Black Bear Pass, Telluride CO: Trip Report


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Quick Summary: Beautiful, challenging, expert only ride that is quite challenging on a mid-range/weight adventure bike, I would *not* recommend on a full size adventure bike like my Super10.

When: August 5, 2022
Direction: East to West (It's one way only)
Number of Riders: Solo
Ride time Top to Bottom: 1.5 hours depending on other Jeep traffic
Rider Skill Level: 50 years old, good physical shape, above average riding skillset
Motorcycle Setup: Bare setup (no luggage) on the T7 with 1.5L water. Ran low 30lbs on the tires (airing down would have helped on traction in retrospect on the Steps area).

General Route:
  • From the Million Dollar Hwy entrance to the Black Bear Pass signs at over 12.8k ft there are only a few places requiring momentum / traction control techniques
  • Shortly after that sign, there is another sign indicating the trail becomes 1 way and there is no turning back after this time. From this point to the Steps has a number of steep downhills with either loose palm size rock, or tall step down ledges will little room for run off before going over steep ledges.
  • Just prior to the Steps there will be a pull off to the left with a waterfall and great view of Telluride. This is a good place to park, catch your breath and walk the Steps to determine your best line. I opted to stay towards the uphill side and away from the ledge side, it is a long drop off as many have discovered (frequently fatally) in the past.
  • The Steps consist of some slicker type rock, with numerous locations with dirt/dust buildup and small rocks. Once the Steps start there is no flat are to be able to run out to bleed off speed if you get going to fast. You either put the bike down and hope it skids to a stop or go over the edge. See bullet above.
  • The Step ledges are tall enough / steep enough to be able to keep both feet on the ground while going downhill, balancing the bike and maintaining good speed control is tricky and requires constant attention.
  • While some riders may be good / brave enough to attempt to ride down this, I would only consider that on a much lighter dirtbike. Midesize adventure bike or larger will have too much inertia IMO to be able to stop confidently should you bounce to the wrong line. As such, I opted to turn the bike off, work the clutch with engine compression to hold the rear tire and the front brake (lightly) to control my descent. This allowed me to maintain both feet on the ground vs trying to work the rear brake and only one leg on the ground. This technique, will taking awhile, was doable and I was able to maintain good control / speed.
  • After the Steps you again are greeted with great views and the bottom of the waterfall to cross over. From here it's just switchbacks on dirt / gravel down into the city of Telluride.
  • Watch the weather very closely, and recheck it on the day of. If there is any rain on those obstacles, especially the Steps, you have a significant increased chance of bike damage, injury, or a couple thousand foot drop down into Telluride. Don't push a bad situation here.
  • Be prepared for a lot of Jeep traffic, especially on the weekends. Most are also slow crawling as well. Just pick your gap, and proceed and take your time.
  • On the way down the switchbacks, on the north side about halfway down, you'll see the subtle entrance to the Telluride Via Ferrata. Look for climbers on the wall, and if you have the time / ability it is highly recommended.

Have a Great Day!