Rocky Mountain Dreaming - Riding the Best of Colorado and Wyoming

Jan 7, 2018
by Zach Petersen  


As a mountain biker from California, there is a great deal of allure to the Rockies of Colorado and Wyoming, due in no small part to their massive descents, variety of terrain, and quality dirt thanks to the summer monsoons.

The Sierra Nevada Mountains in Northern California often will go weeks or months without rain, leading to moon dust and blackened lungs. By the end of August, most trails are glorified sandpits. I'm not here to say that the riding isn't good in Northern California, because it is in fact very, very good; but to those of you who are able to experience the joys of what Colorado and Wyoming offer on a regular basis, consider yourselves very fortunate.

Last summer, my brother and I were quite fortunate to be able to spend over a month living out of our car and riding our bikes in the Rocky Mountains as much as possible. We were categorically "dirt bags," camping just outside of town in sometimes questionable locales (see: teenage party spots), scouring the land for free Wi-Fi, and poaching hot tubs when the opportunity presented itself. Our plan was simple: We wanted to ride the best trails Wyoming and Colorado had to offer based off of what we had read, watched, or been recommended from friends. What followed was, without a doubt, an adventure of a lifetime.



This wouldn't be our first time in Wilson, nor our first time riding there. We had spent a week backpacking through Grand Teton National park with our crazy chocolate scientist uncle from Hershey, PA. My brother and I, total joeys at the time, rented a couple of Scott Voltages at Jackson Hole and rode the trails. Almost a decade later, and only slightly less joey, we returned.

Sacramento to Wilson is one long boring drive. Once you leave Reno you are looking at 12 hours of flat desert and plains. 12 hours to think about the riding that is waiting for you. Every minute is worth it.

Rocky Mountain Dreaming

Shadow Mountain had to be the most scenic campsite from the whole trip. Unobstructed views of the Grand Tetons and one of my favorite trails from the whole trip right at our campsite.

Rocky Mountain Dreaming

Rocky Mountain Dreaming

Rocky Mountain Dreaming

Rocky Mountain Dreaming

The trails of Teton Pass are what define the riding in Wilson. Previously, the trails were unsanctioned. However, the work of local bicycle advocacy groups got them adopted and sanctioned. According to the Teton Freedom Riders, "Trails in Jackson Hole generate over $18,000,000 in commerce and $3,200,000 in salaries for Teton County businesses and residents." Let this be a lesson for cities across the United States.

Rocky Mountain Dreaming

Jimmy's Mom, Fuzzy Bunny, Candyland, and Parallel offer endless opportunities for hangtime on Teton Pass.

Rocky Mountain Dreaming
Dane throwing down some style on Fuzzy Bunny

Rocky Mountain Dreaming

Lithium is Teton Pass's crown jewel. Lithium packs everything you want, into one trail. Ripping fast flowy turns, steep fall lines, rocks, roots, and a few jumps at the bottom. It took us 13 minutes, pinned, to ride the 3 miles and 3000 feet of drop.

Rocky Mountain Dreaming
Rocky Mountain Dreaming

Rocky Mountain Dreaming
Hunting for the line on a particularly chunky section of Lithium

Rocky Mountain Dreaming

Rocky Mountain Dreaming


Rocky Mountain Dreaming

Rocky Mountain Dreaming

Rocky Mountain Dreaming

Rocky Mountain Dreaming

The foliage in Wilson is something you'd expect to see in a tropical rainforest.

Rocky Mountain Dreaming

The trip was off to a great start after a week in Wilson and too many laps on the pass to count. While we had only scratched the surface of what the area had to offer, we needed a change of scenery...




With several ski resorts Frisco is a destination for skiers. However, the mountain biking is top notch. Huge descents like Miners Creek and Lenawee let gravity do all the work and Keystone bike park can easily keep you occupied for a day or two.

Rocky Mountain Dreaming
Dropping in on Wheeler

Rocky Mountain Dreaming

Rocky Mountain Dreaming

Rocky Mountain Dreaming

Rocky Mountain Dreaming
The top of Miners Creek on the ridge of the Tenmile Peak Range.

Rocky Mountain Dreaming
Lenawee Mountain

We felt right at home on Lenawee Mountain. The sandy trail felt much like what you find in South Lake Tahoe, but longer, faster, and fewer grumpy hikers.

Rocky Mountain Dreaming

Rocky Mountain Dreaming


Coming from California, I was surprised by how many old mining relics we saw. Shacks, cars, carts, even entire mines. California like Colorado has a rich history of mining however much more of that history in Colorado is still intact today.

Rocky Mountain Dreaming



The inception of this trip came along when we were able to enter into EWS Aspen through the public lottery. If we were going to make the drive out to Colorado we figured we would spend some time out there to sample the riding before and after the race.

Rocky Mountain Dreaming

While all the factory pros get the attention of the photographers and media, privateers like us have to go out after the race for photos of our own.

Rocky Mountain Dreaming

Racing alongside your heroes and actually getting to see them ride in person is unbelievable. Witnessing Sam Hill's inside line on stage 6 was legendary.


After a week of hanging out in Aspen we packed up and headed over Independence Pass into Twin Lakes to tackle Mt. Elbert

Rocky Mountain Dreaming


Rocky Mountain Dreaming

At 14,440 feet, Mt. Elbert is the tallest peak in Colorado. It is not in Wilderness, is legal for bikes, and 100% rideable from the top. However getting to the top is much easier said than done. Even after weeks of acclimation, being above 13,000 feet was difficult. Every step feels like a whole mile. Gusty winds whip your clothing and almost suck the air out of your lungs. Resting does little to restore your energy, so you keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Rocky Mountain Dreaming

Here, we were about 3 hours in to our ride(see hike). We had gotten a late start and storms were coming in. Reports from hikers coming down were mixed; some said they could feel a lot of static electricity, some said it looked fine. Having been caught in a nasty lightning storm while climbing Cathedral Peak in Yosemite, its not something I ever want to experience again. However, with about 500 feet of elevation to go to reach the top, we decided to throw our gear on and make a dash to the top for a photo.

Rocky Mountain Dreaming
I was certain I was about to be struck by lightning at any second

Rocky Mountain Dreaming

Rocky Mountain Dreaming

30 minutes later we were back at the car. I was completely exhausted and somehow didn't eat a single thing the entire endeavor. The storm caught us on our way to Leadville for a burrito.

Rocky Mountain Dreaming

We actually saw lightning strike the top of Elbert where we were standing not long ago. While it took us only about 15 minutes to get back into the treeline from the top, certainly, the lightning storm was sitting on top of dozens of hikers who were scrambling off the mountain.

Rocky Mountain Dreaming



I had always heard loads of hype about Monarch Crest. The photos looked amazing, and on a map the trails looked sweet. The place was absolutely breathtaking, however the trails just weren't our cup of tea and didn't seem to be on par with trails that we had ridden on trip so far. With over 6000 feet of descent between Fooses and Greens, we felt like we were pedaling too much on the downhills.

[IFRAME aspectRatio=1024:576 src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ZREojygnCxk]

Rocky Mountain Dreaming
Tough Casing / High Grip WTB Vigilantes. Enough said.

Rocky Mountain Dreaming
Rocky Mountain Dreaming

A quick pressure wash of the bikes after a muddy day in the saddle and we were off to Gunnison.



I'm sure many riders roll right through Gunnison on their way to Crested Butte without even thinking about pulling their bikes off their racks for a spin on the sandy trails at Hartman Rocks Recreation Area. The trails at Hartman are worthy of a short ride or an afternoon of rock rolls and jib sessions. Not only are the trails good, but there's plenty of free camping.

Rocky Mountain Dreaming

Rocky Mountain Dreaming
Sliders gonna slide

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Rocky Mountain Dreaming

Rocky Mountain Dreaming
Rocky Mountain Dreaming

With endless amounts of traction on slabs of granite there's plenty of opportunities to get creative with your trail interpretation.

Rocky Mountain Dreaming

A short 30 minute drive north and we were in Crested Butte.



Whether or not the origins of mountain biking are in Northern California or Colorado, Crested Butte is mountain biking's home. Massive mountains shoot into the sky in every direction, hundreds of mile of trails that are strewn with rocks, roots, and pockets of loam. Every ride here is worthy of the word epic.

Rocky Mountain Dreaming

Rocky Mountain Dreaming
Rocky Mountain Dreaming

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Getting ready to drop in on the classic Trail 400

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Gotta improvise to clean that gritty chain in the backcountry

Rocky Mountain Dreaming

Rocky Mountain Dreaming

Rocky Mountain Dreaming

Rocky Mountain Dreaming

Rocky Mountain Dreaming
A couple of peanut M&M's after a 2000 foot climb, then its time to drop


Rocky Mountain Dreaming

The fun factor on Teocali ridge is hard to beat. While its on the shorter side for Crested Butte, it doesn't spend any time messing around. After working your way to the top, not much else is left other than to let go of the brakes and hang on.

Rocky Mountain Dreaming

Rocky Mountain Dreaming

Rocky Mountain Dreaming

Rocky Mountain Dreaming

A typical day in Crested Butte for us went something like this; wake up around 8am, crawl out of the car and cook breakfast, go for a massive ride, post ride pizza and beer at the Secret Stash, then a session at the bike park because we hadn't had enough bikes for one day.

Rocky Mountain Dreaming
29ers can't what?

Rocky Mountain Dreaming

After a week in Crested Butte, we were satisfied and exhausted. We briefly escaped reality and rode some of the best trails in the world, but it was time to head home...

Rocky Mountain Dreaming

Rocky Mountain Dreaming

Rocky Mountain Dreaming

Rocky Mountain Dreaming

102 Comments

  • + 53
 "We felt like we were pedaling too much on the downhills." The world needs more honest reviews like this. Awesome TR guys! Definitely some bucket list stuff there.
  • + 11
 Whether or not one agrees with the writer's opinion, that honesty stood out in the writeup
  • + 8
 Sounds like a UCI DH track.
  • + 12
 Yeah, that's not a bad thing IMO. The Monarch Crest is still fucking amazing, the views are incredible and the trail is about 20 miles long iirc. Of course that isn't 20 miles of absolute butt puckering gnar, there are some flat and uphill sections but you still lose like 6000 ft of elevation. I wouldn't let that statement discourage people from riding it, if you want tech, or features and stuff don't ride a 20 mile touring epic in a fairly remote area.
  • + 4
 @BullMooose: if you do Monarch Crest all the way to Silver Creek, it's like 32 miles once you get back into town. It can be longer if you throw Rainbow Trail into the mix.
  • + 6
 We rode Monarch Crest this summer and that was the sentiment in the group.
  • - 1
 There's some good options off Monarch Crest..but the standard IMBA Epic version is far too pedaly for a shuttle ride. The author nailed it. Highly overrated.
  • + 5
 I live at the bottom of those trails mentioned, they are a bit pedally, but he forgot to mention how long you stay over 20mph during those. You're pedaling because you just want to go faster and faster, that's what's fun about it, also, there's 6 other descent that weren't mentioned, plus there's other, gnarly, steep stuff just for us locals, we'll just keep those to ourselves Wink
  • + 8
 The Monarch Crest Trail is a true cross country ride, it's well documented as such. The fact that it's best done with a shuttle to the start confuses people into thinking it's a downhill bomb. It's a great ride and totally worth doing. There are some kick ass options off of it, some better known than others.
  • + 3
 It's an IMBA Epic if that tells you anything. It's not a white knuckle shuttle run, it's a cross country ride that is one of the best you'll ever do. There are better options if your a DH junkie looking for your next fix, but if you like a mixture of everything the Crest is HARD to beat.
  • + 5
 For sure when you ride enduro bikes with 6 pounds of tyres, it may feel exausting to climb 2000 feets on 30 miles but in fact, that ride is awesome. That was one of the best ride of my life and i rode a lot of stuff, including crested butte. Just sayin.
  • + 1
 Agree.
Green's Creek is the worst, best to avoid it.

I'll update w/specific dates as summer approaches.
  • + 2
 @lubes17319: The last 5 minutes of Greens are rad. The rest... not so much.
  • + 23
 This is what all of us MTbers dream about. What a wonderful post. Perhaps I should start planning a summer trip. . .
  • + 14
 I was fortunate enough to randomly meet Dane at a hot spring in Nevada a couple years ago, just when i was starting to get super stoked on mountain bikes. I let him borrow my dirt bike to rip around the desert, and since then I’ve been fortunate enough to go out and ride with him and his brother a bit.

These dudes are total rippers, and are the type of people who make mountain biking awesome. Super friendly, super fun, build incredible trails, and shred super hard. They definitely bring the stoke.
  • + 1
 Yup. They've been adding awesome to our corner of NorCal one sweet trail at a time. Way to get out, explore, & stack some vert boys!
  • + 7
 I was part of the original crew that built Lithium and Ritalin, then went to the Forest Service meetings to legalize the trails. Ritalin trail was not sanctioned because it was too steep and no long exists. I haven't ridden there since 2004. This write-up made me home sick.
  • + 2
 Badass work bud, wish Ritalin was still around, sounds badass!
  • + 2
 Who dis?
  • + 8
 Bad as* guys! Good work.
  • + 7
 Damn! Anyone ever watch vids like this and feel the need to relocate?
  • + 3
 Aye! Do it while you're young.
  • + 1
 Yes, I'm trying to relocate to Colorado, lol
  • + 1
 @huntstyle: don't come here, it sucks.
  • + 1
 @huntstyle: join everyone else from Cali and the East Coast. Colorado is cool if you stay away from Denver and Scummit county
  • + 3
 Having ridden every one of the these trails over the course of the last three years, and currently rcovering from shoulder reconstruction, this has me motivated more than ever to get back on the bike. "That was the steeziest fire road I've ever ridden!" I concur.
  • + 8
 My life sucks
  • + 2
 Very nice of him to still promote CA riding after stating that it is not alll that great (no rain, moon dust, blackened lungs, sand pit etc). I had the opportunity to live in CO from June 2010-January of 2014 and it killed my desire to ride anywhere else. But, I did ride elsewhere since leaving (to Georgia, then Texas and now back in my home state of California) and have my 10 year plan in place to permanently retire in the Rocky Mountain state. My kids live with their mother and are 6 and 8 years old, and need their father with them through these young years, which is the only reason why I live in CA. My daughter was born in Colorado but doesn’t remember much of it, but my son remembers going to “the park” which was hiking on local trails down the street from our house on Fort Carson. California has its spots, and unfortunately where I live those spots are a hike, but my priority is raising my kids with my ex wife. I’ll be back in the Rocky Mountain state one day-for good.
  • + 0
 Front range trails are pretty rad. Every now and then I like heading to The Springs to ride places like Ute Valley, Palmer Park, and Falcon Trail. Such awesome trail centers literally minutes from your door and the people you meet on them are always cool!
  • + 2
 The Lithium trail in Wilson, WY and several other trails are being threatened by a
Wilderness Study Area (WSA) in the Jackson area. If it becomes designated as a Wilderness Area, it will no longer be legal to ride bikes on these amazing trails that the Teton Freedom Riders built and maintain!

Feel free to visit ampl.community to support the the Advocates for Multi-use Public Lands (AMPL) and leave a public comment to the Wyoming state legislature if you want to be able to ride these trails!
AMPL is trying to protect our ability to ride these trails in this area and help other public land users as well.
  • + 2
 Well done! The last pedal section of rainbow on Monarch almost broke me so I really liked the honesty on that report. Nice riding in Keystone. Anybody know if they will ever remove Money trail at Keystone? Just seems like it never gets ridden and the jumps are wonky. Secret Stash is amazing..best wings I've ever had.
  • + 6
 My finger hurts from all the scrolling
  • + 6
 solid work dudes!
  • + 1
 Thanks VR Tom! Just out here keeping it illuminated
  • + 3
 Damn! Thanks for the great post! That Lithium trail is off the hook. Has me thinking I'll be making the trip out to the Tetons this Summer...
  • + 1
 I've been a fan of these brothers since they were a smaller YouTube channel. Really enjoying see their stuff, and love watching their footage they've started doing with Rylo.
  • + 1
 Subscriber here and you guys are straight fucking shredders. I remember watching the Lithium Trail video a few months back and it's on the list of must visits if I can. Nice writeup, keep the videos coming!
  • + 1
 And the Trail Peek boys do it again.. Great pic's great video, and you guys are no slouches when it comes to riding. Thanks for showing us L.A. city boys what real trails look like..
  • + 4
 This makes me want to retire and be a dirtbag full time.
  • + 1
 My buddy got a van and moved to Wilson for the summer. I was pretty jealous, all shuttle runs and jump lines. Find a way to earn a living while doing what you love
  • + 1
 Way to get after it, boys... now that's a proper road trip!

Quick question- which lenses were you using on the A6000 to get these shots? I have to say, they're some of the better images I've seen from that camera!
  • + 1
 Dane uses a 16-80 zeiss, 80mm prime rokinon, and a fish eye rokinon
  • + 2
 Thanks! These were all shot on 85 1.4, 16-70, 8mm 2.8 and a canon 50 1.4.
  • + 1
 @eldofreeride: whaaaaaa. You've got the new 85 1.4???? Gosh, that's the dream lens for my a6000.
  • + 1
 @Cpolism: No its the Rokinon 85 1.4. Full Manual
  • + 2
 I'm pretty sure they both earned a top 75 finish at the EWS in aspen. These dudes shred and make great vids. Yea Randy!!!
  • + 2
 Very nice!! my home state..

How does one submit a story?? I have one of our Canadian adventure...
  • + 4
 Write a blog using the PB functions. Follow the formatting guidelines. Have decent pics and perhaps a video. Useful actionable information is often excluded in favour of buzzwords so imo put some effort into steaks vs sizzle to set yourself apart. Good luck
  • + 2
 Your home state is rad. Here's our submission guide: www.pinkbike.com/news/pinkbike-content-submission-guide.html

Keep in mind we're only able to run a fraction of what gets submitted.
  • + 2
 From what @brianpark: posted--- bears emphasis.

You want good article templates? This article is strong. Also see anything @briceshirbach writes.

"• Clichés — avoid "brown pow," coffee-truck-unloading-goggles-pedalflip-ride montages, AWOLNATION - Sail, and other tired MTB tropes."
  • + 3
 @brianpark: thanks.. Colorado is rad.. but damn I love Canada..
  • + 2
 @leelau: Wait, we can't use Sail anymore?!!??

SINCE WHEN?!

Next you'll tell me people don't read MBA anymore.
  • + 1
 Rad trip and great write up. It's a shame you didn't do Canyon Creek. You guys were right there. Lithium is on my list for this Summer.
  • - 1
 keep canyon creek on the DL! ;P
  • + 2
 @skibumsierra: It's on Trailforks? Super DL lol
  • + 0
 @eldofreeride: yeah plenty of stuff on trailforks - doesn't mean you have to promote it! send tourists to ride rainbow instead
  • + 0
 @eldofreeride: plus these guys shared an illegal and amazing trail in this post which is pretty messed up, especially when the locals try so hard to keep it running. so yeah i have a problem with this post to begin with. don't need more trails getting ruined via pinkbike.
  • + 4
 im peeking rn
  • + 1
 Such a cool write-up. Awesome what you guys are doing! Really makes you want to get out, ride, explore, and have a good time.
  • + 4
 Two dudes One tent.
  • + 2
 Amazing photos! I'm gonna have to revisit this on my lunchbreak
  • + 2
 Epic trip and solid work guys!
  • + 1
 I saw these cats riding Lithium and a month later I drove out and did the same. Trail Preach is what call em!!
  • + 1
 Looks like an awesome trip! Also a great reminder to step away from the grind and make awesome happen
  • + 1
 Absolutely incredible riding, photos, videos, and storytelling. Felt like I was there, and damn I hope I can be soon!
  • + 1
 Great write up of a great trip. I've enjoyed all the youtube content as well. keep it up!
  • + 1
 Nice guys! Been digging your channel since summer. I’m always stoked, so fast and so chill.
  • + 2
 Rad feature. Well done guys!
  • + 1
 I love your videos, I look forward to every new upload from you guys! Bloody rippers! Great write-up and photos Smile
  • + 1
 Anyone know if the crazy shot at the top of the mountain in the CB section is Mt. Emmonds?
  • + 0
 Co3. I feel its inviting. Makes you more familiar with yourself. Love my home. And ALL of our lift served parks. Great vids guys
  • + 2
 Why didnt the rotten banana peel on the dash get some appreciation
  • + 1
 Ripening 2018
  • + 1
 Sometimes I forget how lucky I am to live in the CO high country. Thanks for getting me stoked for summer, boys.
  • + 2
 My personal favorite is getting to ride Jimmys Mom Wink
  • + 1
 @Zach Petersen While in Gunnison, always Powerstop
  • + 1
 Jackson sucks, tell your friends.
  • + 1
 That's what I look like after climbing Teocalli too.. Nice shots!
  • + 2
 #loamgnomes
  • + 1
 Got the same Jeffsy.... Now I know the bike can do it Smile
  • + 0
 So glad these are all in my backyard so to speak and have ridden them all. Fortunate!
  • + 1
 Really awesome post, could you share the route you took?
  • + 1
 Sac > Jackson > Steamboat (park was closed still) > Frisco > Aspen > Twin Lakes > Frisco > Colorado Springs (visit our uncle) > Monarch > Gunnison > Crested Butte > Sac
  • + 1
 This is what you call a dream job
  • + 1
 I wish it was our job!
  • + 1
 You guys know what's going on. Great pics/read.
  • + 1
 Riders are fast not their steed
  • + 1
 Awesome shit right there!
  • + 1
 Nice recap. Love the photos. & that POV of Lithium was so smooth!
  • + 1
 Absolutely incredible write up for sure! Let the summer planning begin.
  • + 1
 All of those places look just incredible! So jealous!
  • + 1
 Wow ...this will keep me stoked for a long while.
  • + 1
 This is amazing ! You are the best guys !
  • + 2
 Looks like a RAD trip
  • + 1
 Great videos every week guys! Keep it up!
  • + 1
 Awesome write up Zach, super jealous of your guys trip.
  • - 1
 Hey soooo... can you please take photos of secret local trails down? Not cool...
  • + 0
 4th from last photo is AMAZEBALLS! Well done!
  • - 1
 Imagine how much more you could have ridden if you didn't spend so much time filming and photos. HAHA
  • + 1
 Couple minutes here and there? Photos are worth it if you ask me!
  • + 1
 Sickness!
  • - 2
 Photos look washed out. such color much instagram

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