the EMT. The riding is very challenging so some riders just do an out and back as continuing on towards the EMT is an epic day no matter where one plans to exit. Very, very strong riders can complete the whole section of the CT to Bolam Pass in 3-6 hours but restocking of supplies and an overnight may be necessary. Riders can also set up shuttles on HWY550 to descend Deer, Coal, Pass, Engine, Graysill, Cascade Creek trails or the EMT for an epic day on the bike.
- Again, please be prepared for high-country travel and it is also highly advised to purchase a Colorado Search and Rescue (COSAR) card or fishing license.
- Many of the shuttle rides can be turned into loops if willing to ride on HWY550 back to start point