Here is my take on some of the best trails Colorado has to offer. As an RFV local, I would like to help you know the flow before you go, and I also have some equipment tips to make sure you are dialed.
Let’s start with my top 5 hidden trails in Colorado...
Located in the Red Hill Recreation Area, where Highways 82 and 133 intersect, this singletrack black diamond trail is a downhill delight with spectacular views of Carbondale, Mt. Sopris and the Roaring Fork River. You can expect approximately 1,300 meter descent over about 1 KM (0.6 miles), with a steep downside on your right (not recommended to ride as there are no marked trails).
I like to ride here from town, but you can also gear up in the main parking lot located on Highway 82, just on the edge of town. You can take any of the other easier trails in the Red Hill Loop to make the top. After descent - if you are ready for a repeat - you can hook back into the loop, or opt for the popular option of climbing this trail back to the top and session out! Be aware the climb although short will test you.
Pro tip - ride from town and stop on your way back for a cold one at batch
This isolated spot is best accessed by car from the town of El Jebel, Co. It is home to a smaller sized trail system, including relatively flat forrest roads for true beginners, and easy through black diamond trails, such as:
Cattle Creek Trail ◆ 3.7 mi. (aka “Big Loop at Basalt Mountain”)
Ditch Trail ◆/◼ 1.3 mi.
Upper Ditch Trail ◆/◼ 0.6 mi.
Mill Creek ◼ 1.7mi.
Basalt Mountain Trail ◼ 3.5 mi.
Basalt Mountain Road ●/◼ 6.5 mi. (aka Forest Route 524)
Upper Cattle Creek Rd ● 2.7 mi. (aka Forest Route 509)
Leaving out of El Jebel, take Upper Cattle Creek road for about 15 min until you hit Basalt mountain Rd, which you will take for another few minutes until you see signs for Basalt Mountain Trail parking.
You can enjoy miles of singletrack trails, along with breathtaking views of the RFV and Mt. Sorpis. There are some meandering grassy trails (ideal for the novice rider), as well as densely forested trails. However, be sure and pick your lines carefully on the more difficult trails, as some of them are on or near solid lava rock, not loose gravel. You definitely want to know where you are going. My favorite is the mill creek trail, climbing the basalt mountain rd for a few miles you are given amazing views over Sopris and Capitol mt towards Snowmass. Enjoy because as soon as you hit the tail head its dense lush forest all the way to the end, after climbing the exposed road in the sun the trail is cool and shady. to get back to your vehicle you'll want to follow the rd to the left and after a short climb you will top out by the carpark again. A true local spot!
Pro tip - Pack bug spray for this one, the mosquitos at the trailhead in summer can be a real killjoy!
There are just TOO many trail options around Hartman Rocks to do them all justice here. Suffice it to say, this highly rated local destination has something for everyone - from beginner to black diamonds - including 12.3 miles of singletrack and around 1,550 ft total descent.
On the whole, this loop offers a wide variety of conditions and landscapes including challenging switchbacks, exposed ridges, slick rock, and other rock features, as well as beautiful vistas of the high desert, Gunnison River, and golf courses below.
It is only 10 minutes outside of town and is very popular with local residents. It's advisable to be on alert for cross traffic due to its popularity and the number of intersecting trails. A solid intermediate/black diamond trail that I would recommend is Rattlesnake. being both fun and technical with some nice rock features to negotiate and flowy singletrack.
Pro tip - the weather can switch out quick and exposure is high, pack a windbreaker or raincoat in the summer and park at the lower carpark or ride from town to catch the short but sweet downhill of collarbone alley.
On the south end of Grand Junction, you will find the Tabeguache trail system, which boasts a number of intersecting trails, including the standout Lunch Loops and Gunny Loop trail. This loop is pure singletrack gnar, with about 1,600-foot descent over 12 miles.
The entire system is fairly physically and technically demanding. Making a clean ride on Lunch Loops is nearly impossible the first go round. You can expect your trail times to take a bit longer than average until you have it properly sessioned. If you need a breather, there are several opportunities to connect to other trails in the system, which are still very fun and challenging, but certainly not as gnarly as the Lunch Loop.
To get there, just take the Colorado 340 to monument road (left), and it’s about a 2 minute drive to the main parking lot/trailhead.
Pro tip - fall and spring are when the trails get busy, if you are looking for a solitary ride, get out early in July or August. We like to ride from 7 am to 10.30ish and find the trails are dead!
The Deadline Trail is a 1.6 mile standout singletrack section, which is part of the larger 24 mile Snowmass Loop circling Snowmass Village, just outside of Aspen, Co. It is a fairly new (summer 2014) directional downhill trail with great flow over a 500 foot overall descent, but still boasting lots of berms, jumps (including two doubles), drop offs, rollers and table tops.
What makes this trail interesting is that - while it is recommended at the intermediate level - the technicality can be punched up for the advanced rider. You can either slow down and roll over most of the jumps or gap them at speed - riders choice! This is an awesome feature if you happen to be with a mixed group of different skill levels. for a longer ride I recommend parking at the Snowmass intercept lot and riding cozyline to skyline ridge then hitting deadline and swing back up to viewline for another go-round or enjoy the xc back down cozy line and skyline to the intercept lot.
Pro tip - Add cozyline & skyline if you have time. the views are outstanding and the trails can be pretty empty during the week with most favoring the rim trail.
What about equipment? Many people ask me...
Some of the top 5 trails in Colorado that I mentioned above are easy to find but have poorly marked trails; others are harder to find with well marked trails. Either way, I highly recommend you consider a reliable handlebar phone holder or GPS mount.
I hate killing my flow just because I need to stop and grab my phone from my pack to check the map or take a call or whatever. Plus, personally, I just can’t stand riding with a watch on, so I like that I can use my phone’s GPS and timer (or my favorite app) to track my location on the trail and my performance. I have found that a solid bike phone holder helps me get the most out of my ride - enjoyment and performance wise. I currently have an iPhone bike mount for my iPhone 6s plus. I rode for a long time without one of course, but now I just don’t feel dialed without it. full disclosure I ride with my own product the nomad. take a look at my set up here.
The NOMAD™ from iomounts.com is a great option! It’s compatible with any phone or GPS, it has a simple design and solid construction, and it’s quick and easy to install. You can rely on it even if you’re riding loose and have to bail.
I highly recommend it!
Another common question I hear quite often is…
I would probably say yes to all of the above!
You probably already have a bottle cage and bicycle tool kit mount. However, iomounts.com offers a unique universal bicycle mount that converts your bike’s existing bottle cage mount into a universal mounting solution, which can hold water bottles, bicycle tool kits, park tools, or other accessories and gear.
It’s called The MULE™ and it’s pretty cool!