Galloping Goose trail rides through history
Bike ride perfect for kids, tired adults
Drive the hills, ride the flats. That works sometimes for weekend warriors exhausted from working 50 hours at the old salt mine.
Refresh your mind and spirit by taking the family on a bicycle ride along the Galloping Goose Trail atop Lizard Head Pass.
The old railroad grade has been turned into a recreation route mostly used by runners and cyclists. The 10-mile round-trip ride is a perfect high-country experience passing scenic Trout Lake and showcasing history along the way from the Rio Grande Southern Railroad days.
The grade is casual, the air is crisp and the route is never crowded. The surface is dirt and gravel; kid bikes, mountain bikes, cruisers or cross-bikes work fine.
I recommend starting from the north side of the pass. Finding this starting point is a little tricky because it is not signed.
First, coffee up and find some food in Rico.
Drive over the pass, past the Trout Lake turnoff.
Just beyond the Matterhorn Campground have your navigator look for a road off to the right that doubles as someone's driveway. Turn in here, waving to any residents like you know what you're doing.
Creep along the narrow forest road for half a mile to an area wide enough to pull over on the right.
Start the ride here. Imagine the steam locomotives and Galloping Goose rail bus chugging through this secluded mountain park. Blustery winds elicit a comment from Mrs. Outdoors. "It keeps the bugs away," I tell her.
A gentle climb brings you to Trout Lake. A small hydro plant operates just below the lake on the right is interesting. From here take a left and ride through the friendly Trout Lake community with its collection of pioneer cabins and modern homes.
A water tank built in 1890 for the Rio Grande Southern Railroad looks like it could still work. It is a precursor to an amazingly well-preserved train trestle a little further along the route, also built in 1890.
"It was about to fall down, but the Forest Service put a foundation under it to stabilize it," said Lew Matis, of the Galloping Goose Society. "It is probably the best example of a wooden trestle on the Rio Grande Southern. Most were torn down for mining timbers, but this one was preserved."
After the trestle, continue on the ride for two miles to Lizard Head Pass through deep woods. Now that you've earned lunch, it's time to take a break.
"Now there's a lot of bugs," Mrs. Outdoors points out, a problem solved by creating our own wind on a fun five-mile downhill back to the truck.
A longer route on the Galloping Goose trail is more of an epic, but well worth it. Start at the Lizard Head Pass, ride the Goose trail to Trout Lake, then continue to where it hits Colorado Highway 145. Ride the pavement a few miles to the Ophir turn. Take a left down Keystone Hill into Ilium Valley.
Cruise along the valley floor, stopping at Vance Junction, another relic from the railroad days. Take a single-track trail up to Society Turn, and ride the bike trail into Telluride. Have lunch and take the Gondola with your bike up to Mountain Village and ride up the pass to finish the ride. Whew!