Best Mountain-Bike Trail 2016 | Buffalo Creek Recreation Area, Conifer | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

Just an hour west of Denver near Pine sits the trail system known as Buffalo Creek, a series of singletrack routes offering just about everything a mountain biker can ask for: slow but steady climbs, slickrock segments, roots-and-rocks technical sections, sandy or crushed-gravel lines, fast descents, creek crossings and lots of alpine time among the ponderosa pines. The skill levels vary by trail and sometimes within the trails in this mostly intermediate system that includes the first three miles of the Colorado Trail (from Waterton Canyon), but there are good beginner rides — such as Baldy, which offers several bailout options — and a few more challenging ones, including Homestead and Buck Gulch. The areas surrounding the Strawberry Jack and Skipper trails take you through the three large fire zones, eerie but beautiful with extensive views that include ghostly downed trees and a clear look at the mountains. The best part is that the more than fifty miles of trails — which are being added to annually — can be combined to form dozens of loops, which means it will take a while to do them all.

Readers' choice: Bear Creek Trail

Keystone Resort enjoys a reputation for being a solid family mountain in winter, a laid-back place where many of Colorado's kids learn how to ski. But come mid-June, Keystone turns into a pretty hard-core mountain-biking mecca. With 55 trails comprising 100 miles' worth of lift-served and famously technical singletrack — complete with rock gardens, natural and man-made obstacles and plenty of places to get air — Keystone features some terrain that gives even the most gnarly mountain biker pause, all for $42 for a day pass (multi-day and season passes are available, too). The black and double-black runs offer serious speed, and the newer TNT section, an old logging road turned into a berms-and-jumps ride, has been revamped with sheer drop-offs in the smoother sections and "The Yacht," a wooden structure that gives you one last big move at the end. There's also a skills park that allows riders to practice on jump trails with rollers, logs and rocks at less-steep pitches than in the main park, as well as the Drop Zone, a series of ridgelines perfect for free falls from five to fourteen feet. There are a few beginner- and intermediate-level trails here, but for the most part, it's experts-only — and while you don't have to wear body armor, you'll probably want to.

On the block for more than eighty years, Collins' Bicycles landed a dream rebirth recently when Scott and Malissa Spero (owners of the neighboring Hooked on Colfax coffee shop) took over the store. Retaining the quaint, old-school vibe of its previous life, Two-Wheel Feel is a bright and airy remake of the quintessential small-town bicycle shop. New and used bikes line the walls, and a knowledgeable staff is always on hand to help riders find the perfect fit. Need a new inner tube or some handlebar tape? This centrally located bike shop's got it all. Along with its retail space, Two-Wheel Feel offers on-site repairs done in an open workshop at the back of the store. Continuing in the spirit of the Collins family legacy, the Speros' Two-Wheel Feel is a welcome addition to a city learning to embrace its growing bicycle culture.

You do love your bike, don't you? It cost more than your car, and you talk about it in the kind of reverential tones normally associated with family or dear, longtime friends. Adventure Cycling understands. Owner Erik Swanson — a transplant from Denmark who never saw a road ride he didn't need to check out immediately — gives his patient and extremely knowledgeable employees enough time and leeway to make sure your bike is exactly what you want it to be. A mix of road cyclists and mountain bikers (and a few who are both), the staffers are as passionate about the right fit and the right components as you are, and the smallness of the shop — which sports a repair space in the back, along with a fit studio — makes for exceptionally focused one-on-one service. If you buy your bike here — the featured brands are Yeti and Specialized, no surprise — Adventure will spend as much time as needed to ensure that everything is perfect, and if you need something done to your existing bike, it will be in good hands. Ride on.

Slightly more than a mile off I-70 sits the trailhead for the hidden gem called Beaver Brook, actually a well-shaded trail system with several options, from easy to strenuous. The Braille Nature Center Trail is a short, informative walk with interpretive signs that share information on the flora and fauna in the area, while the Gudy Gaskill Loop takes hikers above Clear Creek and the Robert Chavez Trail follows right along the water. You could do a twelve-mile out-and-back here if you have the time, but even doing a few miles both ways will still give you a backcountry feel while on a nearby trail.

It takes only about a minute of holding hands at the 25-foot-high waterfall in pretty Forsythe Canyon to realize that there's no one else around — and that there are a lot of big, shady trees everywhere...and that the gentle burbling of the water makes for some convenient background noise. The mild-to-moderate hike — no need to get all sweaty before you're ready — is partially shaded along the way by fir and spruce that make it easy to duck off the path at nearly any point, and as soon as the foliage starts growing, the wildflowers make for a nice thank-you bouquet.

A permanent nine-hole disc-golf park in Longmont, Loomiller is mostly flat, surrounded by trees, and features a lake and a pond that make for some fun challenges on several holes. The pin placements can be tough, too, but for the most part, this is a beginner's course with a variety of lines on the holes, and the tee pads are concrete. There's a picnic area near one of the ponds, but one of the best reasons for working up a thirst here is that you can hop, bike or skip onto Hover Street and hit Oskar Blues for "homemade liquids and solids," or take a short drive down U.S. 287 to the inviting patio at Pumphouse Brewery and toast your victory — or drown your sorrows over losing a disc to the lake.

Estes Park is a charming backdrop for a rodeo that does feature professional competitions but in reality retains far more of its small-town feel than not. The 89-year-old event runs July 6-11 this year, and in addition to the usual bareback bronc riding, team roping and barrel racing — and, of course, mutton bustin' for the young'uns, along with a "cash catch" where kids have to grab $5 off sheeps' butts — the Rooftop Rodeo runs a parade complete with royalty, trick riders and clowns, as well as prizes for the best float and marching band, and a real hoedown dance to live music, which may result in some participants needing to stop in at Cowboy Church on the final day. In addition, the rodeo offers an up-close look at the animals, the competitors, and a lot of manure during a Behind the Chutes tour, an add-on to the regular rodeo ticket that's worth it just to chat with the cowboys and cowgirls. Yeehaw!

Colorado can't get enough of its warm-water mountain retreats, and last year Glenwood Springs was graced with a new, unique getaway: Iron Mountain Hot Springs. This sixteen-pool oasis gives soakers a spectrum of multi-temperature relaxing options, with naturally heated waters ranging from 99 to 108 degrees. Cool off with a swim in the large freshwater pool, or continue the tranquil journey in the bubbling whirlpool. A trip to this geothermal wonder can easily be an all-day affair, with the on-site Sopris Cafe offering sandwiches, pizza and frozen yogurt along with a full-service bar (you can have drinks delivered to a pool) and plenty of patio seating so you never have to leave. Whether it's the middle of winter or a warm summer evening, Iron Mountain Hot Springs is a mini-resort made for unwinding year-round.

Team Pain's concrete crew was at it again this year, adding a field-trip-worthy 15,000-square-foot skate park at Loveland's new Mehaffey Park to a Colorado portfolio that now includes thirteen of the state's finest skate spots. The City of Loveland Parks and Recreation Department started consulting with local skaters on the design three full years before the official August 2015 grand opening, and collaborated with Fort Collins-based landscape architecture and environmental planning firm Logan Simpson to integrate it into the 64-acre, $13.6 million park. The skate park itself is a beauty, with a large flow section, a street course with several innovative rails and ledges, a self-contained bowl with stairs in the shallow end and pool coping all around, and a very cool snake run winding around a feature designed to look like a giant tree stump.

Readers' choice: Denver Skate Park

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