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Mountain bikers enjoying the Rim Trail, an intermediate route that starts at Snowmass Mountain. Credit: Jeremy Swanson/Aspen Snowmass

9 Must-Try Mountain Biking Trails Near Aspen

With its wide range of challenges, from cross-country singletrack to lift-served plunges, the Roaring Fork Valley delivers as one of Colorado’s top riding destinations.

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Aspen may be best known as a skiing retreat, but the historic mining town has increasingly become a summer biking destination. Following the completion of dozens of miles of singletrack west of town and the expansion of the purpose-built downhill trail network in Snowmass Bike Park, National Geographic rated Aspen one of America’s 20 best mountain bike towns in 2017. And although there are plenty of expert routes, you don’t need to be an advanced rider to enjoy classic cross-country riding or thrilling downhill descents. Below is a sampling of some of Pitkin County’s must-try trails.

(More: Your Guide to Colorado’s Best Mountain Biking Destinations

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Rookie/Evening Rides

Lincoln Creek Road
From its start partway up Independence Pass about 10 miles east of Aspen, this smooth dirt road winds through forested terrain for about 11 miles to its end at the Ruby Ghost Town. It’s a great choice for a warm-up and for riders who are looking for beautiful views along their route.

Ditch Trail
This out-and-back starter route leaves from the Upper Divide Lot trailhead west of the Snowmass Village Mall. It parallels an irrigation canal for about a mile to the Bench/Overlook site, where there’s an eye-catching view into the Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness Area (be sure to bring your camera!).

Verde
This 3.5-mile downhill trail in Snowmass Bike Park snakes through the forest between Elk Camp and the Base Village. It’s the best place to start if you’re relatively new to freeriding. If this is your first time, it’s highly recommended that you participate in a downhill bike clinic to familiarize yourself with the gear and basic bike control.

(More: Mountain Biking for Beginners–It’s All Downhill From Here)

Intermediate Rides

Rim Trail Loop
The non-technical, 11-mile Rim Trail Loop departs from the Snowmass Rodeo Lot located along Brush Creek Road (the main road that links Snowmass with Highway 82). After riding along the Brush Creek Bike Path to Divide Road, this route briefly follows Divide Road to reach the trailhead. From here, the Rim Trail gains (and descends) 1,725 vertical feet along 7 miles of singletrack. At the top of the first (and longest) climb, there’s a viewing platform with a great shot of Snowmass Mountain.

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Sky Mountain Park Loop
This 2,500-acre open space parcel between Aspen and Snowmass features about 8 miles of singletrack trails built by local mountain bikers. With three access points, two new advanced trails—Airline and the downhill-only Deadline—and awesome views, it’s a crucial link in the valley’s rapidly expanding trail system.

French Press
This caffeine-themed downhill trail in the Snowmass Bike Park buzzes 2,000 feet down the upper mountain from the top of the Elk Camp chairlift. Accessed via the first mile of the Vapor Trail, French Press follows 4.5 miles of smooth dirt interspersed with large berms, rollers, and elevated boardwalks to its end at the mid-mountain.

Skirting a raised boardwalk in Snowmass Bike Park. Photo by Jeremy Swanson / Aspen Snowmass

Expert Rides

Government Trail
”Govie,” as it’s locally known, connects Snowmass with Buttermilk, so it’s best to drop a car off at one end (usually Buttermilk) and shuttle another car or put your bike on the local bus to get to the Snowmass Mall. From here the 6.6-mile (point-to-point) route begins with the long, steep ascent up Snowmass Mountain to access the eastern end of Government Trail, a classic singletrack route. Although this trail mostly descends as it heads west, there’s a decent climb mid-way through and several stretches of rolling hills interspersed with many technical challenges—like creek crossings, a rock garden, and the infamous Root, where you can take the quicker route over a series of tree roots or go around them. Before you go, be sure to check out the MTB Project website for a detailed route description.

Smuggler-Hunter Creek Loop
From the Smuggler Mountain Road trailhead on the northeast side of Aspen, this 10-mile loop begins with a heart-pounding, 800-vertical-foot climb up Smuggler Mountain Road to a fabulous viewing platform. From here, this route follows a series of popular singletrack trails—BTS to Tootsie Roll to Lollipop—as they loop through beautiful Hunter Valley. From the end of Lollipop, the route follows several additional trails before rapidly descending Red Mountain Road back to town.

Valhalla
Snowmass Bike Park’s signature route, this gravity-defying, 2.8-mile-long downhill trail descends nearly 1,400 vertical from the top of the Elk Camp Gondola to the base area. Along the way, riders face dozens of step-ups, berms, mandatory drops, and enormous table-top jumps that are not for the faint of heart.

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