Craft Beer Biking Colorado: Silverton and the San Juans

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Aaah, Silverton, Colorado. Surrounded by the San Juan Mountain Range. Wooden sidewalks, mountain views, picket fences, mountain biking and hiking trails, snow, and Avalanche Brewing Company.

This is definitely one of my happy places. You know, one of those places you go when your mind wanders. Just be sure to go there when you actually wander. Oh and remember your bike because it just wouldn’t be the same without mountain biking Silverton and the San Juans.

Silverton and the San Juans street scene
Silverton, Colorado

Biking into and around this picture perfect postcard town was, well, like falling in love. My heart skipped a beat, my breath caught in my throat, and I couldn’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be – Silverton – love at first sight.

Biking, Brews, Views, & Vistas in Silverton & the San Juans

All the places we went!

Kendall Camping – Free Camping

RAIF at Kendall Camping area outside of Silverton Colorado
RAIF at Kendall Camping outside of Silverton

Staying in a free campsite, Kendall Camping Area, located about three miles outside of Silverton, was perfection.  Our RV, and many others twice the size of our 24 foot home, fit nicely in here. And while there are times we want to be miles away from people, this site was filled with the kinds of people you want to spend time with; fellow adventurers, bikers, hikers, Jeepers, just all around fun people with stories to tell and trail advice to give.

With miles upon miles of trails and dirt roads, we explored the area on our mountain bikes daily.  Be aware, though; this is a popular off-roading Jeep place, too, so if riding on roads, keep your eyes open. 

Mountain Biking Silverton and Clear Lake

There are so many trails here, including sections of the Colorado Trail that go right through Silverton, the Boulder Gulch Trail, and the Rainbow Trail, to mention a few. Since trying to see everything will leave you with nothing, and we only had limited time, we decided to keep all of our biking just outside of Silverton in the San Juans, including transportation in and out of the town and to Clear Lake.

While camping, we met this very kind, very adventurous, very talkative guy named Dick. After telling him that we were on our mountain bikes and not Jeeps, he casually mentioned that we should takes the bikes up the road a few miles to a turnoff for Clear Lake. He said it was worth it. He said it would be hard, but we could do it. So we did.

Dick lied. It was harder than hard.

Starting from Kendall Campground, heading away from Silverton on Highway 7 (from Silverton, you’ll get on Highway 550, aka the Million Dollar Highway, and then about two or three miles outside of town you’ll go left on Highway 7), ride about four miles to the 4WD road, on the right hand side, that starts the climb to Clear Lake. I don’t know what the incline was, but it was uphill all the way, steep uphill.

Kenny and April almost to Clear Lake biking near Silverton Colorado
As far as we got, but look at that view!

We didn’t make it. We did, however, climb 1800 feet that day! I think most decent mountain bikers could, and we believe we could, too. But if you know anything about Colorado mountains, those afternoon storms come in…well…almost every afternoon, and above treeline, lightning is not your friend. And we were tired! Plus, we had to ride down, and on that rocky 4WD road, that is no piece of cake. Man, we earned our beers that day!

We think we were about a mile short of the summit and the beauty of Clear Lake, when we decided to turn around. Another adventure for another day.

Dick did tell the truth about the beauty, though. While we didn’t make it to Clear Lake, about halfway up or down (however your head perceives it), there’s a trailhead that leads you to a waterfall in the sky and beyond that, Ice Lakes. Ignoring the yells emanating from exhausted legs, we settled instead for a waterfall view lunch, vistas as expansive as the heavens, and the knowledge that an Avalanche was waiting for us below.

Avalanche Brewing Company

pizza and beer at Avalanche Brewing after mountain biking Clear Lake
Pizza and beer at Avalanche Brewing in Silverton.

Avalanche Brewing, duh! With a wooden patio seating area to soak up the warm Colorado sun, a western style bar that will not disappoint, a cozy interior to chill when it’s chilly, and pizzas and brews to drool over while still drooling over the views, this brewery keeps the love flowing…and the beer.

With one of the best wit beers I have ever had (it really was very good), albeit probably highly influenced by the surrounding beauty of the San Juans, new friends, and good conversations. Including one that became one of our first Stout Conversations.

Jesse and Janae were one of our original Stout Conversations.

Colorado Trail & Stout Conversations

Completely eavesdropping on a group of people talking right next to us, we had to butt in; they were in a heated discussion about hiking and outdoor education. After finding out that Jesse and Janae were about to finish hiking the entire Colorado Trail, a through trail that goes from Denver in Waterton Canyon to the beautiful mountain town of Durango, we knew we had to find out more about their adventures.

Over plenty of good beer, a few shots of some damn good Colorado whiskey (Woody Creek Rye Whiskey), and scrumptious pizza, we quickly became friends. They now live in Missoula. We want to be them when we grow up.

friends Jesse and Janae and Ken and April and Silverton Hiking the Colorado Trail
Here’s to friends!

When it was time to head off to our next adventure, we really didn’t want to leave. With the San Juans surrounding us, beautiful waterfalls, mountain streams and vistas, and wonderful company and solitude, this was and still is one of our favorite places on the planet. We will be back. We must ride the mountain – the Colorado Trail on our bikes and the snow on our boards.

Head over heels in love (not head over heels on our bikes – yikes)!

flowers overlooking the mountain pass while mountain biking to Clear Lake near Silverton Colorado
The wildflowers in the San Juans are stunning!

Mountain Biking The San Juans in Durango

It would be an absolute travesty to put all of these trails and breweries at your fingertips and not mention the pinnacle of mountain biking in the San Juans, Durango.

In our short stay in this mountain biking utopia of 200+ trails and 400 miles of ridable terrain it is tough to narrow it down for one trip. Our own journey found us pairing each ride with some fantastic food and, obviously, BEER. Our first stop of the trip: Sale Barns and Grandview Ridge trails for some slightly challenging biking and dinner at the fantastic Steamworks Brewing Company.

Ken biking in Durango

The next morning we found ourselves trapped inside the expansive addicting loops inside Horse Gulch Trails. Of course after riding those loops and burning all those calories we had to stop at El Moro Spirits and Tavern for a perfect post-ride brunch with a whole day left afterwards!

To end the perfect trip mountain biking in the San Juans, we took a small trip about 20 miles east of Durango. There you will find a perfect couple of hours riding Bayfield and Saul’s Creek Trails for a hell of a workout but some beautiful downs. And what do we do after a hell of a workout… drink BEER! Where do we drink this beer? At the perfect quaint Bayfield beer destination, Bottom Shelf Brewery.

Ouray and Telluride

I would be committing some sort of mountain biking and brewery blasphemy here if I didn’t at least mention these towns that are just a short car ride away and include some world renown mountain biking trails.

Telluride Brewing Company taproom - beertender pouring beer from tap
Telluride Brewing is a must visit brewery.

While we did visit them, fell in love with them, drank their beer, ate their food; we didn’t get a chance to ride their trails. Serious sad face. But that’s ok, it just means we have to go back, so we can report on more friends, more trails, and definitely more beer.

In the meantime, you can check out all the mountain biking trails on MTB Project. (what we generally use) or any other trail app or site. This area is mountain biking heaven. Be wary, though. You are in high altitude terrain, and some of these trails are not for beginners, so be aware of where you are and where you are heading.

Happy craft beer biking!

Want More?

Durango is the place to bike!

Read about our top 4 trails and food/drink pairings to go with them!

Don’t stop with Colorado mountain biking there!

Explore craft beer and mounting biking in our first home away from home, Buffalo Creek and South Park!


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