There’s a good reason why so many mountain bikers make at least one annual exodus to Colorado — it offers a wide range of trails that are as challenging as they are gorgeous. The eight that follow aren’t just among the best in the state, they’re up there with the best in the entire country as well. So, if you’re looking for the best places to mountain bike in Colorado, use our list below for some ideas.
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1. Teocalli Ridge Loop
Teocalli Ridge Loop can be found just outside of Crested Butte off of West Brush Creek Road. Access is limited to the warm months, but that’s the time you’ll want to be there to see the amazing displays of wildflowers in bloom. You’ll also get exceptional views of the mountain terrain, of course, including Pearl Pass, Castle Peak and Middle Brush Creek. Just keep in mind that the two creeks en route can be high in late spring and early summer due to snow melt. The trail is also well-maintained and just had a series of new switchbacks installed in this past year. The ascent is about 4.5 miles with a descent of about 7 miles. The climb is definitely tough and not for beginners, but the descent is one of the sweetest rewards anywhere.
2. Monarch Crest
Monarch Crest Trail is a singletrack that offers a view of the entire width of the Rockies on a clear day. The launching point is near Poncha Springs. It’s about 19 miles north, but regular shuttles go to and from the town. The actual Monarch Crest Trail is 14 miles in length, but riders usually follow the Silver Creek Trail and Rainbow Trail to connect to Highway 285 for an additional five miles back into Poncha Springs.
There’s very little in the way of climbing if you shuttle to the start, but the trail is still very challenging just for the duration that it will keep you at high altitude. Bursts of extreme weather can also be sudden, and the trail terrain is also extremely varied, changing from smooth to rocky regularly. If you’re up for it, however, the views are unparalleled.
3. Phil’s World
Phil’s World is in Mesa Verde National Park near Cortez and is a long 27-mile singletrack that’s smooth, fast and friendly with no long climbs. The highlight is the rolling terrain known as the Ribcage, but don’t miss the amazing views of all of the surrounding mountain ranges from the Abajo overlook. And yes, the trail actually was created by a guy named Phil. These days the trail is maintained by the Kokopelli Bike Club, who ask for a voluntary $3 donation from riders if they are not already members. It’s also the site of the annual 12 Hours to Mesa Verde race, which draws nearly a thousand riders every spring.
4. Rim Trail Loop
Rim Trail is a singletrail loop near Aspen. It can be found by riding up the Brush Creek Bike Path from Snowmass Village. An initial and not too difficult 700′ climb quickly pays off with an awesome panoramic view, and then it’s off to the singletrack descent through alternating sage meadows and groups of aspens.
5. Bowman’s Shortcut Trail
Bowman’s Shortcut is a 4.2 mile stretch that can be accessed from Vail. The USDA rates the trail as “Most Difficult”, but the initial climb from the trailhead off of Timber Creek Road #712 is gentle and pays off immediately with excellent views of Ten Mile Range and Gore Range. Just be aware that the trail is closed from May 6th to July 1st each year for elk calving season, regardless of whether or not signs are actually posted.
6. Apex Park Tour
Apex Park Tour can be found in Apex Park near West Pleasant View. It has the unusual restriction of only being open on even-numbered days, but those who can schedule a ride will find one of the best downhills anywhere (after paying for it in advance with a notably tough climb). The trail in total is just over eight miles long and definitely has a technical bent. It’s an absolute can’t-miss for downhill fans who are passing through Colorado.
7. Doctors Park
The Doctors Park Trail is found near Crested Butte, on the Gunnison Spur of the Colorado Trail. It’s an eight-mile initial climb, so most riders park at North Bank Campground and take a shuttle up to Doctor Gulch to cut straight to the scenery and downhill fun. Taking a shuttle leaves about six miles of fast singletrack back down to the campground area.
8. Continental Divide Trail: Alpine Tunnel
This ride begins in the mostly-abandoned town of St. Elmo, southeast of Montrose and Grand Junction. It runs along a historic railroad grade and you’ll encounter great views of Tunnel Lake and the surrounding area. Fall is an especially good time to undertake this ride as the leaves will be turning. Just be aware that snow will start and end earlier than usual as the elevation takes you up to 12,000 feet at points.