After two splendid days soaking in hot springs, I decided to hit the road and the dirt. Although Durango is famous for its mountain biking (with good reason), I decided to look under the nooks and crannies to ride the less well-known. Below is a list:

1. Phil’s World, Cortez, CO

Phil’s World is located just four miles east of Cortez on the north side of Highway 160. It was built and is maintained by the local bike club, and they charge a small fee for enjoying this ride. The terrain is tight, twisty singletrack with little shade. Whoop-de-doos abound in typical roller-coaster fashion. A shooting range sits right next to the parking area, so if you get turned around (or lost, whatever you call it), just head for the “pops.” Keep your eyes and head on the trail while riding because the turns (whether up and down or side to side) come at you quick. The myriad of trails means you could spend an hour or an entire afternoon exploring and “wheeing” like a twelve-year old. Duration: two hours

2. West Fork Loop/Colorado Trail, Durango, CO

I came across this trail by happy accident. I was looking for the Log Chutes Trail and pulled into the wrong parking lot. World famous singletrack and climbing greet you right off the bat. The ride is well signed, and after the difficult singletrack climb, the ride lets up. Have your mountain legs ready before embarking on this sixteen-mile lollipop–you’ll do almost four miles of climbing at 8,000 feet. The tail end of the lollipop boasts some of the tightest singletrack I’ve ever had the pleasure of riding on. Gambel oak slapped up against my arms as I wheeled along, hoping no one was around the next rounded corner. The downside to this ride was the obnoxious traffic: namely, riders who forget that uphill riders (those climbing) have the right of way. I was almost thrown off the trail twice. Not an epic ride (too short), but close. Duration: four hours

3. Rim Trail, Mancos, CO

After taking a day off to hike, I was back in the saddle, this time just northeast of Mancos near the state park. As much as I enjoy riding off-road, I find little enjoyment in riding off-trail. After parking at the trailhead, I headed south on the Rim Trail. After crossing a barbed wire gate, I lost sight of the trail in a meadow but picked it up again immediately in the aspen grove. Same thing happened at the next meadow. Rinse. Repeat.

Eventually I found myself somehow without a trail. I was sitting at the top of what looked like an intermediate ski run littered with decaying pine–weathered, twisted, greyed, and poking up from the ground into the grotesque shapes of a Poe tale.

Never one to turn away from the grotesque, I bounded down the ski hill, snapping pine and eluding its branches as they grabbed at my spokes, derailleurs, and all the crannies I didn’t even know my bike had. I was enjoying the small speed bumps and the “cracking” of breaking pine when I slowed up and with little momentum, hit a large hunk of twisted pine. Then inertia caused the back of my bike to creep up on the front, and I went down with a yelp. I came up with a bloody knee and pine pieces lodged into my bike. Time to try a different tack: find the trail again. I headed forty-five degrees to my right, hoping to curve around and eventually backtrack.

The dense forest forced me to bushwhack until the next meadow, which eventually lead to a rushing river. Excellent! Rivers are always a good omen–they have to come out somewhere. And, (lucky me!) just on the other side of this river was a dirt road–I couldn’t see it but I could hear engines clunking along.

After more bushwacking the river became crossable and I rode the six miles back on the dirt road. Upon reaching my car, I spotted the trailhead for the northern section of the trail. I had gone south. Always read signs. Duration: 90 minutes

4. Boggy Draw, Dolores, CO

The folks I had met in Telluride insisted that I sample the trails in Dolores. Called Boggy Draw but encompassing a few other trails, these 30+ miles of singletrack sit right outside of town and overlook the McPhee Reservoir atop a mesa. Like Phil’s World, sustained climbing does not exist on this trail network, but tight, twisty singletrack does.

I opted for the most difficult portion of the trail, the Italian Canyon. Focused attention is necessary on this trail as a moment away from the trail will send you into the high desert/alpine flora. After fifteen miles in the Ewok forest, I glided out. It was a day of guilty pleasure, without technical difficulty or aerobic demands. Duration: two hours