UPDATED MAR 17, 2020
Sometimes those paved bike paths just don’t cut it. When you’re looking for a retreat from city cycling, opt for that fresh mountain air. From Front Range trails and singletracks with rocky descents and smooth switchbacks, Boulder has it all. Try these rides for the best mountain biking BCO has to offer.
If we were playing favorites, this route would be in the running. On the south side of town, Marshal Mesa generalizes a network of trails east and west of route 93. East of the highway, Dirty Bismarck and Community Ditch generate a large loop spanning all the way to Superior. While it’s relatively smooth-going, the expanse of the trail and small, rocky off-piste (meaning ungroomed) sections attracts both the novice and experienced rider. Another favorable attribute? This trail is usually rideable year-round from sun-up to moon-up.
So Dirty Bismarck left you feeling hungry for more? Carry on to Doudy Draw Loops, just west of 93. With a rockier demeanor, this trail system is a slightly tougher selection than its sister singletrack. Although, overall, it’s relatively mild. Expect scenic vistas, grazing cattle, and close encounters with deer (beware of the darting deer!). There are a couple loops to link, lending to about 10 miles worth of riding. The only drawback? People; be mindful of the trails reserved for hikers only.
This trails at this spot just north of town and a third of the way to Lyons has undergone a serious transformation in the past few years. While it’s still a bit rougher than some of its neighboring trails, this set of switchbacks up to a Lollipop Loop is riding pretty smooth in recent years. With man-made, cobblestone-like ramps, smooth switchbacks, and a few short technical sections, this trail offers a bit of solace from the hot summer sun with its largely shaded singletrack. Once you reach the Lollipop junction, head clockwise for a shorter upward pedal and longer downhill, with an option to extend your travels about ¾ of the way ’round the circle. And while you might encounter a few hardtails out on the scene (bikes without rear suspension), full suspension is recommended.
Steep and rocky or smooth pumps and bumps? There’s really no need to get too choosy here because you can have your cake, and eat it too! A stick-figure with no arms is the best (and maybe most unique) way to describe this trail formation. At the feet, and close to Lyons’ center, are both the Antelope and Rock Garden trails that meet at the top of a short, but steep climb. For the newbie, we recommend climbing up the Antelope Trail, which offers tacky switchbacks. Past the first junction, the stem of the lollipop continues at an incline over a smooth singletrack and a few short technical spots; expect a steep climb and a smooth, pumps-and-bumps downhill. Though, if you’re a skillful rider, try climbing the Rock Garden… it rocks (sorry).
A serious staple in the Boulderites trail ride rotation, there are several ways to shred this particular cluster of loops and links to keep things fresh. Keep in mind, this shared trail is closed to bikers on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and the two major loops are directional and subject to change at random. So, you might wonder what’s the recommended route? For the novice, park at the upper lot off of Betasso Rd. Warm-up on the Canyon Loop (best when counterclockwise), then hit the Benjamin Loop (best when clockwise). For the experienced rider, the Link Trail off of Canyon Road will give you a serious challenge on the climb, and a ton of thrill on the descent. Still craving more? Start from town on the Boulder Creek Path.
It’s the weekend. You want the satisfaction of taking on a long day of riding, and to follow, bringing your sense of accomplishment and big appetite to town… without all the traffic. We hear you. That’s why initiatives to link trails from town to neighboring trails (and beyond) have taken precedence in recent years. Seriously, who doesn’t want to start and end their ride in their own backyard? Check out Picture Rock Trail for a challenging link between Heil and Hall. Fitt tip[s]: Maps are encouraged for this voyage. Bring plenty of water, some quick energy snacks, and a couple spare tubes. Oh, and some good company, too!
If you’re a go-getter with an uphill inclination, you might “warm up” on Flagstaff Road before hitting the trail at Walker Ranch. In fact, there’s a name for this sort of A-plus effort: “Super Walker.” But if you don’t want to tax your legs (shut up, legs!) before beginning the main feature, this spot offers plenty of opportunities to climb hard. Circular in nature, the trail here is best tackled counterclockwise (you will see few riders going against the grain), offering steeper downhills and moderate uphills. Heads up, though — when headed this direction, you will have to carry your bike up a steep set of stairs that switchbacks out of a small, scenic canyon.
Need to work out some muscle tension from the previous day of shredding? The Eagle Trail, nestled just northeast of North Boulder’s center, is perfect for a leisurely pace or gravel ride. For the full figure eight, start in North Boulder, entering on the dirt extension of Broadway St. north of town toward Boulder Valley Ranch Trailhead. Head clockwise parallel to Farmers Ditch toward the Eagle Trail trailhead. From here, pedal north on 55th St. to the Boulder Reservoir Trail. With the Res on your right, circle back toward 51st for a short climb back to the Eagle Trail. This time around, head right at the first junction back to Boulder Valley Ranch Trailhead. While there are few climbs in this ride, don’t be fooled. You’ll be spinning your wheels the whole way.
For most of you, it’s a serious walk in the park. But the scenery on this North Boulder leisurely path, and the option to continue to the Eagle Trail makes it worth the trip, even for the intermediate rider. If you’re not accustomed to riding at altitude or you’re longing to squeeze in that post-work (or pre-happy hour) tour, this is a good option to get your legs beneath you before you call it a day. The wide gravel path even makes for a friendly post-happy hour ride… but you didn’t hear that from us (please pedal responsibly!).
Black sheep? Hardly. While it’s not a wooded singletrack on the outskirts of town, this place is where skills come to life, and bikers of all levels come to play. Slalom, dual slalom, jumps, drops, wall rides, stairs, pump tracks, singletracks, rock features, ramps — you name it! If you’re not a regular, it’s only natural to feel intimidated by first glance. Don’t be. There’s lots of opportunities to progress through the features. And if you’re looking to get next level, check out their Facebook page for opportunities to clinic and monthly happenings. Fitt Tip: Be sure to check out Boulder Mountainbike Alliance (your local trail advocates) for conditions, closures, directional routes, and the like!
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