Colorado is one of the best places in the nation for mountain biking. There’s almost too many options to choose from! If you care to, you can ride 486 miles from Denver to Durango along the Colorado Trail. That’s a tough one to fit into most schedules, however, so in today’s post we’re going to take a look at some parks and some individual trails that are within a reasonable day trip from Denver.
Some of the trails we’ve selected have tough climbs and/or advanced technical features, so remember to take it slow at first if you’re at a beginner or intermediate level. Colorado doesn’t have any formal statutes regarding multi-use trails, but some common courtesy and safety tips include audible warnings before passing, making use of hand signals and being aware of potential wet weather in the forecast that could make trails dangerously muddy and slippery. Soil is also much more subject to damage when it is wet, so it’s usually best to avoid soft trails after rains have occurred.
1) Lair O’ The Bear (Morrison)
For mountain bikers, the primary attraction at Lair O’ The Bear is going to be the 12.6 miles of multi-use trails that pass through three of the Denver Mountain Parks and follow Bear Creek for a little over a mile. Just be aware that horseback riding is equally popular on these trails, and horses usually don’t care for bikes zooming up on them without warning. If you want to take a break, this is also the park that has the most charcoal grills and picnic tables in the state, as well as plenty of nice fishing spots.
2) White Ranch Open Space Park (Golden)
White Ranch features a little over 11 miles of climbs, technical descents and rock gardens. The primary trail is Belcher Hill, which covers about eight miles in total with a 1700 foot vertical ascent that’s best for those who are at least moderately experienced and conditioned. Enjoy the meadow views and rock formations along the way and when you’re done, there’s both picnic and camping areas depending on how much rest you need!
3) Apex Park (Golden)
The Apex and Argos Trails are the main attraction here for mountain bikers. There are many other shorter trails, but you can detour onto all of them from Apex Trail. Apex itself is an advanced technical trail that runs for nearly nine miles and will take you up and down Lookout Mountain if you can handle its full length. Just be sure to note that sections of both Apex and Argos are uphill-only on odd-numbered days of the month.
4) William F. Hayden Green Mountain Park (Lakewood)
This park offers a good mix of trails for both novice and advanced riders, ranging from 1.6 to 6.5 miles in length. The longest one of these, the Green Mountain Trail, will take you all the way up to the summit. The park is particularly popular in winter as the trails tend to dry out before those located in the foothills parks.
5) Elk Meadow (Evergreen)
Elk Meadow is appropriately named as it is a favorite grazing spot for the local deer. Mountain bikers are more likely to see hawks than deer, however, as they ascend to 9,708 feet once they’ve reached Bergen Peak. Other trail highlights include Ponderosa pine and amazing views of the Continental Divide.
6) Oil Well Flats (Cañon City)
As the name indicates, this is a singletrack composed mostly of clay. The weather is suitable for riding year-round, but the trail may be unrideable when muddy. It’s closed off to vehicles during wet weather, but is always open to hikers and bikers. Though it’s not one of the higher-elevation trails on the list, great views are still to be had from the ridges.
7) Winter Park
Winter Park has been billed the Mountain Bike Capital of the USA thanks to over 600 total miles of trails extending outward from the city. There’s also two major downhill bike parks, and the area is host to a variety of different races and events during the warmer months.
8) Buffalo Creek Loop (Pine)
This trail clocks in at a little over 19 miles in total and has a number of connections to the nearby Colorado Trail. The most popular jumping-off point is Pine Valley Ranch Park, a quiet and restful place suitable for picnics and fishing in the warm months and ice skating and fishing in the winter.
9) Red Rocks / Matthews/Winters Park / Dakota Ridge (Denver)
This three-trail loop is one of the most popular short excursions for Denver residents. It’s located just west of the William F. Hayden Green Mountain Park in Lakewood. The full loop runs for about nine miles and is doable for more inexperienced mountain bikers who have the physical conditioning to take on the whole thing. Just watch out for rattlesnakes, which are plentiful in the area, and if it has rained recently you might want to wait a bit as the limestone that composes much of the trail becomes extremely slippery.
Honorable Mention: Moab, Utah
Though it’s over three times too far to technically qualify for this list, those who are up for an overnight trip should definitely make the pilgrimage out to Moab (located right on Colorado’s western border) at some point. Moab is one of the country’s top spots for mountain biking, but the amazing views of red sandstone cliffs and canyons are worth the trip by themselves.
Feel free to contact me to share your mountain biking stories, or, of course, if you’re in the market to buy or sell a home in the Denver area.