Colorado’s Best Trails

We laced up our boots, threw on our packs, and found the very finest hiking, backpacking, and mountain biking trails in the Centennial State.

August 2010

Mountain Biking

  1. Monarch Crest Trail
    Boasting more than 30 miles of good, hard riding, the Monarch Crest Trail is a life-list must-do for any self-respecting mountain biking Coloradan. The oxygen-starved ascent will take you above tree line within the first 2 miles, but after teetering along the Continental Divide, the trail begins descending around mile 8, with lots of switchbacks and traffic going both ways. It ducks back into aspen and evergreen forests, with whoop-de-dos and a wide road, then officially ends around mile 12 at the Marshall Pass Trailhead. Ready to bail? Take Marshall Pass Road out to U.S. 285, a thrilling, 15-mile ride down. For the full monty, keep right on the Colorado Trail for about 4 miles, then take the Silver Creek trail. The ride through and beside the creek ends along a streambed in beautifully lush, dense forest, but keep an eye on the technical singletrack below you until it gives way near mile 19 to a washboard dirt road (County Road 201 to County Road 200). When you hit U.S. 285, turn left and cruise the highway shoulder for the last 5 miles. —Katherine Doan
  2. Centennial Cone Park
    Home to the kind of slithering up-down-up-down singletrack you expect in the Front Range, Centennial Cone Park is one of the finest outdoor areas in Jefferson County. From the west trailhead parking lot (located off U.S. 119 west of Golden), you can ride the loop in either direction, but head counterclockwise for singletrack that'll make you scream. The tight, roller-coaster descent through switchbacks and over rocky steps ends at a plateau; then it's back up through the forest, where you can scope views of the rich green hillside surrounding Clear Creek Canyon. And like all good trails, this one saves the best for last: After conquering a rock stairway that leads to the park's high point, you're rewarded with the chance to bomb the park's unruffled backside. —CO
  3. Rabbit Ears Pass to Steamboat Ski Area
    This locals' secret has all the elements of an epic ride—except celebrity. Starting on Rabbit Ears Pass at 9,500 feet, the trail rolls along the Continental Divide, winding among kaleidoscopic meadows and passing azure mountain lakes before arriving at the top of Mt. Werner in the Steamboat ski area. It's all downhill from there: The 3,500-foot drop dumps you, giddy and breathless, at the resort's base area. From Dumont Lake, follow the Continental Divide Trail northeast, passing the campground and climbing through lodgepole pine before hitting a dirt road. Hang a left, and follow the road 0.5 miles to the Base Camp Trailhead. Take trail 1101, which follows a rocky, rolling course to Fishhook Lake, then unfurls as it continues through open meadows and lush forests to the trail junction for Lost Lake (continue straight on 1101). Crank along to Lake Elmo, skirting its shores and continuing to a four-way trail junction. Turn left, climbing gradually to reach Long Lake, where you head left again to join Mountain View Trail. This stretch includes more climbs than descents, but most reward you with jaw-dropping views over North Park and the Never Summer Range. Emerge (at last!) atop the ski area—and take your pick of mapped runs to the bottom, where you can roll into the Slopeside Grill and toast the ride's end with a frosty mug. —KB
  4. Colorado Trail
    Kenosha Pass to Breckenridge
    It's not exactly a picnic of a ride, but this trail is worth the grunt work. (You'll want to arrange a shuttle from Breckenridge back to the Kenosha Pass Trailhead, or book a hotel in Breck.) The trail stretches about 12 miles from Kenosha to Georgia Pass and boasts a nice balance of moderate climbs and quick dips. You'll grind steadily through open meadows, forested sections, and a bridged water crossing before you emerge above tree line to views of South Park Valley. Then you'll summit atop the Continental Divide at Georgia Pass, which peaks at 11,585 feet. On the flip side of Georgia Pass is an epic descent of slightly more technical singletrack; watch for a couple of particularly rocky, boulder-strewn sections in the last 10 miles. The trail spits you out on U.S. 9 a few miles outside of Breck. Pedal into town and reward yourself with a cold beer and the baked hot wings at Downstairs at Eric's. —Julie Dugdale