The Ten Best Far-Out Rides for Summer 2019

The Ten Best Far-Out Rides for Summer 2019
When you have enough time to put the bike on a rack and head out of town, Colorado has more than enough mountain options, from sweet, gentle singletrack to get-some gonzo. Because the state was in on the clunker craze right from the beginning, the choices include many classic rides along challenging routes, with jaw-dropping vistas and varied terrain suitable for first-timers willing to hike-a-bike, as well as blazers looking to test their pedal mettle on the toughest trails around. Here are ten time-honored and iconic off-road bike rides, in alphabetical order:

Boreas Pass
Trailhead on Boreas Pass Road, 3.5 miles southeast of Breckenridge

One of the many successful conversions of old narrow-gauge railroad grade to modern mountain-bike routes, the 12.5-mile, out-and-back Boreas Pass in the White River National Forest starts out above 10,000 feet, which gives an otherwise easygoing ride some heft courtesy of the thinner air. This is a good place to start, though, if you want to increase your stamina or get your bike legs pumping, because the majority of the ride runs along hard-pack road that requires little navigation, with a few opportunities to run through the blue spruce and aspen stands on singletrack spurs along the way. There are also some nice distractions courtesy of the area’s mining history, including a century-old log cabin and a water tank, as well as the peaks of the Tenmile Range and sweeping views of the Continental Divide and South Park from the top.

Buffalo Creek Recreation Area
Multiple trailheads, Pine

Easily accessed from Denver — the Buffalo Creek trail system sits about an hour west of the city — this series of loops and spurs often finds itself on lists of the best mountain biking in Colorado, because its terrain is so diverse and options abound for all skill levels along the fifty miles of routes. The Pine Valley Ranch Park trailhead is the most user-friendly, with restrooms, picnic areas and fishing along the creek bank; from there you can put together anything from a hardcore up-and-down 4-miler to a 20.6-mile loop that includes quad-busting climbs, barreling descents, slickrock, roots and rocks, sand, gravel and creek crossings, as well as several sections of burned forests from recent and long-ago wildfires. Beginners will appreciate the many bail-out points, and experts will get plenty of practice navigating the tricky, sandy switchbacks.

Captain Jack’s
Cheyenne Canyon Road, just west of Colorado Springs

Over the past two decades, the signage and route-finding on Captain Jack’s has vastly improved, making this narrow singletrack ride even easier to navigate and a fast, fun leg-stretcher for intermediates on up. The trail system has front and back sides, offering a variety of out-and-back and loop options of 4 to 8 miles once you get past the mile or so of doubletrack. Be prepared for very short, very steep climbs that make for screaming-fast downhills, and expect sandy and loose gravel sections that change substantially in dry or wet conditions. Payoffs include panoramic views of Colorado Springs and the surrounding mountains, and mileage can be upped by adding Chutes or the Spring Creek Trail to the Columbine Trail.

Flowing Park Loop Trail
Trailhead at Flowing Park Reservoir on Flowing Park Road (109), 1.5 miles from Colorado 65, Grand Mesa

Situated on top of the Grand Mesa, the mostly flat Flowing Park Loop is unusual in that it has no downhill to speak of as it winds through meadows and sparse pine stands — just a lot of gentle wavy-gravy and intermittently bumpy singletrack in a 15.2-mile easy-intermediate lollipop that hugs the cliff edge 5,000 feet above the City of Delta a big chunk of the way. The view overload includes Mount Sneffels, the West Elks, the North Fork Valley, the Uncompahgre Plateau and the San Juan and La Sal mountains. You can add another 7 miles to the ride by riding straight from Colorado 65. Extra credit if you take the 63-mile drive along the Mesa Scenic Byway, through the national forest.

Galloping Goose Trail
Trailhead at Frontage Road 626 at the summit of Lizard Head Pass, Telluride

Railroad ties still linger alongside the old Rio Grande Southern route that was carved into the cliffs backdropped by the San Juan Mountains on this 20-mile point-to-point (that means arranging a shuttle) overlooking Telluride’s Ilium Valley and the San Miguel River. Because this is a converted rails-to-trail, the grade rarely gets too steep, though the ride is one continuous moderate climb, and there is a lung-searing singletrack segment leading out of the Trout Lake section. Old mining roads, a train trestle and a robust waterfall hint at days of yore (and ore); save some energy for the relentless climb at the end to 10,222 feet atop Lizard Head Pass.

Hermosa Creek
Shuttle from Hermosa Market on U.S. 550, Durango

Fans of the uphill will relish the brutal, seemingly never-ending vertical slog into the San Juan National Forest near Durango. What goes up must come down, though, so the return is thrilling and fast on smooth, switchback-studded singletrack. Book a shuttle, because the return on this 18.6-mile point-to-point is only for the truly buff. Watch out for cattle grazing everywhere, along with fallen trees in the tight-squeeze alpine sections and lots of creek crossings, and revel in open meadows and a dense alpine portion. If you want to skip having to take a shuttle, you can ride this as an out-and-back from the southern trailhead.

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Kyle Wagner
Contact: Kyle Wagner