Brief trek through the tarmacced campgrounds before hitting singletrack on way to the top of Charles' Peak.
Descend more singletrack. Emerge at Highway 165 and head back to Recreational Area.
The trail is mostly easy to follow (a few sections of the downhill become a bit vague though).
The singletrack is on the rugged side...lots or rocks, deep ruts and heavily gravelled areas-sprinkled through with some heinous steeps- test your traction on the uphill sections. Lots of rocks ands steep switchbacks test your mettle on the downs.
Scenery is a variety from dense pines, lofted aspens, alpine meadows to lofty mountain tops.
Take the detour to the top of Charle's Peak.
Listed as 9.6miles of singletrack anmd 5.4 miles of road.
The trail climbs from about 8500feet to more than 11500 feet in less than 7 miles (mile 3 through 4 climbs more than 1000ft)
The four mile singletrack descent is about 2500ft of altitude loss.
From I-25 take junction 74 East to highway 165, head through Rye to San Isabel. From I-25 take highway 96 west, then go south on highway 165 to San Isabel. Park at San Isabel Lake Recreational Area or on one of the many roadside spaces nearby.
Summary: For all of the downhill fun without most of the rough climbing at altitude, shuttle this ride. Get dropped at the upper St Charles Peak trailhead, which is along Greenhorn Mtn Rd (GMR) at over 11,000 ft, and picked up at either of the lower trailheads (@ ~8,500 ft) - one is at the Cisneros TH in the Lake Isabel Rec Area (~8 mile ride), the other about 4 miles north of the Lake along Hwy 165 (~7 mile ride). This gives you 2-3,000 feet of steep and challenging descending with minimal climbing (the route ending at the Lake [Cisneros TH] requires less climbing than reaching the Hwy 165 TH, which involves some uphill at around the 2 mile mark, 11,500 ft up). These and other downhills leaving from GMR are excellent rides in a beautiful alpine setting.
Recommended Route: To reach FS Rd 369 aka Greenhorn Mtn Rd (GMR), travel north from Lake Isabel on Hwy 165 for around 5 miles to the small "town" of Fairview, and take a left turn onto FS Rd 360. This is also marked as the turnoff for Ophir Campground. Stay on FS Rd 360 for about 10 miles (when the road forks shortly after the campground, stay left), until you reach a four-way intersection with FS Rd 369 (GMR) breaking off to the left. This road follows the crest of the Wet Mountains south, almost to the top of the highest peak in the range, Greenhorn Mtn (12,347 ft). The upper St Charles Peak TH is a little over 2 miles up this road on the left. About 1.5 miles into the trail (just after the old logging road peters out and the singletrack begins), it splits - go left to end up at the Hwy 165 TH, right to dump out at Lake Isabel at the Cisneros TH.
Other recommended trails in the same area: The Cisceros and Snowslide trails also have upper trailheads along GMR (appoximately 9 and 11 miles, respectively, up GMR) and drop out in the Lake Isabel Rec Area. The lower Snowslide TH is at the entrance to Lake Isabel, the Cisneros TH is at the back of the Rec Area near the Spruce and Ponderosa Campgrounds. Many other trails leave GMR and drop 2,500+ ft off to the east and west side of the range, making for numerous excellent shuttle options. There is excellent NF and primitive camping throughout the area. Email chris@e-vse if you want more info or to hook up for a ride.
Summary: Eat your Weaties, this trail is a bear. First off San Isabel is not on the wester slope it is on the front range. Second this is not a mountain bike trail it is barely a hiking trail. I did see 4 motor driven trail bikes there. Also the elevation there is about 12,000 feet above sea level. So you had better be used to high alt workouts. The upside the view is beautiful and the places you can ride are an awsome workout. Oh yea wear your hiking shoes and pack your bike shoes, also pack a lunch.I ate 3 bananas and three power bars, and drank 3 liters of water. It took two of use that are in pretty good shape 4 hours to make it 5 miles up and 2 hours coming down we rode the entire way down the trail, needless to say we walked alot going up. The trail is ride-able up in places but not enough O2 to breath. We stared at 1030am got to our 5 mile mark and turned around. This trail is for experanced riders/mountianers. If you are not both it could end in a death, this is no joke.
Recommended Route: Go and ride the Pueblo Reservoir
Other recommended trails in the same area: Nothing at the elevation.
Review Date November 18, 2003
Overall Rating 5 of 5
Aerobic Difficulty 4 of 5
Technical Difficulty 4 of 5
Ridden Trail: Every few months
Reviewed by: craigy
Cross Country Rider
Bloody excellent ride!
Hard slog on the uphill sections as you wind through aspens and old pine forests.
Some VERY steep sections force all but the 'tractionally gifted' to hike-a-bike.
Get ready to sit and grind in the granny ring for a while. This uphill section is hard, loose scree and deeply rutted trails make keeping going hard work.
Persevere though, the view from the top is awesome.
You get a bit fo a break as the traiul heads down for a short while and meandsers alongside a beautiful alpine meadow. This is just a pre-cursor to the final slog to the summit. Even harder than before as you are already knackered.
Take the hike up to the top of Charle's peak (about 150yards off the main trail). The views from the top are fecking awesome, truly gorgeous, I lie not!
The comes the treat. A descent rougher than the proverbial Badger's Arse! Lots of tight switchbacks on a trail strewn with baby heads and all sorts of rocks to throw off the unlucky rider. But there are no drop off's to speak off. In a few places the trail becomes lost a little, just use your best judegment and you should be alright. But from start to finish there is no let up, very few smooth sections, concentration is a must to avoid the constant threat of endoing and smashing your face up.
But what an exhausting thrill-ride though. When I finished my hands were numb, I had shredded one knee and both forearms (a couple of nasty high-speed spills and one slow nasty endo), but I was grinning insanely...what a total rush. I wnat to do it on a full bouncer, I could go even faster!!
Better, harder, faster, more! Makes Jones Park descent look tame!
Just discovered one of my favourite trails!
Recommended Route: Start at the San Isabel Lake Recreational Area and follow the signs from the campground, then finish off the ride with a sweet little 50mph downhill before getting back to the campground.
Or do it the other way!
Other recommended trails in the same area: Deer Peak, Cisneros Trail, Dome Rock, Junkins Park, Snowslide Trail, Squirrel Creek