These three Colorado mountain biking hubs have even more to offer this year with new trails that will appeal to riders of all ability levels.
At some point when the coronavirus crisis eases, we will be out enjoying the trails again. Spring is here. The song birds have returned, flowers have pushed through frozen earth, and our favorite trails are beckoning us to dust off our bikes and ride. It’s tempting to stick with what you know, but each year miles and miles of trails are built around our state. In this season of renewal and rejuvenation, why not branch out and explore some newer, unfamiliar trails in Colorado’s Banana Belt, where thoughtful trail builders have been cranking out the goods over the last few years (see page 27). Just be sure to respect any current social distancing protocols and do not endanger the people who live in these mountain towns.
A longtime social trail, Vitamin B was officially adopted into the Buena Vista trail system last year. This 6-mile black diamond classic with punchy, rough climbs and challenging features including techy rock gardens and steep rollers is an experience, not just a ride. Views of the Collegiates, extreme exposure, fast flowy sections, and narrow rocky lines merge to make this an unforgettable pedal.
Choose your adventure on Unchained, a 3.6-mile trail linking Bacon Bits to Django. Whether you opt for the true double black line or you choose the B or C option, this trail, full of technical climbs, features, flowy sections, drops, and rollers will test your skills and your grit. Due to early October snows, signs and refinements to certain spots still need to be added. Expect these after April 15.
Building on the 2.2-mile extension of Camp Elevation (Blue), the 1.9-mile Sausage Link (Blue-Green), and the 1.1-mile Broken Boyfriend-South (Black) has opened up numerous loop options of varying levels closer to town.
There are seasonal wildlife closures on Vitamin B and Unchained from December 1 to April 15 for all users!
Coming Soon: Scheduled for summer, a 1-mile extension of the Midland Trail will run from Shields Gulch (where Midland currently ends) to McGee Gulch.
More Info: Buena Vista Singletrack Coalition, bvsingletrack.com
Accessible from downtown, the fairly new and varied South Cañon Trails offer big mountain views while winding through piñon and juniper. Start at the Eagle Wing Trailhead to climb easy Mutton Bustin’ and Recycle, then head south toward higher elevation and more difficult trails like Hard Time and The Great Escape. Opening this spring, the Great Escape Extension (named, like many trails here, in honor of the area’s prison history), will connect South Cañon to the historic Temple Canyon area while also increasing access along Grape Creek. Ideal for intermediates looking to increase their skills, this 2.7-mile link cruises through steep terrain with low exposure.
Many visitors come to the Royal Gorge for the bridge and amusement park, but few explore the 18-miles of trail winding through the 5,000-acre city park surrounding these attractions. Boasting a range of difficulties from flowy to techy, the Royal Gorge Trails offer unmatched views of the gorge, the bridge, and the summits of both the Wet Mountains and the Sangre de Cristos. Begin at the parking lot located on CR3A (with restrooms and picnic area), then wind around panoramic Canyon Rim, FAR Out, and Summit View for great views. End on the flowy Dream Weaver or Twisted Cistern for downhill fun, then make the easy climb on Twisted Cistern back to your vehicle. The most recent addition to the trail system is One Track Mind, a strenuous 3-mile trail with some black diamond features that terminates at Point Alta Vista, a historic viewpoint that allows exploration of old train trestles and offers incredible views of the Royal Gorge and even the Hanging Bridge, nearly 1,000 feet below.
Coming Soon: Scheduled for completion this summer, a looped extension to One Track Mind will add an additional mile of technical trail with views of the Royal Gorge and Hanging Bridges.
More Info: Fremont Adventure Recreation, joinfar.org
Sun Up, a refurbished, but rocky moderate climb accesses Sol Train East and Sol Train West, fun, flowy downhill options on the ever-expanding Methodist Mountain system. Though Sol Train West has slightly bigger jumps, both trails are playful mile-long runs full of berms, rollers, twists, and turns with consistent mellow grades and optional step-downs. Combine these with Solstice, an equally entertaining 1.3-mile route that terminates just above the old cemetery and makes a great finish to any ride, before heading back to town. Please respect the Dec 15–April 15 closure for wildlife habitat.
Over in the Arkansas Hills Trails System (on and around S Mountain, aka Tenderfoot), all the buzz is about El Duderino, a super techy, .4-mile, double-black-diamond descent that opened last fall just before the snow hit. With intense exposure, serious consequences, and optional, even more intense lines, this adrenaline-inducing drop from Dude Abides to North Backbone demands respect and stellar bike handling
Further south, Dream On, a 2-mile intermediate addition with some short, steep, rocky sections, parallels Sweet Dreams and creates more loop options close to town. Utilizing untouched ridgelines and high points where town and mountain views abound, Dream On sparks the adventurer’s imagination.
Coming Soon: A connector between Double Rainbow to Little Rainbow through the Sand Gulch Area.
More Info: Salida Mountain Trails, salidamountaintrails.org
Get Stoked for The Palisade Plunge
Interested in a techy, exposed, stunning 34-mile ride that drops from the top of the Grand Mesa (10,700 feet) to the town of Palisade (4,700 feet)? Well, start training, because the bottom half—16 miles from the Land’s End Road to Palisade—will be ready to rock in July, and the whole route, constructed by the wizards at Singletrack Trails singletracktrails.com, will be completed by the end of 2020. Technical flow, picturesque views, no-fall zones, and wild backcountry singletrack are sure to make this one of the top mountain bike destinations in Colorado. •