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A hike or mountain bike ride along Colorado's Galloping Goose Trail will leave you exhilarated, (if not for the elevation alone!). This 20-mile path follows an old narrow-gauge rail line, which was built beginning in 1890 to help haul precious metals from these high mountains.
To scale the 10,200-foot-high pass between Durango and Telluride, railroad crews blasted ledges into cliffs, built winding loops, and constructed dozens of trestles. And thus the Rio Grande Southern (RGS) Railroad was built. But it didn't last long; the economic depression of 1893 sent the company into receivership. Their loss is your gain, however, as this trail is among one of the state's most impressive for scenery.
You can easily reach the northern trailhead (in the Lawson Hill subdivision about three miles west of Telluride) by one of two routes: a paved multi-use path that runs alongside Route 145 out of town, or a scenic, unpaved path along the San Miguel River. Both routes join near the junction where Route 145 heads south; cross the road here and ride on Society Drive about half a mile until you see a large, unpaved parking lot on the right, with a sign marking the trailhead.
At the southern end, take State Route 145 south from Telluride and look for the turn off past the Trout Lake Road.
Gorgeous views everywhere! Trail is perfect for an easy ride or hike.
I rode this trail with one of the local tour outfitters. (There are at least two companies that organize bike tours out of Telluride and Mountain Village.) I highly recommend doing this, especially if you are new to mountain biking like I am. The guides haul everyone's bike up to the Lizard Head Pass trailhead, and from there it is downhill to Iium.
The tour company advertised this as a ride that is good for beginners and families. Take that with a grain of salt, and realize that this is rugged country - what the locals consider "easy" feels challenging to someone without mountain bike experience and who comes from a flat state like Illinois. Also realize that there are a couple of steep (but short) descents, and a few places where there are steep side slopes. If you are not comfortable being near the edge of a drop-off, there are places on this trail where you might be a bit nervous. (You could always dismount and walk the bike on these sections.)
Those caveats aside, this was one of the most memorable bike rides I've taken, and the scenery is spectacular! I would do it again.
The bike shop in Telluride runs guided trips and shuttle on this trail.
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