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. Choose Your Own Adventure or check out our Boulder County Ride Progression Guide.
Choose Your Own Adventure
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.
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.
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 recommendation for the easiest beginner ride on the Mayhoffer Singletree trail or the Flatirons Vista Beginner Ride.
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.
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.
VALMONT BIKE PARK
Valmont Bike Park is a great place to dip your toes into the world of mountain biking. This City of Boulder Park offers skills areas, cross country trails, pump tracks, jump lines and more – there’s something for everyone!
OVERLAND LOOP AND SCHOOLHOUSE LOOP AT HEIL VALLEY RANCH
Schoolhouse Loop is a directional singletrack skills loop designed for kids and beginners. The .9 mile loop has 9 beginner trail features such as skinnys and log-overs. Nestled inside the Schoolhouse Loop is the Skills Loop. It’s designed to give new riders a taste of the sorts obstacles found at on the more advanced trails at Heil. Test your skills here, then head over to Overland Loop when you are ready for something slightly longer and more challenging. Overland Loop is purpose-built 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.
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. Many of our trails 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. And here’s a more detailed explaination on muddy (don’t ride!) vs wet (ok to ride) trails.
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.
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. Note: Betasso is closed to bikes Wednesdays and Saturdays.
This trail is not one of the first to dry out after a snow because of its higher altitude, but it’s pretty good after a rain due to the granite soil. The Walker Loop is very busy on the weekends so if you are driving to the trailhead get there before 8:00 to get a legal parking spot.
This trail system that will hold snow longer in the spring but does great in the summer after a rain.
Another area where the soil is decomposing granite. The trails are designed well to shed water and the soil drains quickly. The north facing Millsite Trails will be the last to melt out after a snowstorm but most of the system is great in wet weather.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
VALMONT BIKE PARK
Valmont Bike Park is managed by City of Boulder Parks & Recreation and offers cross country trails, skills areas, pump tracks, jump lines, gravity trails and more – there’s something for everyone! It’s a great place to check out if you don’t have transportation to a trailhead or if you are short on time. Many local bike shops rent bikes and The Fix is right next door.
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.
MARSHALL MESA/DOUDY DRAW
This area is not technically challenging and is easy to access from the south end of town. If you’re looking for a place to put on miles in the dark, check out these routes: Try the easiest beginner ride on Mayhoffer-Singletree, a longer beginner/intermediate ride around the Dirty Bismark, or venture over to the trails west of Highway 93 for a more intermediate ride at Doudy Draw.
BOULDER VALLEY RANCH
One of the mellowest places to ride in Boulder (watch out for those ‘cross and gravel riders!) this area is easily accessible from the north end of town. You can start riding dirt near Wonderland Lake on the Foothills trail, or park closer to the trails at several trailheads around Boulder Reservoir. For a gentle beginner ride, try this Tour of Boulder Valley Ranch. If you are jonesing for a longer ride, try the North Boulder Dirt Ride.
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. Season is generally late May to October, there’s not much snow riding opportunities in the winter.
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! And we have to say it, don’t make this your first ever night ride OR don’t make your first visit here in the dark. LHOHV Resource Page.
Nothing like some nice technical rocky and rooty trails at 10,000 feet for an after work ride on a hot day! During the winter when night comes early, this is a great system to fatbike.
I want a BIG ride. Where do I go?
There are lots of options!
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.
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 descending the Link Trail leaves them grinning from ear to ear. Note: Betasso is closed to bikes on Wednesday and Saturdays.
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.
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 Peaceful Valley! Ceran Saint Vrain can also be fun.
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. Note: Betasso is closed to bikes on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
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).
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.
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!
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. LHOHV Resource Page.
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.
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.
Brainard Lake is the heart the of Boulder County fatbiking scene and there are many trails and miles to explore. From the easiest option up Brainard Lake Road to the less traveled South St Vrain trail there’s something for everyone. Here’s our easiest recommendation for getting started.
BUCHANAN PASS TRAIL
Located at Peaceful Valley, 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!
SHUTTLE SOUTH ST 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.
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!
Where can I ride with my trail dog?
Boulder County trail rules range from off-leash to no dogs allowed. Here’s where to ride with your well-behaved trail pooch.
US FOREST SERVICE TRAILS
Almost all USFS land managed by the Boulder Ranger District is open to off-leash dogs. But be aware, there are lots of moose around Nederland and the Peak to Peak highway area!
- Lefthand OHV
- Ceran St. Vrain
- The Switzerland Trail
- Peaceful Valley
- Brainard Lake – with a few seasonal exceptions. Dogs must be leashed May 1 – Nov 14 and off-leash dogs are only permitted on Sourdough, Brainard Lake Road and Lefthand Park Res Road Nov 15 through April 30 (see official document, affected trails are marked as such on trail marker).
MARSHALL MESA, BOULDER VALLEY RANCH AND EAST BOULDER TRAILS
Marshall Mesa, Boulder Valley Ranch and East Boulder Trails are managed by City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP), which offers an off-leash dog Voice and Sight control program. After you (not your dog!) takes the Voice and Sight Education Class, you may register for your Voice and Sight tags, which allow you to be with your off-leash dog on many OSMP trails.
- Marshall Mesa: Most trails are marked off-leash with the exception of Spring Brook North, High Plains, Mayhoffer-Singletree, Meadowlark and Coalton (dogs must be leashed) and dogs are not permitted on Spring Brook South. There is a seasonal leash requirement on Doudy Draw south of Community Ditch in effect from Aug. 15 to Nov. 1 and Greenbelt Plateau from May 1 to July 31.
- Boulder Valley Ranch: Off-leash dogs are allowed on all trails except for Left Hand where dogs must be leashed.
- East Boulder Trails: East Boulder Trail at Gunbarrel Farm and Teller Farm trails allow off-leash dogs. At Teller Lake No.1, dogs must be leashed within 100 feet of the lake and dogs are prohibited at Teller Lake No.5. Dogs are prohibited on the White Rocks section of the East Boulder Trail. Dogs must be leashed on the Cottontail Trail, between Highway 52 and Lookout Road.
BOULDER COUNTY PARKS AND OPEN SPACE
Many of Boulder’s most popular mountain bike trails are not open to off-leash dogs. The one exception is Reynolds Ranch, which is mapped on Trailforks as part of the Magnolia system.
Leashed dogs welcome at:
No dogs allowed at:
Where can I ride my eMTB?
Choose “E-bike” under the “Activities” drop menu on the map below to see eMTB legal trails.
eMTBs are NOT allowed on any City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks trails (Boulder Valley Ranch, Chapman Drive, Doudy Draw, Flatirons Vista, Marshall Mesa), on Boulder County Parks & Open Space mountain trails (Betasso Preserve, Boulder Canyon Trail, Heil Valley Ranch, Hall Ranch, Mud Lake, Rabbit Mountain, Walker Ranch) or at Valmont Bike Park.
Read on for areas that do permit eMTBs.
Less than an hour from Boulder, Maryland Mountain opened in 2021. With bike-only downhill trails, this is a great trail system to get in ear-to-ear-grinning laps.
In 2018, our neighbors to the south adopted a permanent policy to allow eMTBs on Jefferson County Open Space managed trails. That means you can ride an eMTB on any trail open to traditional mountain bikes. Here’s a list of some of the areas to check out:
- White Ranch
- North Table Mountain
- Green Mountain
- Matthew/Winters Park and Dakota Ridge
- Centennial Cone (open to bikes on weekends on even numbered days)
- Bear Creek Lake Park
- Mount Falcon Park
- Lair O the Bear
- Alderfer Three Sisters Park and Evergreen Mountain
- Elk Meadow Park
- South Valley Park
- Deer Creek Canyon Park
- Hildebrand Ranch Park
- Meyer Ranch
- Flying J Ranch
- Reynolds Park
COLORADO STATE PARKS
eMTBs are allowed in all Colorado State Parks where biking is allow. Check out these State Parks in or around Boulder County. A $4/day park pass to ride in, $9 -$11 vehicle pass or Colorado Parks season pass is required.
- Eldorado Canyon State Park in Boulder has limited trails open to bikes. Rattlesnake Gulch is a short, steep, loose 3 mile trail on the south side of the park. The trail isn’t much fun to ride, but offers stunning views of the canyon and access to an old hotel site.
- Golden Gate State Park offers over 20 miles of trails. Check out the Full Pull ride as a way to tour most of the park.
- Staunton State Park is one of the newer state parks, and offers 23 miles of trail. Take a tour of the park with the Full Clockwise Loop ride.
BOULDER COUNTY SOFT SURFACE TRAILS
eMTBs are allowed on most Plains trails.
- Carolyn Holmberg Preserve at Rock Creek Farm
- Coal Creek Trail
- Harney Lastoka
- Lagerman Agricultural Preserve
- Legion Park
- LoBo Trail (except on the Cottonwood and Cottontail trails)
- Meadowlark Trail (between Coalton Trailhead & Coal Creek Drive)
- Niwot Trails
- Pella Crossing
- Rock Creek Trail
- Twin Lakes
- Walden Ponds Wildlife Preserve
USFS MOTORIZED TRAILS*
eMTBs are not permitted on USFS non-motorized trails. eMTBs are permitted on all USFS trails and roads that are open to motorized vehicles. See here and here for Boulder Ranger District and US Forest Service eMTB policy. Check out these trails open to motorized vehicles:
*This is not a complete list of motorized trails
E-BIKES AS MOBILITY DEVICES
Yes: BCPOS and OSMP allow exemptions for mobility impaired visitors on most trails.
No: USFS does not consider E-bikes an assistive device meeting the legal definition of a wheelchair or mobility device and therefore there is not an exception to the Forest Service’s Travel Management Rule. Read more.
Boulder County Ride Progression Guide
Whether you are a beginner, new to the area or are just looking for a challenge, here’s BMA’s (very subjective) guide to riding Boulder’s classic mountain bike routes. We’ve ranked them from easiest (green) to hardest (double-black) with links to Trailforks so you can see location, distance and elevation gain. Difficulty level is a combination of technical features, climbing and descending steepness, total elevation gain, exposure, and overall mileage.
Our green recommendations are suitable for true beginners – kids on balance bikes and people of all ages who may not be comfortable on a bike, much less off-road. These routes have little elevation gain, few technical features, no exposure.
1. Marshall Mesa – Mayhoffer-Singletree out and back
2. Heil – Schoolhouse Loop then Overland Loop
3. Boulder Valley Ranch – Left Hand with optional Eagle/Sage loop
4. Marshall Mesa – Flatirons Vista Beginner Ride
5. Heil – Picture Rock to the Picnic Table
6. Mud Lake – Tungsten and Kinnickinnick Loop
These beginner-intermediate rides are a step up from our entry level beginner rides. They include more elevation, more technical features like rocks and roots and are longer distances.
8. Marshall Mesa – East Side Loop
9. West Mag – Aspen Alley/Hobbits loop
Our intermediate routes are for riders who are comfortable on a mountain bike and have basic mtb handling skills like braking, balance and cornering. These routes have 700’-1200′ of elevation gain and some exposure.
11. Marshall Mesa – Doudy Draw and Springbrook Loop
12. Betasso – Canyon and Benjamin Loop
13. Mud Lake – Loops + Sherwood
Intermediate/Advanced routes are for riders who love rocks and climbing and getting a little rowdy.
16. Heil – Picture Rock to Wild Turkey CCW/Ponderosa
17. Heil – Van Hagar (Wapiti, Ponderosa, Wild Turkey, CCW Ponderosa Loop)
Ready for an advanced ride? These rides take your blue/black rating and raise it a rock-step up. Black routes not only climb lots of elevation, but also have very steep pitches with technical features thrown in. There’s nothing you can’t walk through but if you aren’t up for the challenge it will be a long hike.
20. Betasso – up Link, Canyon, Benjamin, down Link
21. Hall – Bitterbrush Descent
22. Walker Ranch – Out and Back to Stairs
23. West Mag – Back Country Tour
24. Peaceful Valley – Sourdough/Wapiti Loop
Here the hardest (system) trails Boulder has to offer. These are trails that even a strong intermediate rider may have trouble with. Steep climbs, big drops, rolling over boulders, and jumps! Considerable risk of OTB (over the bars) and injury.
26. Hall – Bitterbrush (aka The Rock Garden) climb, Nelson, down Bitterbrush
Click on the interactive Trailforks map to explore trails open to bikes in Boulder County, Colorado:
These interactive resources are available as both websites and phone apps and display trails open for mountain biking as well as some trail conditions.
Trailforks - World's largest trail database and management system for trail associations, builders and riders. Started for mountain biking trails, now including all trail uses.
MTBProject - Born from the dream to help people get outside, MTB Project showcases thousands of routes and trails in your own backyard, across the U.S. and around the globe.
Boulder Area Trails - Designed to connect local communities, enable users to find trails by use or type, allow users to plan routes, and link users to agency websites for more information.
Colorado Trails Explorer COTREX - View trails by allowed uses on the map, browse featured routes, download offline maps, record trips and notes in the field, complete challenges to earn badges, and share your experiences with the community.