The Ten Best Gonzo Bike Rides in Colorado

When it comes to biking, what’s gonzo to one rider may be nothing but sweet singletrack to another. Colorado has a staggering variety of trails that appeal to all skill levels, but the routes that demand total concentration and titanium-steely nerve — steep, switchback-y, technical, rocky, rooted out and rutted out — truly epitomize a rad Rocky Mountain ride. Here are our ten favorites, in alphabetical order.

10. Bergen Peak

Tight switchbacks and a long, slow, steady climb, in addition to some challenging steps and water bars, make getting to the top for the killer views from Bergen Peak a bit uncomfortable, but this Jeffco open-space trail pays off big-time at the end with a speedy drop back from the 10.3-mile lollipop-shaped sweatfest. In addition to the Bergen Peak Trail itself, there are a half-dozen other trails that can be linked to for more fast fun.

Get there:
Take I-70 west to Exit 252 (Evergreen Parkway/Colorado 74) to Stagecoach Boulevard; turn right. Follow signs to the Bergen Peak trailhead.

9. Buffalo Creek
With 2,700 feet in elevation gain, the mostly gravel series of trails linked together to make the 21.5-mile loop at Buffalo Creek called the “Big Ride” combine for one grueling grind. The good news is that the trails are for the most part smooth and not particularly technical, and the climbs give way to screaming descents. Enjoy the tiny section of slickrock, too, and try to lift your head a few times to look at the stunning scenery.

Get there:
Take U.S. 285 west to Pine Junction; turn left on Country Road 126. Drive 5.7 miles to Pine Valley Ranch and follow signs to the parking area.

8. Colorado Trail at Waterton Canyon
Long, long (and steep but steady) climbs and a lot of mileage make the combination of gravel road and singletrack at Waterton an ideal conditioning ride, with the bonus of frequent bighorn sheep and other wildlife sightings. Mostly smooth and mostly not technical, the 25.3-mile out-and-back rewards with eye-popping views of the South Platte River along the way and sweeping views from the top — but they come at a cost of 2,420 feet of elevation gain. After the easygoing first segment to Strontia Springs, the Colorado Trail takes you out of the canyon and onto a rockier section.

Get there: Take C-470 to the Wadsworth Boulevard exit. Head south for 4.1 miles on Colorado 121 and turn left into the Waterton Canyon parking lot.

7. Columbine Trail
Waterfalls and wildlife offer picnic and photo ops during this climbing-heavy workout of a trail that runs along the creek through Cheyenne Canyon at Cheyenne Mountain Park and has seven-mile round-trip and 8.4-mile out-and-back options, depending on which of three trailheads you choose for your starting point. Expect stream crossings and, about a third of the way out, a series of very tight switchbacks, as well as a section with steep drop-offs on one side.

Get there: Take I-25 south to Exit 140 and take South Tejon Street to Cheyenne Boulevard. Follow signs for Cheyenne Canyon; the trailhead shares a parking lot with Starsmore Visitor and Nature Center.

6. Dome Rock
An eleven-mile loop, Dome Rock trail at Dome Rock State Park near Colorado Springs is packed with long, slow uphill slogs that alternate with fast descents and a couple of sections where route-finding skills will come in handy (check out the park map beforehand), along with a tolerance of creek crossings. There are also a few segments that get rutted out from runoff, especially early in the season. The best part of this trail, though, is the panoramic view at the top of the first big hill, which includes the Sangre de Cristos.

Get there:
Take Colorado 67 to Divide. Drive 5.2 miles south on CO 67 to a fork; go right. At two miles, look for the Dome Rock sign, which leads to the parking area.

Keep reading for five more bike rides.
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Kyle Wagner
Contact: Kyle Wagner