I’ve been lucky enough to ride bmy mountain bike all over Colorado. Training, testing, stage racing, marathon racing, and cross country racing have all brought me back to Colorado over and over again. Rough, rocky, and awkward trails as well as smooth and fast trails leave visitors wondering how such different types of terrain can exist so close to each other.
Picking the 13 best places to mountain bike in Colorado isn’t about trying to find the 13 most amazing places to ride, it’s about ruling out ones that are just a little less amazing than the rest.
1. Lunch Loops – EPIC Mountain Bike Trails
I love this trail system and I get to ride it every year as a part of the Grand Junction Epic Rides race series. The lunch loops trail system features 56 different trails. Some of the trails can be ridden by intermediate riders, but many of them are best left for advanced riders.
Most of the lunch loop trails are chunky and require full body manipulation of the bike. The trail navigates straight over large boulders, up rock ledges, and through very narrow spaces. Your arms might be just as tired as your legs when you leave this trail system.
- Butterknife: Butterknife is one of the more difficult trails in this area. It is 6 miles of taxing single track. Depending on which direction you ride it, you will encounter either 1,343 or 767 feet of climbing. Much of this trail is exposed and will require precise and confident wheel placement.
- Gunny Loop: The Gunny Loop is 4.2 miles and is generally ridden in the downhill direction. Much of this trail is fast and allows you to really let off of the brakes. Be prepared though, a few very steep climbs will keep you honest and a couple of sandy corners could catch you off guard.
- Second Thoughts: This trail is a blue trail and is considered to be easier than the previous two mentioned. This trail can become challenging quickly if you ride it at high speeds though. There are some high consequence corners that sneak up on you if you are riding too quickly for your skill level.
Pro Tip: Before going out on these trails practice your front and rear wheel lifts. You will need to know how to lift your front wheel and push your hips toward the bars in order to hop up small natural steps.
Where is the Lunch Loop Trail System?
The Lunch Loop Trail System is located in Grand Junction, Colorado. The trails can be accessed from the downtown area if you are willing to ride just a few miles up the road. If you prefer to target a specific trail or jump straight on, there are a variety of parking areas located throughout. The trails are free to use and depending on the severity of the winter, can be accessed year-round.
Bike Shops Supporting the Lunch Loops Trail System:
One of the great bonuses of Lunch Loops being so close to town is that help is never too far away. There are a few bike shops within 5 miles that can get you back on the trails in no time.
The Bike Shop: Just over 3 miles from the trailhead, The Bike Shop boasts of same day service on all makes and models of bikes. They are open Monday- Saturday 9 am- 6 pm. https://thebikeshopgj.com/
Bicycle Outfitters: Located less than 3 miles from the trailhead, they are open 7 days a week with varying hours by day. https://www.gjbikes.com/
2. The Colorado Trail – 535 Miles of MTB Trails
I know I’m cheating a little bit by putting the entire Colorado trail as just one number on this list, but it seems wrong to isolate just one portion of this incredible 535 mile trail. The terrain varies greatly across the hundreds of miles of trails, but the shear length alone makes it a noteworthy trail.
The trail has switchbacks, smooth and fast descents, long aspen covered sections, desert terrain, mesmerizing views and so much more. The sections that I have ridden are located in Breckenridge. They were fast and smooth descents with technical and tight switchbacks. They were not extremely technical but allowed for high speeds.
Pro Tip: A Maxxis Aspen tire would be a great all-around tire to conquer this trail. Check out the cost and reviews on AMAZON – Maxxis Aspen 29
Waterton to South Platte: While the Colorado trail is one singular trail, due to its length, it is often broken up into out and back segments. This is one of the most heavily explored segments of all of the Colorado trail. This trail can be ridden by all skill levels and has some longer sustained climbs as well as rolling hills.
Molas Pass To Bolam Pass Road: This part of the trail can be extremely challenging because of the elevation and climbing involved. The trail passes up and over 12,500 feet. If you aren’t up for the physical challenge, then this trail can be ridden as a shuttle.
Colorado Trail: Buffalo Creek To Lost Creek Wilderness Boundary: This portion of the trail is pretty flowy and smooth singletrack. Bikes are prohibited in the wilderness area so you will need to complete this as an out and back. Make sure you save plenty of energy for the return journey.
Where is the Colorado Trail?
Since the Colorado Trail is so long it covers a lot of ground. There are many access points throughout the trail that allow cyclists to jump on or off of the trail without bikepacking all the way through. Most people start at the northern end of the trail at Waterton Canyon which is just southwest of Denver and it finishes in Durango just past the Indian Trail Ridge.
There are a few wildness areas throughout the entire length of the trail that will force cyclists to exit the trail and enter again at another location. Cyclists are not currently allowed in the wilderness areas. There are quite a few water sources along the trail, however, since they are natural and can dry up, you should do your research before heading out on the trail. You will find bathrooms at many of the campgrounds located throughout the trail.
Bike Shops Supporting the Colorado Trail:
Where you decide to start your journey will determine what bike shops are the most convenient for you. There are many bike shops located near access points throughout the trail. You will want to make sure your bike is in tip top shape before heading out into the wilderness. Here are two bike shops that are about 12 miles away from the trailhead at Waterton Canyon.
- Alpha Bicycle Company: Open Monday-Friday from 10 am – 6 pm and Saturday from 9 am- 5pm. https://alphabicycle.com/
- Elevation Cycles: Open 7 days a week with varying hours. https://www.elevationcycles.com/about/lodo-store-pg177.htm
3. Trestle Bike Park – Test Your Downhill Mountain Biking Skills
Trestle bike park has 55 trails to test your skills on. The park has intermediate and advanced trails as well as lift accessed downhill only trails and cross country two-way trails. This location hosted the 2019 MTB National Championship this year so I got to ride some of the XC trails, but missed out on what looks like some rad descents.
The trails have large wooden features, huge built berms, flow lines, sandy corners, big jumps and drops. The cross country trails have long sustained climbs to test your fitness, and fast trails with a couple of difficult rock features to help you test your skills.
The Boulevard: This trail descends over 1500 feet in just 3 miles. The first section of this trail is a large rock garden. You’ll need speed in order to clear the feature. After the rock garden the trail becomes fast and loose.
Rainmaker: This trail is smoother with less technical and rocky features and more built obstacles. The trail has big berms, tables, doubles, step-ups, and step-downs.
Serenity: Serenity is a blue cross country trail that undulates and doesn’t have very many technical features. This is a great trail to start on and build up your skills and fitness.
Pro Tip: Always start on easier trails and build up to more difficult trails. Even if you are an exert rider it is important to warm up your skills and mind in the same way that you warm up your body.
Where is the Trestle Bike Park?
Trestle Bike Park is located in Winter Park, Colorado. It is a high elevation town located near 10,000 feet. The bike park is open from June 15th-October 6th. The hours vary but are generally from 10 am-5 pm. A season pass costs $319 and a daily pass is $49.
Plus, if you are looking for more than just a bike park there is mini golf, an alpine slide, a gondola and lots of food options. The Creperie is extra delicious.
Bike Shops Supporting the Trestle Bike Park:
There is a bike shop located at the bike park, however it is mostly for rentals of equipment, parts, or bikes. If you need any last minute equipment that is the best place to go. If you need a require, however, you may be better off going to a shop in town.
- Totally Wired Cyclery: Just over 5 miles from the bike park, Totally Wired Cyclery is open 7 days a week from 8am-5pm. http://totallywiredcyclery.com/
- Full Circle Cyclery: This shop is located almost 20 miles away but can help with parts and accessories as well as full service repairs. The shop is open 7 days a week with varying hours. https://fullcirclecycles.com/
4. Telegraph Mountain Bike Trail System
The Telegraph Trail System has 64 highly accessible trails that allow for a plethora of combinations. The trails intersect with maps that state “You Are Here” so that you always know where you are and how you can best navigate your ride.
The trails are largely singletrack and navigate through canyons and meadows with Juniper, Scrub Oak, and Pine. The trails can be ridden in multiple directions so you can get the most bang for your buck. There are some challenging climbs to really get the body moving, but there isn’t anything that is too long or too steep for an intermediate rider to tackle.
Raider Ridge: Raider Ridge is one of few directional trails in the Telegraph Trail System. It is a technical downhill only trail with lots of rocks and some exposed edges.
Sugar: This is a fast singletrack trail without too many difficult technical features. There are some banked turns for people who wish to test their skills a bit more. It can be ridden in both directions though so use caution.
Meadow Loop: This is less than a 2 mile loop that has only 250 feet of climbing and descending. It is a great trail for a beginner, a family, or to warm up on.
Pro Tip: Trail systems like this one that offer lots of small loops are great for dialing in equipment. Find a loop that takes only 5-10 minutes and practice riding it with different tire pressures or suspension settings so that you can really feel the difference in your equipment.
Where is the Telegraph Trail System:
The Telegraph Trail System is located in Durango, Colorado right at the edge of town. There are four different parking areas so that different parts of the trail can be easily accessed. Since it is so close to town, I recommend being dressed and ready when you arrive at the trail system. Don’t count on bathrooms or water stops throughout the trail.
Bike Shops Supporting the Telegraph Trail System:
Since the trail is so close to town, you shouldn’t have any issues finding a shop that can tune up or fix your bike before heading out onto the trails.
- Velorution Cycles: Only 250 feet from the trailhead! They are open Monday-Saturday at varying hours. http://www.velorutioncycles.com/
- San Juan Cycles: Just over 3 miles from the Trailhead. They are open from 9am-5 pm Monday through Friday. http://www.sanjuancycles.com/
5. Keystone Resort – Lots of Downhill MTB Trails
The Keystone resort offers 36 downhill trails ranging from beginner to expert trails. Beginner riders can coast on rollercoaster style trails with bridges or small berms while expert riders can launch into steep rock gardens or off of large jumps.
The resort is open for mountain biking in June, July, August, and a couple of days in September. They open at 10 am and close at either 4:30 or 7 pm depending on the day. A season pass will cost $339, but daily options are also available. Keystone is home to some incredible trails so even if you chose to not ride in the lift-accessed bike park, make sure to explore some of the free of cost trails outside of the bike park.
6. Spring Creek Trail System -Epic MTB Descent
The Spring Creek Trail System is located in Crusted Butte, Colorado. It has 18 different trails ranging from beginner to expert in level. The most notable trail in the network is Doctor Park. You can climb 8 miles up a road to access this epic descent or you can shuttle to the top and just embrace the downhill. The trail goes through beautiful aspen groves as well as blasts through meadows. There are some chattery rocky sections where you will want to make sure that your suspension is fully unlocked.
Pro Tip: When the trail gets rough think about pushing your heels down, pulling your elbows up, and using your arms and legs as extra suspension.
7. Bike Snowmass – Downhill Mountain Biking at it’s Finest
Bike Snowmass is a lift-accessed downhill park with over 3,000 feet of vertical descending. The park is open June-Early September from 9 am until 3 or 4 pm. The bike park has about 25 trails some of which are downhill only and others that are cross country terrain. They offer bike rentals, clinics, and ‘ride with a pro’ options.
Bike Snowmass is located in Aspen, Colorado. A one day pass on-site costs $45 and a season pass is $229. There is a significant discount if you buy online ahead of time. Parking is an additional fee. If you want free parking you will need to park at the Town Park Station and take a shuttle.
Pro Tip: Wear baggy shorts and jersey for the bike park. You can ride in a spandex suit if you want, but your coolness factor will raise exponentially if you have some endure style shorts and jersey.
8. Breckenridge a Mountain Bike TOWN
While Breckenridge itself isn’t a trail system, the town is worth highlighting. If you are staying in town then you can ride straight to the trails from your door. There are long, hard, and steep fireroad climbs for the fitness junky and there are fast, flowy, tight, or rocky singletrack descents for the technical rider. My personal favorite trails in Breckenridge are Gold Dust and Aspen Alley.
If you are not staying in Breckenridge and need to drive to the trails, come prepared with money for parking. Parking is tricky and costs in town so if you have the option of riding from your door step I would highly recommend taking it.
Pro Tip: Many of the trails in Breckenridge are extremely steep. You will want easy gearing for these trails. Consider having a 32 chain ring up front so that you don’t have to dismount and walk your bike.
9. Monarch Crest Mountain Bike Trail – Climb 2,000 Feet on Your MTB
The Monarch Crest Trail is an IMBA Epic trail. The trail starts at the East Side of Monarch Pass in Salida, Colorado. You can either pay for a shuttle service up to the start or you can meet up with a friend and use two cars to shuttle the point to point trail. There is nearly 6,000 feet of vertical descending on the trail, but don’t be fooled, you will still have to climb about 2,000 feet to access all of that fun descending.
The trail has a little bit of everything: loose and rocky, tight and technical, singletrack and doubletrack. The trail is known for amazing views and really encapsulating everything that Colorado has to offer.
Pro Tip: Come prepared for all types of weather. Much of this trail take place above 11,000 feet and even on perfect days unexpected storms can roll in.
10. Indian Creek Mountain Bike Trail System
While many of Colorado’s best trails are located at ski resorts or isolated mountain towns, the Indian Creek Trail System is located near Roxborough State Park less than 30 miles from Denver. There is a $7 fee for parking at the trailhead.
The trails winds through heavily forested areas and is great for hot summer days. There are singletracks, a short droubletrack section, and even a small jump section to practice on. While the trail features a lot of big climbs, it also undulates over rolling terrain along a ridge where you can enjoy views of Roxborough State Park.
11. Emerald Mountain – Mixing Mountain Bike Trails
The Emerald Mountain trail system is located in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. It is a great system for beginner and intermediate riders. It has 65 trails with 44 of them being either blue or green in level. Many of the trails are two directional and are extremely twisty-turny. The constant turns allow the trail to be a relaxed gradient to make the climb tolerable for a novice rider.
Many of the trails in this system are very short which allows riders to pick their journey by either linking a bunch of trails together to create a long ride or a bunch of smaller loops. The trails appear to be well maintained and even offer a mechanic’s station on the Bluff’s Loop trail. This station has a set of tools attached to a pole so that you can complete quick repairs while still out on the trail.
Pro Tip: Download the Trailforks App before riding these trails. The short trails can be difficult to navigate and Trailforks allows you to see your own dot as it rides throughout the trails. Some bike computers even allow you to download the App directly onto your screen mounted on your handlebars.
12. 18 Road Trail System – Camp and Ride
The 18 Road Trail System has 31 trails and is located in Fruita, Colorado. These 40 miles of trails are primarily desert type of terrain with few trees and large wide-open areas where you can see for miles. Many of the trails are rolling with small obstacles, jumps, and doubles. These trails are famous for their flow and the way they navigate across exposed ridgelines.
As an added bonus there is a campground in the middle of the trail area so you can camp and head out for a lap or two at any time during your stay.
Pro Tip: Don’t ride these trails if it is raining or has been raining. The composition of dirt in this area turns extremely sticky and will clog up your wheels even from just pushing your bike through it.
13. Hartman Rocks – Singletrack MTB
Hartman Rocks trail system offers over 40 miles of singletrack trails that range from beginner to expert status. The trails include rolling hills, Cottonwood groves, and granite rock formations. There are some very simple doubletrack sections that would be good for a beginner, but there are also extremely technical sections through the granite fields that might require you to practice over and over before you find the right line.
Clubs and Groups Supporting Mountain Biking in Colorado:
With so many incredible trails in Colorado it only makes sense that there would be a whole lot of people and groups behind the scenes keeping those trails great. The following groups are a small sample of the hard work to maintain and build the trails we all love and ride.
- Trails 2000: This trail organization was founded in 1989 and is located in Durango, Colorado. It is a non-profit that works to connect people to the outdoors through planning, building, and maintaining trails. https://www.trails2000.org/
- Colorado Mountain Bike Association: COMBA volunteers as trail builders, educators, and advocates. They are also associated with the Buffalo Creek Mountain Bike Patrol that works to promote responsible mountain biking and trail use. https://www.comba.org/
- Roaring Forks Mountain Bike Association: RFMBA is an example of a local group that works to create and sustain trails in the Roaring Forks Valley. https://www.rfmba.org/
Bike Parks in Colorado:
Bike parks are a great way to session skills and improve before hitting the trail. Since Colorado is so bike friendly, it makes sense that they have quite a few to pick from.
- Golden Bike Park: Located in Golden, Colorado, this bike park includes small gravity trails, jump lines, and flow sections. https://www.cityofgolden.net/play/recreation-attractions/city-parks/golden-bike-park/
- Valmont Bike Park: This is the ultimate bike skills park. The Valmont Bike Park is a 42-acre bike park with a slopestyle course, dual slalom, dirt jumps, and a couple of pump tracks. https://bouldercolorado.gov/parks-rec/valmont-bike-park
- Ruby Hill Bike Park: This skills park is 7.5 acres with a slopestyle course, dirt jumps, pump track, and skills course. https://www.denvergov.org/content/denvergov/en/denver-parks-and-recreation/parks/park-attractions/bike-parks.html
Why Mountain Bike Colorado:
Not many people need to be convinced to take their mountain bikes to Colorado. The state is known far and wide for its spectacular outdoor adventures. The hardest decision about mountain biking in Colorado isn’t if you should go, but where you should spend your valuable time. In a state 280 miles wide, and 380 miles long with trails from corner to corner it can be daunting to pick your perfect location. In Colorado though, you can’t go wrong and anywhere you go will be the best place you could be.