Where To Ride

Get the local knowledge on where to ride your mountain bike

Get the local knowledge on where to ride your mountain bike

Where To Ride

Just moved to town? New to mountain biking? Here are some of our favorite routes in Boulder County to get you started on exploring what the area has to offer for two-wheeled fun

I'm a total beginner. Where should I ride?

Welcome to the party! Also, we’re assuming that you know how to ride a mountain bike and have the hang of basic skills like braking and shifting, you wear a helmet when you ride a bike, and jumps and loose rocks scare you.

Boulder Valley Ranch

Most of the Boulder Valley Ranch trails are wide, safe, and not too steep. Left Hand Trail is the only true singletrack here and it's got a few ups and downs, but rides mostly flat. If you are on one of the roads like the Sage Trail look for singletrack that runs parallel just a couple feet off the trail.

Marshall Mesa

This place is chockablock full of riders of all calibers. You can put on a lot of miles at Marshall Mesa as a beginner without too many scary bumpy parts. For the most part this area is gradual ups and downs in open plains. Check out our recomendation for the easiest beginner ride on the Mayhoffer Singletree trail.

Overland Loop at Heil Valley Ranch

Overland Loop is a relatively new trail constructed as a purpose-built loop for beginners. You are in the trees for much of this 2-mile long trail. There are a few slightly tight turns and some short rocky bits. This trail is directional and there are arrows at the beginning of the loop that change direction monthly.

Mud Lake

The trails at Mud Lake are wide and smooth. There are some roots here and there, but very, very safe. It’s up near Nederland, so it’s also nice and cool on a hot day. If you feel like you’re developing mastery of this, ride over and do the Sherwood Gulch Trail. Boulder Canyon Drive/SH 119 will be under construction through February 2021. Check for road closures before you head up.

Erie Singletrack

Erie Singletrack is a fantastic riding area in the heart of a growing suburban community. These trails are perfect for beginners, returning cyclists, and experts looking for a great workout. Built on city-owned open space, they feature a very smooth singletrack that undulates with the terrain and offers fantastic views of the mountain range. Sunset West is a great place to start with easy green-rated trails.

Where can I ride after rain or snow?

Don’t ride muddy trails here! Some places like Whistler have soils that can deal pretty well with a lot of rain. We don’t. When people ride mud, they ruin the trails, and volunteers and municipal staff have to repair them. The best way to find out what is good-to-go is to check our Trail Conditions page or Twitter (#boco_trails), which is usually updated within a few hours after a storm.

Bitterbrush Trail

The first trail to be rideable is usually the Lower Bitterbrush Trail, a.k.a. the Rock Garden at Hall Ranch. Check our Trail Conditions page or twitter for beta first, but it’s often rideable a day or three after a storm. The good-to-go part usually stops at the bench, and after that the trail can get really muddy. Be aware that it’s a super black diamond trail.

Marshall Mesa

These trails often dry out pretty fast. Note that we're not talking the trails on the west side of the highway (Doudy Draw), just the east side of the highway, starting from the main Marshall Mesa trailhead.

 

Betasso

The trails here often do pretty well after a snow storm. The soil has a high composition of crushed granite, which doesn't muck up like the soils with more clay. While you’ll often find patches of snow and ice, there isn’t usually a lot of mud. Boulder Canyon Drive/SH 119 will be under construction through February 2021, check for road closures before heading up.

Devil’s Backbone and Blue Sky

If you're desperate to get out and Boulder County trails are a mess, you might want to check out the Devil’s Backbone and Blue Sky trails up in Larimar County, which often dry out fast.

I'm in town for the weekend. Where do you recommend?

You're in luck! We have a huge variety of trails nearby - and there are several bike shops in town that rent bikes. It’s going to be a bit harder to get to the trails than getting the bike. See if you can wrangle a ride from someone with a big car or truck if you can.

Marshall Mesa

If you’re a desk jockey looking to get in some easy miles to beat the stress of a work trip, grab a bike and head down to Marshall Mesa. Do the Dirty Bismarck loop. It’s about 15 miles and is rideable by all but the most newb-ish of riders. Largely open, dry, and warm, this is a great place to just hammer out the frustrations of a bad meeting with the boss.

Hall Ranch

Want to go home with some new scars? Head to “the Rock Garden” at Hall Ranch. You’ll want a car to get there, but the Bitterbrush Trail is a couple miles of ridiculously technical climbing. After that, continue up the trail and to the Nelson Loop and come back down the way you came. This trail is a serious black diamond route. If you are looking for something a bit easier, try looping from Lyons by climbing Antelope, taking a spin around Nelson (popular direction is counter-clockwise) and descending Bitterbrush.

Betasso

If you are riding from downtown and it's not a Saturday or Wednesday, ride up to Betasso! Note that Betasso is closed to bikes on Saturdays and Wednesdays. From town this whole ride is about 16 miles, but most of them go by quickly and easily. Driving to the Betasso trailhead shaves off about 9 miles from the ride. Boulder Canyon Drive/SH 119 will be under construction through February 2021. Check for road and Boulder Canyon Trail closures before you head up.

West Magnolia

Want to get up to the mountains? West Magnolia is a great network of trails. You can even take the bus from Downtown (the N Bus). These trails are a rabbit warren that is easy to lost in, so use one of the map apps to help guide you. You’ll see lots of aspen trees and views and the riding is fun. Boulder Canyon Drive/SH 119 will be under construction through February 2021. Check for road closures before you head up.

Where can I ride at night?

You can ride on Boulder City trails, but not Boulder County trails. US Forest Service trails are also fair game. If you aren’t sure, ask someone who knows. Riding on Boulder County trails after dark can get you a hefty fine. If you do want to ride at night, get yourself some serious lights. Here are some great places to ride at night.

WEST MAGNOLIA / EAST MAGNOLIA

It’s a maze up there and what better way to get lost than in the dark? Take a map app and extra food, and go have a great time. If you ride downhill you’ll either get to Nederland, Boulder, or a cliff. Only one of the three is a bad place to end up.

MARSHALL MESA & BOULDER VALLEY RANCH

Neither of these are technically challenging, but both are easy access from town. If you’re looking for a place to put on miles in the dark, check these out.

BRAINARD LAKE

Nothing like some nice technical rocky and rooty trails at 10,000 feet for an after work ride on a hot day!

LEFTHAND OHV

It’s a lot more fun to ride on loose trails with lots of drops when you can’t see them. Make sure your life insurance is up to date!

I want a BIG ride. Where do I go?

There are lots of options!

Dirty Bismark

If you want to just throw on miles and don’t want a technical thrashing, try the Dirty Bismark. People do this on their gravel bikes (they are insane, but this is Boulder, we’re all a bit nuts here). 15 miles of easy singletrack and dirt roads, more if you ride from town via Marshall Rd or tack on some miles west of the highway. It's very popular with the spandex crowd.

Super Betasso

Riding to Betasso from town makes for a 16 mile ride with nearly 3,500 ft of climbing. The actual amount of singletrack is less than 8 miles, but only about 3 miles is on the shoulder of the highway. Whether you want to grunt up the Link Trail or ride around to the Fourmile Link, most people find decending the Link Trail leaves them grinning from ear to ear. Boulder Canyon Drive/SH 119 will be under construction through February 2021. Check for road and Boulder Canyon Trail closures before you head up.

Super Walker

Want to self flagellate? Try Super Walker. From town, ride up Flagstaff Road forever or Boulder Creek Path to Chapman Drive and then do an 8-mile Walker Ranch Loop. Come on back down. This has been the gold standard for “training” on a mountain bike for well over a decade. Around 30 miles and almost 6,000 ft of climbing. Boulder Canyon Drive/SH 119 will be under construction through February 2021. Check for road and Boulder Canyon Trail closures before you head up.

Little Burrito

Ride all of Heil and all of Hall in a day for nearly 40 miles of splendid technical singletrack suffering with almost no road. Start the Overland Loop at Heil and continue on to the Wapiti Trail. Left on Ponderosa Loop, and then follow Wild Turkey to Picture Rock. Road ride 1.5 miles to Hall, go up Bitterbrush, do the Nelson Loop, down Antelope and then reverse course and get back to your car.

The Boulder Monster

If The Little Burrito just isn't enough, try that ride but start from town. Catch the Foothills Trail in NoBo (North Boulder if you aren't from around these parts), cut through Boulder Valley Ranch and find your way to Heil either on dirt roads or through Joder. NOW start the Little Burrito out to Lyons (and don't forget to stop at Oskar Blues), then retrace your path back to Boulder. At 65 miles and 7,500 ft of climbing, The Boulder Monster is not for the faint of heart.

THE INDIAN PEAKS TRAVERSE

Ride your bike from Boulder to Winter Park!  It's about 68 miles and over 11,000 ft of climbing, so plan on bike packing or finding a place to sleep in Winter Park and then come back down the next day.

While the current route for The Indian Peaks Traverse uses a lot of road segments, there are several areas where active construction, corridor flagging, or planning is underway to substantially improve this route and increase the amount of singletrack. Learn more about the Indian Peaks Traverse Project.

It's hot! Where can I ride to get away from this?

Trails off of the Peak to Peak Highway

All of the riding off of the Peak to Peak is usually great on a hot day. Head to West Magnolia, East Magnolia, Brainard Lake, or Camp Dick! Ceran St. Vrain can also be fun. Boulder Canyon Drive/SH 119 will be under construction through February 2021. Check for road and closures before you head up.

 

Heil Ranch and Betasso

While these trails aren’t really “cool,” they are well-treed so often don’t seem as hot. Bonus: both are good on windy days. For Betasso, Boulder Canyon Drive/SH 119 will be under construction through February 2021. Check for road and Boulder Canyon Trail closures before you head up.

Walker Ranch

Nothing like a ride at Walker. Yes, there’s one exposed (by fire) area that is miserable and hot, but you get to visit South Boulder Creek twice on the ride. Dip your toes to cool off.

I want to ride gnar. Where do I go?

Looking for the hardest trails in Boulder County? Here's the deets on Black and Double Black rated rides (Safety NOT guaranteed)

Bitterbrush Trail

Hit “the Rock Garden” at Hall Ranch. Most strong riders can make it down this trail without kissing the ground, but can you make it up? An insane interval workout of a climb with unrelenting onslaught of rocks, boulders, roots, and some more rocks awaits. This is the place where local riders go to test their technical chops. Do this as part of a ride with the Nelson loop.

South St. Vrain

Up off the Peak to Peak, this is a summertime favorite. Ride this downhill from Brainard Lake to Beaver Reservoir Rd. You need to get to the top, so make it a loop or shuttle it if you’ve got a buddy. This trail is chundery, loose, and has a gnarly boulder drop staircase.

Walker Ranch

Commonly called, “the hardest 8 miles of mountain biking in Boulder,” this trail has ridiculously steep climbs with rock fins, loose kitty-litter turns, and amazing views. Ride it like a local - there is an unrideable (well, nearly) 100 ft tall staircase in the middle of this ride. Go out and back to the stairs both directions for 16 miles of whooping!

Lefthand OHV

This is just some ridiculously steep climbs followed by the loosest, gnarliest, short descents you’re going to hit. This is a great place to break out those knee and elbow pads (and maybe butt pads too). The climbs are inhumane and make sure you have new brake pads for the way down.

Lion Gulch

Lion Gulch is a trail with a reputation for catastrophic floods and broken bones. The basic concept of Lion Gulch is that you’re either riding in a riverbed or on giant rocks next to the riverbed. Uphill travel is not recommended unless you are trying to start a fight with your significant other or friend by dragging them up this trail. This trail really is about as badass as you can get on the Front Range. For maximum fun, shuttling is recommended.

I want to fatbike (ride on the snow).

Not sure where to start? Here are some of our favorite routes to get you started. Also check out our great Front Range Fat Biking guide.

Beginner Rides

Mud Lake

The trail system has a couple of small loops that are generally well-packed and ready for riding. A lot of people snowshoe and XC ski here, so the trails are usually great, but a bit crowded.

Buchanan Pass Trail

Located at Camp Dick, it’s no secret this is probably one of the best singletracks around for fat biking. During the summer, this trail is a hellscape of rocks. During the winter, it’s a bobsled course of fast singletrack without ever getting too steep. Ride out to the waterfall and back for a great romp in the snow!

Advanced Rides

Shuttle South Saint Vrain (SSV)

Yes, you need two cars, and the conditions need to be good (check Front Range Fatties Facebook Group), but when it’s good, it’s unbelievable! If you ride up to Brainard Lake on Waldrop Trail and then down SSV, you’ve got miles of ridiculous downhills on super tight twisty singletrack that is often only packed a foot wide.

The Enduro

This ride is a short romp with maximum fun per mile! Up Buchanan to Sourdough all the way to Beaver Reservoir Rd and then back down Coney Cutoff and back down Sourdough. Foot out, flat out! If you want a bonus round, add on the Buchanan Trail to the waterfall.

Ceran St. Vrain to Miller Rock and Back

This trail isn’t always packed in, but when it is, get ready for some awesome riding! Amazing singletrack cut into a hillside above a frozen creek? Yes, please. Incredible views on top of an icy mountain? Absolutely! Then, a twisty all out downhill back to the trail you came in on. Get it!