We break down the best beginner and intermediate—but by no means boring—mountain bike rides at these four classic Colorado fat-tire destinations.
It’s the classic mountain-town, outdoor-lover cliché: When the ski and snowboard season ends, you hop on the mountain bike. But if you are like me—a fit, intermediate rider who has just never put in enough time to nail the super tech-y stuff—the idea of spending a weekend with fat-tire freaks in a hardcore mountain biking mecca makes your palms sweat. It doesn’t have to be this way. Go ahead and join your friends. While they’re off shredding Salida’s Monarch Crest or The Divide Trail outside of Steamboat, check out these fun rides that anyone can enjoy (maybe your core posse will even appreciate them, too).
Merge Lupine 1 and 2 with Lower Loop for a flow-y 12-mile frolick that starts in town, rolls through stunning stands of aspens and massive displays of summer wildflowers (dominated largely by, you guessed it, lupine), and delivers stellar views of the Slate Valley and town. Combining paved bike path, dirt road and singletrack, the ride notches just over 800 feet of up and 800 feet of down and delivers a few short (but tough) climbs and sections of delightful, sweeping switchback descents. The ride’s for you if you want to explore the joys of Crested Butte singletrack without tackling huge, techy features. And since it’s south-facing and sunny, it’s typically accessible earlier in spring. crestedbuttemountainbike.com
Intermediate mountain biking at its most fun—the type of riding that gets you hooked—is defined by narrow, flowing singletrack on rolling terrain. Enter Fruita, where the trails were built by bikers rather than adopted by them. Our favorite area rides begin off the 18 Road, about 10 miles south of town. Here you’ll find endless combinations that will keep everyone pedaling and grinning for days. Prime Cut, a one-way, 2.1-mile, uphill-only route serves as a major artery for access and includes a smooth climb that anyone can tackle. Churn slowly or hammer, but be sure to periodically take in the sweeping cliff views. From the top, you have multiple options: Head right to hit PBR (Pumps, Bumps and Rollers), one of the newer trails, which offers 2 miles of giggles in the form of a fast, perfectly flowy trail with endless kickers and berms. Head left and find your rhythm on the ideally spaced and perfectly banked turns of Kessel Run, a 2.1-mile classic that follows a dry creek bed. You can crank out laps on these trails to build your fitness or hone your skills until you feel comfortable enough to check out other, more adrenaline-inducing faves here like Chutes and Ladders and Zippity Loop. copmoba.ORG
Perfect for beginners but fun enough for experienced riders, Methodist Mountain is a trail system that features forgiving yet engaging singletrack with big views of the Sawatch Range. You can park at one of two trailheads or make it more of an adventure by riding up CR 110 from town for four miles to the CR 110 trailhead. The Little Rainbow Trail, which runs about 5 miles one way from the trailhead, has it all: sweeping curves, sandy flats and countless whoop-de-dos. Built for bikers, by bikers just last spring, the 1.7-mile Spartan East and 1.4-mile Spartan West trails may be rated as easy, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t engaging for all rider levels. The system gives you options to get creative and choose-your-own-adventure as you flow through piñon forest, fly along ridges and roll over berms. salidamountaintrails.org
Though Steamboat is synonymous with its (trademarked) champagne powder, this is also Bike Town USA (also trademarked). Find out why on Emerald Mountain, which is easy to access from town and right across the valley from Steamboat Resort. Combine the Lupine and Morning Gloria Trails for a sweet 12-mile singletrack adventure that rolls through ferns, pine and aspen forest and rewards you with ridgeline vistas. Packed with numerous gentle switchbacks and interspersed with steeper curves, Morning Gloria is one of the easiest ways to reach the top. From here, you can either choose to enjoy the smooth ride back down the way you came or a descent via the 1.3-mile Quarry Mountain Trail, a faster option that cruises through forest and open meadows on the way down. steamboatbiketown.com