Summit County Bike Trails: Mountain Biking in French Gulch
March 3, 2016
Distance: 16 miles
Time: 3-4 hours
Elevation: 9,600 – 12,046 feet
Type: Out and back, dirt road, trail
Season: July – September
The French Gulch Road trail area offers a number of riding options that branch from a well-maintained dirt road that runs through historic French Gulch just outside of downtown Breckenridge. The primary trail, just beyond Breckenridge's Wellington neighborhood, passes many old mining remains before becoming a rugged track that climbs steeply to a remote mountain pass. The Golden Horseshoe trail area to the north and a number of other trails to the south are also accessible from French Gulch.
Know Before You Go: Lower French Gulch Road (up to the Sallie Barber Mine Spur) is often dry enough to ride by April. The first 6.5 miles of the ride are easy, recommended for novices and usually free of snow by mid-June. The last few miles to the pass require advanced skills and are typically dry from July through September. Expect traffic on Lower French Gulch Road, which is surrounded mainly by private land for the first few miles. Please respect all "No Trespassing" signs. French Pass is above timberline; be prepared for rapidly changing weather. Most historic buildings are private and fragile; please view them from a distance. Beautiful stands of aspen make French Gulch a spectacular fall ride.
Parking: From I-70, follow Highway 9 south to Breckenridge. Turn right at the stoplight on the north edge of town onto North Park. Drive past the City Market store and park in one of the large lots on the left side of Park Avenue.
Description: Follow the beginning of the Sallie Barber Mine ride but continue straight where that ride forks right and drops to the stream. At roughly 4.8 miles, beyond a large tailings slope on the left that spills from the top of Humbug Hill, you ride through a gate. Continue climbing, passing a fork on the left for Little French Gulch. The road gets a little rougher as it passes a few homes nestled in the trees. It crosses over some rocks, boggy areas and a small creek but remains a gradual climb. Eventually you'll enter a wildflower-filled meadow. At the far end of it, the road starts climbing steeply. Novices should turn around here. Advanced riders can tackle the strenuous ascent to French Pass. After a gate and stream crossing, this rarely used road becomes rock-filled and technically demanding as it traverses lush meadows below rugged peaks. Sometimes changing to singletrack, the route becomes quite steep and may require some walking. Rewarding views from French Pass make the climb worthwhile. The route continues, but heads far south from Summit County toward Highway 285. From the pass, return as you came.
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