Get Outside: 10 Beginner Mountain-Biking Trails Near Denver | Westword

Get Outside: Ten Beginner Mountain-Biking Trails Near Denver

Get on the right track.
Rule number one: Always wear a helmet.
Rule number one: Always wear a helmet. Unsplash / Chris Henry
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With its high elevation and steep, rocky terrain, Colorado isn’t the easiest place to learn how to mountain-bike. But as long as you’re familiar with biking etiquette, know where to go and don’t mind a few bumps and bruises, then you’re on the right track. Start building your confidence on these ten beginner mountain-biking trails near Denver:

DOT Segment 5
9.8 miles round trip

By connecting existing pathways, the new Denver Orbital Trail creates a 177-mile loop around the outskirts of the city. Of its 28 segments, which range in difficulty and length, segment 5 is especially well-suited for those new to mountain biking. This stretch passes through some of Littleton’s most scenic parks: South Hogback Open Space, South Valley Park and Deer Creek Canyon Park. Expect to see grassy meadows, massive red-rock formations and panoramic views on this hilly ride.

Fisherman’s and Mount Carbon Loop

4.6-mile loop

Bear Creek Lake Park is “one of the hidden gems of the local mountain-biking scene,” describes Andrew Goodwillie, advisory council member of the Colorado Mountain Bike Association. Happy trails are abundant at this Lakewood oasis, and Mount Carbon is an area favorite. Overall, it’s a great beginner choice, though you may find the need to dismount for a couple of challenging sections. Know your abilities and enjoy the ride!

Flatirons Vista Loop
3.5-mile loop

This Front Range hiking and mountain-biking destination is no secret to locals; expect to share the trail, especially on weekends. It’s worth navigating the crowds, though, as the scenery here is absolutely stunning. Peddle counterclockwise for the best views of the Flatirons and surrounding meadow. Note that this area requires paid parking; bring $5 cash or download the mobile app at the trailhead.
A mountain biker riding a berm.
A mountain biker riding a berm.
Unsplash / Algi
Lava Loop
3-mile loop

You’ll find several beginner routes on South Table Mountain, including the highly rated Lava Loop. There are a variety of ways to reach this trail, but for the most easy and direct method, park at the lot on Quaker Street. Short segments of the Fossil and Old Quarry trails lead to the Lava Loop entry. From here, the singletrack features mellow climbs and downhills, with the occasional rocky section to build your technical skills.

Mayhem Gulch and Juniper Loop Trail
4.7 miles out and back

Crowds can be tricky to navigate as a new mountain biker, and avoiding them on Denver-area trails can be near impossible. But this lollipop loop is located in Centennial Cone Park, which operates on an alternate-use schedule. Only bikers are permitted on weekends with even-numbered dates, allowing you to more easily cruise along this smooth, beginner-friendly trail. While there’s a moderate elevation gain, the ascent is gradual and the views of Clear Creek Canyon are spectacular. 

Shadow Pine Loop
3.9-mile loop

Shadow Pine Loop ranks as the best mountain-bike trail for kids, though beginners of all ages will find it fun and rewarding. The lollipop loop is found in Flying J Park, easily accessible from Route 285. Though you may hear some road traffic the first mile, quiet scenery awaits farther along on the trail. See pops of wildflowers and raspberry thickets as you navigate the mild ascent and easygoing downhill.

Sleepy “S” Trail
3 miles out and back

The beginner-friendly Sleepy “S” Trail winds through a scenic meadow and ponderosa pine forest. It’s a less populated area of Elk Meadow Park — which, to no surprise, is home to an elk herd. Watch for wildlife as you pedal along this wide, rolling trail that gradually gains elevation. Keep in mind that the route has little shade, so bring sun protection and, as always, plenty of water.

Staunton Ranch Trail
7.4 miles out and back

Staunton State Park offers endless outdoor recreation, from rock climbing to waterfall hikes and mountain-bike trails. Staunton Ranch Trail is highly popular among visitors, but the wide doubletrack makes navigating doable. You’ll cycle through a coniferous and aspen forest, leaf peeping along the way. Turn around at the top of the route, or continue on to other beginner trails like Bugling Elk and Lion’s Back. Taking both extensions will add four miles to your round-trip distance.

Two Brands Loop
5-mile loop

Take your bike to Hildebrand Ranch Park, a spacious reserve located just thirty minutes from downtown Denver. You wouldn’t guess it was that close, though, as the prairie and mountain landscape feels worlds away from the city. This beginner’s loop is seldom busy, and plenty of parking is available. Heading counterclockwise, the first mile and a half gains a sizable 400 feet of elevation. But from there it’s smooth sailing on the fun, downhill singletrack.

Waterton Canyon Trail
12.6 miles out and back

Although somewhat lengthy, Waterton Canyon Trail is a great choice for beginner mountain bikers. The gravel road follows alongside the South Platte River, steadily climbing in elevation. It’s frequently trafficked, but the path is plenty wide to accommodate other bikers and hikers. You’ll likely also see others fishing in the area, plus plenty of wildlife like bighorn sheep, mule deer and sometimes even black bears. Keep your distance and enjoy the views.
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