Western Trips

Western Trips

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Best Mountain Bike Trails / The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route

If you're searching for a high adventure western trip and you have the physical ability and the time to prepare and partake in it, an absolutely spectacular mountain bike route in the western U.S. is available to serious cycle enthusiasts and is among the best mountain biking trails.


boreas pass
Boreas Pass, Central Colorado
The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route also referred to as the Great Divide Route or by some, the Continental Divide Trail is one of a kind. Whatever name you prefer to call it, it's one very unique mountain bike route and the longest off-pavement route in the world.

One big reason this is a popular route for adventurous road bikers is that you can literally ride the trail from Canada to Mexico and the scenery along the way is obviously both diverse and spectacular.

The bike route geography varies from scrub desert to alpine mountain. Elevations also vary to a large degree. Over the vast majority of this bike route, the cyclist will either be ascending or descending. The cycle tail literally offers something different each day and I think this is one of attributes that make this route one of the best mountain biking routes you'll discover.

Being about 2,500 miles in length, the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route is the world's longest. I should point out that there's an excellent book published about the trail. Cycling the Great Divide, by author Michael McCoy, gives an excellent description of the trail and is a good read if you plan on either taking on the entire trail or just a portion of it.

About 80% of the bike route is made up of county, Forest Service, and Bureau of Land Management dirt and gravel roads. The remainder is a combination of paved roads, four wheel drive tracks and single track trails.

A north to south route along the Great Divide goes through a variety of climates. For those starting out in the northern section, the window of cycling this portion runs from about mid June to the end of September. The best authority on learning about and enjoying riding the Great Divide Bike Route is the Adventure Cycling Association. The Adventure Cycling Association is credited with establishing the bike route. The association offers maps, information about services available along the way and invaluable tips that will help make your journey both safe and as comfortable as possible.The association also suggests that would be trail cyclists also consult U.S. Forest Service maps as well.

new mexico mountains
Northern New Mexico scenery
The Great Divide bike route is known to be divided into five sections. The Canadian section that goes to Banff Alberta runs through several beautiful Canadian national parks. With the addition of the Canadian bike route, the entire bike route now is over 2,700 miles in length. The bike route in Canada also offers 114 miles of virgin riding through British Columbia's Flathead and Wigwam River valleys.

On the other end of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, the trail enters New Mexico in the San Juan Mountains and travels through the Carson National Forest. This is a very spectacular part of the bike route in as much as the rock colors are very beautiful. The mountain route then passes the small village of Abiquiu. This was at one time the home of the famous 20th century artist, Georgia O'Keeffe.

Further south you'll pass over the Jemez Mountains, east of Santa Fe, and through the town of Cuba New Mexico. After this segment, the bike route passes Chaco Mesa and the Cibolo National Forest. The landscape is of pinon studded plateaus,  arroyos, tall volcanic plugs, and abandoned ranches.


gila national forest map
Map of Gila National Forest, New Mexico
The last town on the southern section is Silver City New Mexico and beyond that lies essentially about 100 miles of desert before reaching the Mexican border.

The southern end of the route is Antelope Wells NM, right on the U.S. border with Mexico. NM Hwy 81 links it with Interstate 10 to the north.

As mentioned above, the Adventure Cycling Association is the authority about anything you wish to know about the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route.

The association's stated goal is to inspire people of all ages to travel by bicycle. They can help you explore this great country and the fascinating Great Divide route for fitness, fun, and self-discovery.

You may also enjoy our Western Trips article on the White Pass Scenic Byway in Central Washington state.


(Boreas Pass and Gila National. Forest map are from the public domain. New Mexico mountain photo is from author's private collection. Article copyright Western Trips)

1 comment:

  1. This place is really cool and I could say it is perfect location for a mountain biking route. How I wish I can watch it in person. Thanks.

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