Bikerafting Southwest Colorado

Bikerafting Southwest Colorado

Bikerafting is the combination of bikepacking and packrafting.

Sounds a little specialized, and it is, but it can bring you to some incredible locations and provide an adventure you're not soon to forget. 

Recently I had the pleasure of going out for a short overnighter with our friends and fellow locals over at Four Corners Guides. They've been guiding adventures all over the Four Corners region for the last few years and have really dialed in their approach, their routes, and their teaching. As a total newcomer to the sport it was great to follow their lead. 

While I've put on hundreds of miles of backpacking, and thousands of miles of bikepacking, I haven't done much on the water and I'd venture a guess that many of you are the same. My one experience on the river did not go so well as many of you know. In fact, we made a little movie about that calamity. So I was eager to jump back in and get back on the water. 

a classic gear explosion before preparing for bikepacking

After completing some vehicle shuttles and spending roughly twenty minutes getting all the bikes packed up I was eager to hit the road for my first bikepacking trip in over seven years. Our goal was simple. Ride about twenty miles of gravel, inflate the boats, paddle a mile, and set up camp. I should mention that we’ve got an AWESOME Bikerafting giveaway and campaign coming up in the spring and this trip was to create some content around the campaign. So, ladden with all my bikepacking gear, packrafting gear, and cameras, we hit the road! 

Southwest Colorado provides some incredible gravel riding. We have hundred of miles of well maintained gravel roads with minimal traffic. We took off setting a nice leisurely pace and headed towards our objective, McPhee reservoir. In classic Colorado style the skies opened up and pelted us with rain for about thirty minutes which wouldn’t be so bad if it didn’t also turn the lesser maintained forest service roads into peanut butter. 

Reaching the reservoir treated us to an outrageous descent. Screaming down the switchbacks with the drone tracking our movements, I was hooting and hollering like I was a little kid. It was an incredible way to end the day of pedalling. It reminded me just how much I love adventuring by bike and it got me excited for future adventures. 

a fully loaded specialized bike rigged for Bikerafting

With the bike portion of the first day done we all disassembled our rigs and started getting the boats ready.

For this trip we had light weight Alpacka packrafts with the awesome cargo fly. Having this set up allowed us to stash our already packed bike bags into the hull of the boat. Super simple. Once the boats got inflated we then lashed our bikes onto the boats and hit the water! It was a quick paddle to once of the most incredible campsites i’ve had. One thing I can truly appreciate about adventuring with boats is that, in my experience, the campsites seem to be the best. We found a great cove with just enough room and flat spots to pitch our tents. I pitched my little two person Big Agnes tent on a flat patch of sand and was able to get an incredible night of sleep. 

While at camp we swam, we shared stories, and we ate. Another local company Farm to Summit provided food for the trip and we had a bit of a pot luck. It was fantastic. Because we’re all old farts it was early to bed to prepare for the following morning. 

sitting around camp with a jetboil and farm to summit food

We all woke with the sun and gathered around the Jetboil for coffee and breakfast.

Between the latte’s and grits from Farm to Summit we were all well fed and caffeinated. Breaking down camp went quickly and before long we had the boats all packed up and were back on the water. 

The lake was like glass in the morning and we were lucky to not have any wind. The thing about packrafts is that they are prone to catching a headwind and grinding to a halt. This is especially true on a lake. Fortunately, we were able to make progress and we covered about four miles before noon. After we landed it was time to breakdown the boats and repack the bikes. The goal for the day was tackling about 8 miles of single track to bring us back to the vehicle. 

With the bikes all ready to go we hit the trail!

This was some awesome single track that skirted the lake and provided some killer views. Unfortunately to get those killer views there was a good amount of climbing right off the bat. With loaded rigs and a heavy backpack the climbing was definitely difficult but looking back on it I’m grateful to have had more time to take in the views. 

The trail had some great flow in parts and overall was quite enjoyable without anything too technical. We got back to the car early in the afternoon and capped off the adventure by jumping into the Dolores river to calm down. 

Want to get a better perspective on the trip? Take a look at the video! Video created by Marana Visuals, a video production company in Tucson.

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