The latest showpiece in Colorado Springs' stellar trail system is on pace to expand.
City parks officials this month will begin a hunt for contractors to build the second leg of the 3-mile Eastern Loop Trail in Ute Valley Park, one of several improvements coming to city parks and open space.
Expected to be complete by the end of the year or early 2017, the project will help tap the potential of a 2013 park expansion that added 200 acres to the cycling hot spot on the city's northwest side.
The first leg, completed in October under a $65,000 contract with Single Track of Fort Collins, marked a promising start.
Short but sweet at just more than a mile, it's a master's class in new-style trail building: A roller-coaster ride stitched together by natural rock features, strategically placed boulders, banked switchbacks, alternate lines and short, punchy climbs.
"The bikers like it because it's definitely a challenge," said Sarah Bryarly of Colorado Springs Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services. "They can clear things going one direction, but they can't clear it the other."
Cyclists will get a breather on the remaining leg, which won't be so technical owing to terrain differences.
Elsewhere in Ute Valley Park, the West Ridge Trail is likewise on pace to be finished by the end of the year, weather permitting, and will offer a B-line with optional rock features for cyclists, Bryarly said.
City parks officials also are eyeing improvements to Red Rock Canyon Open Space slated for a 2017 debut.
A project that will go out to bid this month will reroute a portion of Intemann Trail and create a loop between Section 16 and Red Rock Canyon near the old landfill.
Red Rock Canyon saw the addition of several trails last year, a mix of updates approved as part of a master plan and unexpected additions arising from a $500,000 project that repaired flood damage after 10 straight days of rain in May 2015.
Highlights include the undulating Lower Codell Trail, where cyclists must work to keep both wheels on terra firma, and Upper Codell, a technical proving ground perched high on a ridge over Hogback Trail.
Get out of Dodge
Riders looking for new dirt might want to check out the newly completed Little Scraggy Loop at Buffalo Creek Recreation Area north of Woodland Park.
Spearheaded by the Colorado Mountain Bike Association and finished this summer, the 9-mile route is studded with granite outcrops, adding variety to the smooth-rolling singletrack that dominates Buff Creek.
Enjoy it as a quick fix or add loops for an all-day epic.
To get there: Go west on U.S. 24 to Woodland Park, then head north on Colorado 67. At Deckers, follow Colorado 126 an additional 11 miles. Watch for signs and find the Little Scraggy trailhead and parking lot on the left, off Redskin Creek Road, or County Road 550. This area has a $6 day-use fee.
Lance Benzel's column runs on the second Thursday of each month in Out There.