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Home / Articles / Adventure / Adventure /  Simple singletrack
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Wednesday, July 3,2013

Simple singletrack

No-frills destinations for the fat-tire crowd

By Tom Winter
Photo by Tom Winter
Biking in the Abajo Mountains

There’s no doubt that there’s plenty of fantastic mountain biking surrounding Boulder. This is true despite occasional grumbling by the singletrack set. Sure, mountain bikers won’t get to taste the charms of the Mesa Trail anytime soon, but once you’ve tired of riding Walker Ranch or Marshall Mesa, instead of grumbling about lack of access, put some energy into something better: planning a road trip to some of the amazingly varied and high-quality riding that lurks within a day’s drive of the Boulder Bubble.

Indian Creek/Waterton Canyon
Mountain bikers often compare the attitudes of Boulder city and county land managers to the “access for everyone” approach Jefferson County has taken. It’s true that Jefferson County has invested in plenty of multi-use trails, and is welcoming to mountain bikers. This approach is reason enough to take your bike (and your wallet) south of Morrison to sample some of the great riding that our neighbors have developed.

A good place to start is the Indian Creek/Waterton Canyon trail. Combining U.S. Forest Service trails with access via Denver Water District lands, as well as some singletrack inside Roxborough State Park, you’ll ride through terrain that’s home to Bighorn sheep, mule deer and more than 40 species of birds. It’s a Front Range gem, which also takes in a part of the Colorado Trail. Once you’re done with riding, bust out the pocketbook for lunch and a beer at the nearby Waterton Tavern.

Happy Jack/Pole Mountain
The Happy Jack area features singletrack Wyoming style, with fast, rolling terrain north of Fort Collins. This area is used for XC skiing in the winter, with trails that translate perfectly into cross-country mountain biking in the summer. Riding here features plenty of loops, multiple spurs and options in a classic Western setting of aspens, mountain meadows and pine forests. It’s a favorite of Northern Colorado riders, but that doesn’t mean the area gets crowded. Sure, there’s some use on weekends, but less than you’d see on the trails around Boulder, and it is positively empty on weekdays. Add in some good camping options, and you have a sweet singletrack escape that’s well worth the drive.

Rabbit Valley
Moab gets hot in the middle of July, and Rabbit Valley is not much different. But the difference lies in the fact that Moab gets crowded. Very, very crowded. So, for those who love the dry air and warm nights in the desert without crowds and pay-per-night controlled camping, Colorado’s Rabbit Valley provides the perfect antidote to the hordes that blast past the area en route to Utah. This area has always been popular with locals: They camp in the area and rip around on dirt bikes and ATVs. For some, that’s a turn-off. But it’s worth remembering that dirt bikers don’t care what you ride, and you’ll not get a heaping helping of hiker attitude from any of them. In fact, they might even offer you a cold beer, as they’re no strangers to the fun that can be had on two wheels. During weekdays Rabbit Valley is deserted. The emptiness is complemented by excellent riding, including the easy singletrack of Trails 4 and 5 and more challenging Western Rim Trail, an 18-mile loop that features fantastic views of the Colorado River. Also highly recommended is the ripping singletrack of Zion Curtain, a 20-mile ride, and Rabbit Valley West’s trails, including the Westwater Mesa/Overlook trail. Just be sure to bring plenty of water and to stock up on a lot of ice, or you’ll be drinking warm beer around the campfire.

Abajo Mountains

Too far south and too quiet for the Moab crowd, Monticello sits at the base of the Abajo (or Blue) Mountains. Lush, with wildflowers and aspen glades, this intimate mountain range features a variety of dirt roads, trails and tracks that climb from the desert into the peaks, the tallest of which, Abajo, stands at 11,360 feet. Monticello’s 7,066-foot elevation means that it’s possible to ride comfortably here even in the scorching heat of mid-summer — but plan on being challenged. The best rides feature steep singletrack climbs, technical descents and enough elevation gain to make you puke. That doesn’t mean the riding is a complete sufferfest: there’s plenty of mellow action too, including the option of using car shuttles on some of the longer rides. But if you want to taste the best that the Blues have to offer, you better be ready to earn it. Take the Shay Ridge Trail, which tops out at approximately 11,000 feet, high enough to leave even strong riders gasping. Or Trail 20, a 50-mile slog that was created by dirt bikers but which also gives those beasts who thought Shay was too easy the opportunity to test themselves. For the rest of us, there are a variety of singletrack options as well as easy cruisers like Geyser Pass road, which crosses the range.  

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

Details, details

Indian Creek/Waterton Canyon
Location:

Colorado Hwy. 93 to Golden, Hwy. 470 from Golden to 121
Eat/Drink:
Waterton Tavern (8361 N. Rampart Range Road, Littleton; watertontavern.com)
More Info:
Stephen Hlawaty’s Mountain Biking Colorado’s Front Range: From Fort Collins to Colorado Springs (Falcon Guides) offers a good overview of local riding opportunities.


Happy Jack/Pole Mountain
Location:

Between Laramie and Cheyenne, just north of I-80, access via the Happy Jack exit, #323, onto WY 210 (Happy Jack Road)
Eat/Drink:
Altitude Chophouse and Brewery (320 S. Second St., Laramie, Wyo.; www.altitudechophouse.com)
More Info:
Anne Childers’ Front Range Rider (Poudre Canyon Press) covers Happy Jack as well as a variety of other rides in the area, including trails around Fort Collins.


Rabbit Valley
Location:
Interstate 70 west to mile marker 2
Eat/Drink:
Copper Club Brewery (233 E. Aspen Ave., Fruita; www.facebook.com/CopperClubBrewingCompany)
More Info:
Bob D’Antonio’s Mountain Biking Grand Junction and Fruita (Falcon Press) features the beta on 22 rides in the Fruita area, including Rabbit Valley.


Abajo Mountains
Location:

Interstate 70 west to Utah Highway 191, Highway 191 South to Monticello
Eat/Drink:
Shake Shack (380 N. Main St., Monticello)
More Info:
Moab-Monticello Ranger District; 496 E. Central, Monticello; 435-587-2041

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