Bikepacking the Colorado Trail with Kids

by Andy Amick on August 7, 2017

in Bikepacking, Kids

For several years, I wanted to take my boys out on the Colorado Trail, completing one segment at a time. This year, we started that journey by riding Segment 1.

Our plan involved two nights of camping along the 17 miles from the Waterton Canyon trailhead to the South Platte River. We could have easily completed the ride in two days instead of three. But I find myself doing single overnight trips too often, so we opted for a more relaxed pace and two nights of camping.

The short version of the weekend, complete with a few videos along the trail:

And here’s the longer version of the weekend:

Day 1

Dark clouds filled the sky over Waterton Canyon as we approached the parking lot on Friday afternoon. Lightning flashed, a little too close for comfort on the edge of the storm moving east. But we were heading west, and both kids urged me to start the ride.

“Let me check the radar,” I said, not wanting to start our three day adventure with a soaking, cold rain. I’ve done enough rainy rides in my past. For this one, we had some wiggle room to start after the storm blew over. The worst of the storm blew east onto the plains, and we set off from the parking lot.

Excited to start

Excited to start

Our plan was to ride 8 miles – 7 miles of climbing up to Lenny’s Rest and then a short downhill to a camping spot beside Bear Creek. The first 6 miles gradually climbed on a wide gravel road. At mile six, we passed Strontia Springs Dam and reach the real start of the trail. Along the way, the rain started to fall, and we stopped to put on our rain jackets. We also ran into a thru-hiker from Texas who was just starting his solo journey to Durango.

Reaching the singletrack with a light rain falling

Reaching the singletrack with a light rain falling

The trail doesn’t start easy. It’s steep, rocky, and quite technical. We walked when they couldn’t ride and continued up the climb to Lenny’s Rest.

Navigating one of the switchbacks

Navigating one of the switchbacks

Climbing towards Lenny's Rest

Climbing towards Lenny’s Rest

Riding strong up the climb

Riding strong up the climb

Seven miles of climbing warranted a nice snack break at Lenny’s Rest. Only a mile of downhill remained for the day. Easy Peesy.

Camping near Bear Creek

Camping near Bear Creek

Enjoying a freeze dried meal for dinner

Enjoying a freeze dried meal for dinner

Day 2

From riding this section a number of times, I knew day two would be very difficult for the boys. The trail continues climbing through some very tough terrain – steep, rocky, and several unrideable sections even for adults. We would be pushing as much as riding. Our goal? A measly five miles and camping near the high point of the segment.

I knew the kids were tired when I woke up before them. That never happens when we go camping. After a breakfast of freeze dried biscuits and gravy with a side of Hostess Fruit Pies, we began riding.

One of several creek crossings on day two

One of several creek crossings on day two

Before long, we were pushing up steep inclines. Then pushing over rock steps. Along the way, we ran into several riders in the Colorado Trail Race. The race started in Durango and finished at Waterton Canyon. They were all happy to be so close to the finish of a very tough race.

Riding through the lush green foliage along the creek

Riding through the lush green foliage along the creek

We ate lunch along the creek, completing only a couple of miles during the morning. Finally, we crossed the creek for the last time and began riding up towards the ridgeline as the rain fell again.

We all had our low points on the day

We all had our low points on the day

And high, smiling points too!

And high, smiling points too!

At 2:30 p.m. we turned a corner and reached our campsite for the evening. It looks out onto the valley below and mountains beyond. It also contained a lot of rocks to keep the boys busy for the afternoon.

Overcast skies greeted us for two days

Overcast skies greeted us for two days

Campsite along the ridge for night two

Campsite along the ridge for night two

Games, climbing, cards, and a lazy afternoon

Games, climbing, cards, and a lazy afternoon

Cooking a dinner of rice and beans

Cooking a dinner of rice and beans

Day 3

Yes, we could have easily finished the segment on Saturday. But, having the long afternoon at camp and one more night in the tent felt good. With all of the planning and packing for these trips, it was nice to spend a second night camping. Plus, I did not want the kids to be completely wiped out and not enjoy the riding.

We awoke to sunshine and light clouds, a welcomed sight after two days of rainy weather.

Still finding rocks to conquer as the sun broke through the clouds

Still finding rocks to conquer as the sun broke through the clouds

Breakfast. Check.

Coffee. Check.

Downhill. Let’s go riding!

Reaching the high point of the segment

Reaching the high point of the segment

Only the downhill remains

Only the downhill remains

A long downhill with a series of switchbacks

A long downhill with a series of switchbacks

Still going down among the trees and rocks

Still going down among the trees and rocks

We reached the South Platte River, the end of segment one just before 11:00. An easy ride to finish a fun weekend with my boys.

A warm day along the South Platte River

A warm day along the South Platte River

Finished!

Finished!

 

About Andy Amick
A little bit nutty in general, a lotta bit nutty about bikes. Each of his boys received a bike helmet for their first birthday and the three of them have been biking together ever since.

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  • Scott B

    Awesome trip with your boys. Time over miles with them was/is wise. My boys are getting older now, but we used to put all 4 of us into our Tarptent Rainshadow-2 when they were young.

    • That must have been a cramped Tarptent! Our 3 person works great as long as the kids don’t roll into the sides when it’s raining.

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