September 27, 2017

7 of the Best Colorado Mountain Bike Trails

Choosing a favorite mountain bike trail isn't easy, but we've narrowed it down. Here are our choices for the best Colorado mountain bike trails.

best colorado mountain biking trails
Choosing a favorite mountain biking trail in Colorado is like choosing a favorite child with hundreds of trails at our fingertips, it’s an almost impossible task! Fortunately, we are up for the challenge. We sifted through the hundreds and hundreds of single track options and narrowed it down to the cream of the crop: the best Colorado mountain biking trails. Here are a few of our favorites.

Buffalo Creek – Pine, CO



If you walk into any bike shop in Denver and ask for a solid trail recommendation, there is a good chance someone will direct you toward Buff Creek. Located an hour from the city proper, the drive is just enough of a commitment that the less-than-diehard riders won’t make the journey.

Why is it so awesome? Variety! From long climbs and descents to bouncy rocks, you can find a bit of everything at Buffalo Creek. A local favorite trail is the newly completed Little Scraggy. “It’s about 12 miles and you get all of the highlights, from pine forests, views, lung-busting climbs, rocks, and the most amazing swooping berms,” says Denver local Erin Trail. “Little Scraggy has my heart. My face hurts from smiling every time we ride there!”

If You Go:

Location: Pine, Colorado

Length: There are many ways to ride the Buffalo Creek trail system, so distance depends on the route you choose

Difficulty: Intermediate

Season: Late spring-fall, as these trails are often dry when others are wet. As always, please follow Leave No Trace rules and avoid riding on muddy and/or wet trails.

Doctor Park – Crested Butte, CO



If you have the gumption to make the trek to Crested Butte, you will be rewarded with arguably the best mountain biking in the state. Flowy singletrack cuts through fields of wildflowers with dramatic peaks in the background. In a word, the scenery is stunning!

Doctor Park is a favorite trail with locals for good reason. It starts with a grind of a climb up a jeep road, but awesome views make the lung-busting ascent worth it. Once at the top, the trail turns to beautiful singletrack for a five-mile downhill that alternates between rocky and technical and smooth and flowy.

If You Go:

Location: Almont, CO

Length: 20 miles

Difficulty: Advanced

Season: Generally open from June-October. It typically does not open until Memorial Day weekend due to Bighorn Sheep habitat in the area.

Centennial Cone – Golden, CO



A relatively new trail system to Denver, the Centennial Cone loop was built in 2006. These days, it’s a showpiece for a multi-use trail that encapsulates fun, smooth, and erosion-free trails. To mitigate both damage and overcrowding, the Centennial Cone loop alternates usage on the weekends. It is open to bikes on even-numbered dates, and hikers and equestrians on odd-numbered dates. Everyone can use the trail on weekdays.

The trail itself is great for beginner and intermediate riders. “If you want a long pedal that’s within 15 minutes of Denver, Centennial Cone is a great option!” says Maggie Stashak.

 

There is a decent amount of moderate climbing, but it is all on smooth and rock-free surfaces that will make beginners quite happy. Keep in mind that there are some exposed drop-offs, so true beginners who are just learning to find their balance may want to look elsewhere.

If You Go:

Location: Golden, CO

Length: 17 mile loop

Difficulty: Beginner-Intermediate

Season: There is a seasonal closure from January 31-middle of June to accommodate elk herds and calving grounds.

Captain Jacks – Colorado Springs, CO




If you’re looking for something quick, fast and furious, look no further than Captain Jacks Trail.

Located in Colorado Springs, this wide trail is multi-use; it is open to hikers, bikers, horses, and motos, so keep your eyes peeled. But while the eclectic mix of users keeps you on your toes, the fast and fun ride will keep you coming back for more. “It’s a fast descent with big moto-sized whoops, all on Pikes Peak granite (read: slip-n-slide ball bearing-like gravel),” says Brittany Jones.

If You Go:

Location: Colorado Springs, CO

Length: 2.5 miles

Difficulty: Intermediate

Season: Year-round (weather dependent in the winter)

Alderfer/Three Sisters – Evergreen, CO



If you are an intermediate rider looking to push your limits in a few incremental sections, the Three Sisters Trail may be a good bet for you. Why? “This trail has a good mix of climbs that make you question how in shape you are, along with some descents that always make you smile,” says Kami York-Feirn.

While largely mellow, Three Sisters flaunts some steep and rocky sections that will test intermediate skills and potentially cause a beginner to hike a bike. The summit caps out near 8,500 feet, so there is well over 1,000 feet of climbing, making this a nice ride for muscular endurance. Added bonus: the higher elevation means cooler temps, making Three Sisters a great choice on days when the city is sweltering.

Pro tip: grab a map so you don’t get lost out there.

If You Go:

Location: Evergreen, CO

Length: 13 miles

Difficulty: Intermediate

Season: Spring-Fall

Monarch Crest Trail – Salida, CO




This Colorado classic has it all: scenery, downhill, switchbacks, scree and a whole lot of fun. It is a shuttle ride, meaning you can hire a shuttle service from nearby Poncha Springs or plan on bringing two cars so that you can leave one at the start and one at the finish.

The Monarch Crest Trail combined three existing trails: the Continental Divide Trail, the Silver Creek Trail, and the Rainbow Trail. Regardless of how you choose to handle it, this all adds up to a 35-mile epic that showcases everything Colorado mountain biking has to offer. It should be noted that the majority of this trail is above 11,000 feet (the trail tops out at closer to 12,000), meaning altitude and self-reliability is a must. Nasty thunder and lightning storms can be an issue at these elevations, so plan accordingly. But, with higher altitudes also comes beautiful scenery!

If You Go:

Location: Salida, CO

Length: 35 miles

Difficulty: Intermediate/Difficult

Season: Spring-Fall

White Ranch – Golden, CO



We’re not going to lie to you: out of the gates, the initial climb up Belcher Hill is a brutal sufferfest that will make you question why you opted for White Ranch to begin with. But once that climb is out of the way, this trail system is a lot of fun and a great option near the Denver area.

The trail starts with a little rock garden before immediately launching into the previously mentioned climb. Once the majority of climbing is behind you (all 1,700 feet), be prepared for some rapid-fire technical drops on the downhill, particular on the Mustang Trail. The White Ranch Trail system combines a number of trails, so it truly is a “choose-your-own-adventure” type of place, but that’s what makes it so fun. “That climb is brutal, but the downhill is the best on the Front Range,” says Anna Luecke. “Makes the whole thing worth it!”

If You Go:

Location: Golden, CO

Length: Depends on which trails and loops you opt to ride

Difficulty: Difficult

Season: Year-round. This is a hot trail so be extra prepared with water in the summer.

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