As it gets colder, travelers are beginning to think about ski destinations. And while Denver, Colorado might be on many people’s lists, they should also consider it for shoulder season cycling. There are plenty of trail options for bicyclists and you don’t have to go too far outside the city to find them. Scattered in the Front Range (where you’ll find Denver and Boulder) and in nearby Breckenridge (about an hour and a half west of Denver) are prime trails where bikers can get their thrills.
Shannon Galpin, 2013 National Geographic Adventurer of the Year and an avid cyclist. In 2009, she became the first woman to mountain bike in Afghanistan, a country where the culture doesn’t allow women to ride bikes. Galpin lives in Breckenridge and we’ve asked her to share her five favorite trail rides in Breckenridge and the Front Range. All can be reached by bike from the nearest town and are equally accessible to hikers.
1. Colorado Trail – Breckenridge
The trails in Breckenridge can be challenging, due to the 10,000-foot starting elevation, but if you’re game for the hard work, this trail has sweeping views of Keystone Resorts Outback. Also, Breck trails aren’t as crowded as in Front Range ones. Do this ride as a shuttle (meaning, bring a pal to drop you at the start and leave the car at the finish), parking at Good Times up Tiger Road. Start the ride by climbing up the Middle Fork access road to jump onto the Colorado Trail at the bottom of Georgia Pass trailhead. Riding east, you have miles of single track (narrow trail for one rider at a time) along near-empty trails that take you up the grueling West Ridge climb and back to Highway 9. Total distance: About 5.3 miles
2. Heil Ranch – Boulder
This ride is close to town, and has multiple loops and routes to add on mileage if you’ve got some extra time. It’s rocky, but that means you’ll find some fun descents through the rocks and trees. If you’re looking for a longer ride, connect Heil and Hall by taking Picture Rock Trail down from Heil Ranch. Total distance at Heil Ranch: 8 miles; Picture Rock Trail: 5.5 miles (one-way)
3. Hall Ranch – Lyons
Mountain biking season is pretty short at 10,000 feet, so when “mud season” hits in the spring and fall, it’s Front Range riding time in Boulder and Denver. Despite the 5,000-foot decrease in elevation, many Front Range trails still have some uphill portions (it’s “mountain” biking, after all). Hall Ranch is a loop trail, challenging your skills up the front side’s rock garden, and perfectly pitched climbing and descending at the top loop. Ride down Antelope Trail instead of the front side for great views. Total distance: Just under 7 miles
4. Carter Park – Breckenridge
Breckenridge has been expanding its trail network over the past few years and continues to work its way towards being known as a mountain biking Mecca. The trail system takes you through some of the best that Breckenridge has to offer with historic landmarks and structures along the way. Park at Carter Park and climb up the face to the Moonstone trail. Follow this to Barney Ford, which climbs up and around to dump you on the road above town. From there, if you turn right, and then right again, you’ll be hooked up to descend Juanita, which dumps you onto Boreas Pass road. This has a mile or so road climb perfect for catching up on a conversation with fellow riders en route to the trailhead of Baker’s Tank. Continue onto the dirt road of Boreas Pass road for five miles until you get to the top of Baker’s Tank. Total distance: 6.5 miles
5. Three Sisters – Evergreen
In between Breckenridge and Boulder is a trail system in Evergreen on the Three Sisters Trail Network. It’s well pitched for single speed climbing and descending, and you might even see herds of elk. The only downside is that it’s notoriously busy with bikers and hikers. But if you avoid the crowds, this trail is nothing but fun, and while the traditional loop is between 1.5 and two hours, there are plenty of offshoots to add on more mileage if you care to explore the entire system. Total distance: Just under 15 miles
What’s your favorite trail ride in Colorado?