Colorado Mountain Bike Sampler

Colorado Mountain Bike Sampler

Colorado has so much to offer in terms of mountain biking. I recently made a tour of several places that I’d been wanting to ride. It was the ultimate Colorado mountain biking sampler.

Hardscrabble map at the trail head

Day 1: East Hardscrabble Trail System – Eagle, Colorado – Located just off I-70, the East Harscrabble Trail System is a “SRMA”, Special Recreational Management Area of BLM Public Land. I found a loop on MTBProject.com that I had planned to ride. Unfortunately, the description lead me to a different trail head so I ended up doing an out and back. My advise is to thoroughly research your ride to ensure this does not happen to you. The trail I rode up was clearly designed for downhill, so I ended up scrambling out of the way on a couple of occasions. What I didn’t realize at the time is there is also a West Hardscrabble trail System that is open to ATV’s and motorcycles. I spent just over an hour riding here but it was long enough to know that I’d like to go back for more. Next stop: the desert.

Day 1: 18 Road Trail System – Fruita, Colorado – Located just a few miles north of Fruita, Colorado. This location is also BLM Public Land. I arrived in the early evening. What’s great about riding at this trail system in addition to its proximity to Fruita, is there is also camping available, and well maintained vault toilets. While the trail system is located in the desert, it doesn’t have the technical rocks and ledges that tend to be present in the desert. In fact, the trails I rode were so dry and well traveled, it was almost like riding on a concrete path in places. Because this system is nestled right up against what is known as the “book cliffs”, some of the trails offer a lot of short and snappy ups and downs, so speed is key. I was able to get one ride in just before sunset on Day 1 and an early morning ride on Day 2. Trees in the area are scarce, so my suggestion is to choose a campsite wisely and avoid riding in the heat of the day. As of April 8, 2022, Class 1 E-Bikes are welcome to ride throughout the 18 Road Trail System.

A view from Mary’s Loop

Day 2: Kokopelli Loops at McInnis Canyon Conservation Area – Loma, Colorado – Located just west of Fruita, right along the Colorado/Utah border sits the McInnis Canyon Conservation Area. Trailhead parking is right off I-70, giving this trail system quick and easy access. I spent most of Day 2 riding the variety of trails available in this system: from easy green loops (Rustler’s Loop), to a very difficult black diamond trail (Moore Fun). This trail system is full of sandy, ledgy, rocky technical features. The scenery in this area is breathtaking. Trees are scarce and riding in the middle of the day in the desert is not ideal, but it’s what worked with my schedule that day.

50 Shades of Green

Day 3: Uncompahgre National Forest – Montrose, Colorado – Montrose is the gateway to the San Juan Mountains. However, just west of town is a lesser known gem for mountain biking, the Uncompahgre Plateau. If you’re a mountain biker, you’ve probably heard of a ride near Moab called “the whole enchilada”. Not to be outdone, Montrose offers “the whole uncolada”. I rode a portion of this trail and found it to be a pleasant change from the desert riding of the previous two days. The route went through the forest and it was considerably cooler on the Plateau. In my Strava upload, I ended up calling the ride 50 Shades of Green, and you can probably guess why.

Day 4: Electric Hills Trail System– Montrose, Colorado – What happens when land provided by Xcel Energy is developed into a mountain bike trail system? You end up with fantastic trail names like Flux Capacitor, Shock Therapy, and Electric Avenue, among others. The trail system is nestled in a juniper grove growing in the red high desert dirt overlooking Montrose. It’s like Christmas manifested itself as a mountain bike trail, and you’re the lucky kid riding a bike through it.

Day 5: Hartman Rocks – Gunnison, Colorado – This system is located just outside Gunnison. What I didn’t know about this trail system is that it is open to ALL the bikes… mountain bikes, e-bikes, and motorcycles. The day I rode, I saw only other mountain bikes, but motorcycle tire marks were visible in the trails I rode. What I really like about this area aside from the fact that it doesn’t discriminate against certain bike types, is the terrain itself. It’s high desert, so there were rock features, flowy single track, sand pits and lots of sage brush. Once again, trees were scarce, so I’d suggest not riding in the middle of a hot day and choosing campsites wisely.

Day 5: Methodist Mountain Trail System – Salida, Colorado – This system sits on the mountains south of town, making it quickly accessible. While I didn’t ride all the trails, the ones I did ride seemed to be very thoughtfully designed for riding up or down. Their signage also reflected the preferred riding direction. While this is nice for trail users, it made the trails feel very “human made”, unlike other trails that seem to appear and feel more like the surrounding landscape.

Royal Gorgeous

Day 5: Royal Gorge Park Trails System – Canon City, Colorado – This should really be called the Royal Gorgeous Park. It’s not an extensive trail system by any means, but the views were some of the best of the trip. While I was feeling rushed for time to finish before dark, I’d recommend taking your time and a picnic and enjoying the spectacular scenery offered on this trail system. It’s far enough from town that you’ll want to be prepared by packing everything needed for a ride on what I’d categorize as an intermediately technical trail system.

Yep, Day 5 was full. I went home with tired legs and a happy heart.