Few trails offer the perfect blend of history, natural beauty, and cycling challenge like the Colorado Midland RR Trail near Leadville, Colorado. A metamorphosed rail bed converted into singletrack, this trail is more than just a ride; it's a journey through time, with glimpses of 1880s Colorado's pioneering spirit. This point-to-point trail stretches for 15 miles and offers a breathtaking alpine experience that is both educational and entertaining.
To reach the trailhead, drive 3.5 miles south of Leadville on US24 and take a west turn on 300. After turning right on CR 5, take the next left, following the sign for Turquoise Lake. After another 3.5 miles, you'll reach a fork in the road. Park and start your ride here. Trails Illustrated maps 109, 126, and 127 can aid your navigation.
Once a part of the 1887 Colorado Midland Railroad's route over the Continental Divide, the trail now offers a sublime mix of singletrack and technical elements like rock gardens. Expect to see remnants of the trail's past: trestles, telegraph lines, and interpretive signs that offer a snapshot of the 1880s, a time when this route was a vital artery in Colorado’s burgeoning mining industry. The railroad, which was abandoned by 1920, was a marvel in its day, featuring sharp switchbacks to reach the Hagerman Tunnel at 11,530 feet. This isn't a typical rail-to-trail experience; rather, it's a tangible connection to history, infused with a high alpine backdrop.
While the trail is rated as easy, caution should be exercised, especially on the descent. Rock gardens and uneven sections can be unforgiving, so protective gear like knee armor and a quality helmet is highly recommended.
Many riders have lauded this trail for its unique combination of scenic vistas, challenging riding, and historical significance. Comments often highlight the stunning alpine views, the intricacies of the singletrack, and the educational value of the interpretive signs along the route.
The Colorado Midland RR Trail is an unmissable experience that transcends mere physical activity. It's an opportunity to engage with both the natural beauty and the past, offering a well-rounded adventure for anyone who chooses to take the ride. For those interested in combining physical exertion with a cultural and historical journey, this trail is a treasure waiting to be discovered.