Five Winter Mountain Biking Destinations on Colorado’s Front Range
The Gazette | January 7, 2019
by: Seth Boster
Maybe you’re not so quick to jump on a fat bike. The beefy wheels are taking over Colorado mountain towns in winter, keeping locals on their commutes and keeping recreation specialists busy grooming trails.
And maybe you want nothing to do with this snow-biking wave. Are those Little Tikes zooming down the ski slopes? No, those people aren’t pedaling at all.
You’re wanting to keep it authentic, real-deal mountain biking, despite Old Man Winter making things less-than-ideal with shorter days and storms rendering some of the best, high-alpine singletrack inaccessible.
Here’s the good news for Colorado Springs riders: Between Red Rock Canyon Open Space, Palmer Park and Ute Valley Park, some of the state’s best year-round dirt is right here.
No, you don’t have to retreat to the deserts of Fruita for a pick-me-up this season. Layer up and stay true to your saddle, exploring these parts of the Front Range:
Oil Well Flats
Seek the Banana Belt. The area south on Interstate 25 and Colorado 115 gets the name for the temperate climate, and that’s to thank for making the area rideable in winter. Also, thank the cycling advocates who alongside the Bureau of Land Management are making the Royal Gorge region a mountain bike destination.
Just outside of Cañon City, Oil Well Flats’ 12-mile singletrack network is still in its infancy, but its legend seems to grow every year. Check out regular condition reports from the folks at Fremont Adventure Recreation at joinfar.org/trails.
Lake Pueblo State Park
The “Fruita of the Front Range” is a fishing paradise in summer, a cycling mecca in winter. Some of Colorado’s boldest riders skip the summer heat and wait until now to see what the buzz is all about.
They’ll snag a campsite and spend the weekend touring the most-treasured South Shore, with a 25-mile trail web that takes them on long, flowy sections and through shale-covered corridors between rock shelves.
Spruce Mountain Open Space
With the bounty of spoils nearby, many in Colorado Springs don’t bother heading north for Spruce Mountain. The downhill is short-lived, and the trail stays wide along the flat top, better suiting equestrians around Larkspur and Monument. But if winter comes just as you’re getting into the sport, this 5½-mile loop could be perfect training.
The views of the valley and foothills are splendid. And you can count on crowds to be smaller than those in the Springs.
Here’s another suiting beginner and intermediate riders. Lakewood markets William F. Hayden Park as a winter destination, boasting trails that stay dry. Indeed, riders know they can depend on the Green Mountain Trail for how it straddles south-facing slopes, with no shade to stock snow — no trees to block sweeping vistas.
The trail is a 6½-mile loop, best ridden counter-clockwise from the head on Rooney Road. For a highly technical detour, go across the road to the Zorro Trail and grind up to the Dakota Ridge, a rock-riddled playground also frequented all seasons.
Is it time for Buff’s Big Loop, the 23½-mile backcountry venture that has an “epic” designation from the International Mountain Bicycling Association? Probably not. You definitely don’t want to go soon after a storm. But with good timing, you’ll be glad to familiarize yourself with this coveted system.
The singletrack has garnered quite the reputation in the years since the Buffalo Creek fire. From twisty turns, to rolling cruises, to punchy drops, just about every delight can be had on the trails. Ice patches are common, but long stretches tend to be sandy and snow-free.
Colorado Springs dwellers popularly access by taking Colorado 67 past Deckers. The Buffalo Creek Recreation Area is west on Jefferson County Road 128, off Forest Service Road 550.