If you’re new to Boulder or new to mountain biking, getting the inside scoop on local trails doesn’t have to be challenging. The good news is Boulder County maintains world-class singletrack trailheads. Stay local and check out these awesome Boulder County mountain biking trails.
Here are 4 of our favorite Boulder County trails, recos from our team and our favorite stops nearby:
Heil Valley Ranch
Overland Loop – Elevation Gain: 240 ft., 2.3 miles
Wapiti Trail – Elevation Gain: 822 ft., 2.5 miles
Ponderosa Loop – Elevation Gain: 270 ft., 2.6 miles
Wild Turkey Trail – Elevation Gain: 215 ft., 2.9 miles
Picture Rock Trail – Elevation Gain: 1056 ft., 5.5 miles
Some folks think that Riding Heil Valley can be a little rough, but there are options here for either a short or a long ride. The brand new Overland Loop extends the single track for access to Heil Valley Ranch. Connect Overland to Wapiti and beyond by parking in the new Corral Parking on Geer Canyon Drive.
If you are looking for an even longer ride follow Wapiti to the Wild Turkey Trail and the top of Picture Rock. The Picture Rock trail is full of tight turns so leave the headphones behind and be aware of others on the trail. As you descend be courteous to riders who are climbing Picture Rock, it’s not easy! An out and back (descend, then climb back up) on Picture Rock will add just over 10 miles of riding to your day.
Sports Garage Recommendation: Overland is a great new piece of connector trail that has great sections of flow: this is a great place to introduce new riders or kids to a single track experience.
After the Trail: Our favorite spot to stop on the way back into town is Upslope Brewery just off 36 and Lee Hill Drive.
Antelope Trailhead – Elevation Gain: 450 ft., 1.0 miles
Bitterbrush Trailhead – Elevation Gain: 1,182 ft., 3.7 miles
Nelson Loop – Elevation Gain: 299 ft., 2.2 miles
Hall Ranch offers fun for every level of mountain biker, from novice to advanced. There are two main trailheads, Antelope and Bitterbrush. Antelope is where to head for a mellower climb. The trail from there has a little bit of everything to help build your skills. You’ll ride switchbacks, rocks and cruise through flowy turns. From Antelope, connect to the Nelson Loop and ride the lollipop clockwise. The descent from the top of Nelson all the way back to the parking lot is a blast.
Now for more advanced riders…nearly every rider in the county knows exactly where to find the “Rock Garden.” Some riders describe the ride from the Bitterbrush trailhead as Jekyll and Hyde in nature. The lower trail is a place to test your technical skills, with a mile of gut-busting features that provide a veritable full body workout. Be prepared for some very technical rock climbs. The upper trail, once you make it through the rock garden, is mellow and wide and speckled with a few easy rocky spots. You’ll intersect Antelope at the bench, continuing up to the Nelson Loop.
Sports Garage Recommendation: Up Antelope and down Bitterbrush for intermediate riders who don’t want to suffer the rocky climb, but enjoy the adrenaline of a technical descent.
Make it a Day: If you meet your crew in Lyons, start the day at Stone Cup coffee shop in Lyons. From there you have easy access to the trailheads. If you’re riding later in the day, head to Oskar Blues for a beer to relax and swap stories of your day on the trails.
Canyon Loop – Elevation Gain: 429 ft., 3.3 miles
Benjamin Loop – Elevation Gain: 291 ft., 2.4 miles
Betasso Link – Elevation Gain: 605 ft., 1.3 miles
Important: Betasso Preserve is closed to cyclists on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The trails at Betasso Preserve are directional and change every 15 days. Pay attention to the signs. The direction for the day is clearly marked.
Sports Garage Recommendation: Betasso Preserve is one of the few trails you can access from town without a car. Extend your ride by riding up the Boulder Creek Path to the crosswalk at Fourmile Canyon. Enjoy a leisurely (or push the pace) 3.8 mile pedal up Fourmile Drive and drop into the trails at the Benjamin Link. There are two sets of stairs within the first mile of trail. For advanced riders only: both sets of stairs are rideable, but once you drop in, there’s no going back.
The Betasso trail system can also be accessed from the Betasso Link trail on highway 119, or from the main parking lot at the Betasso Preserve. The Canyon Loop and Benjamin Loop are connected by a link trail. The loops themselves are beginner-friendly. Traffic goes both ways on the link, so please observe trail etiquette. Enjoy as many laps or figure 8’s as your time allows. The Betasso Link trail is arguably one of the best descents in the county, with some fantastic flow punctuated by purpose-built features. A trip down the Betasso Link is a full-tilt fun way for intermediate to advanced riders to the finish a ride at Betasso.
Walker Ranch Loop – Elevation Gain: 892 ft., 7.6 miles
Walker Ranch features super fun highs and lows. There are some challenging technical sections with some fun, fast descents. If Walker ever gets a bad rep, it’s due to one mega-serious hike-a-bike.
How Sports Garage Rides it: We recommend riding the Walker Ranch Loop clockwise, though you do start climbing right out of the gates with one or two technical features. You’ll be rewarded for your hard work with a nice singletrack descent to the river, where you begin to climb again and shortly encounter a gnarly set of stairs. You’ll probably need to shoulder your bike to climb. Think of it as off-road cycling CrossFit. Back on the bike, you’ll continue to climb. The good news is you’ll get to celebrate your hard work with another beautiful section of downhill. Intermediate riders can send it from the apex down to the river, and call us liars if it doesn’t make you smile. A twenty-minute climb returns you to the parking lot.
After the Trail: We like to hit up the Chataqua Dining Hall on the way back to town. It’s an iconic piece of the Boulder landscape, with a fantastic menu from the gourmands at Three Leaf Farm.
Magnolia Trails Project
The Boulder Mountainbike Alliance has partnered with the U.S. forest service to turn otherwise threatened social trails off of Magnolia road into an authorized 44-mile stacked loop trail system. Read more about this exciting project here. We’re super excited to support the Magnolia Trails project!
Regardless of the trail you choose, the Boulder area is a dream for off-road cyclists. Whether you’re looking for a quick ride or a day trip, you’ll find it here. If you’re new to the area, stop by for proper flat repair equipment and more insider tips about how to connect Boulder County mountain biking trails.