Matthews/Winters Park has plenty for hikers escaping the hustle and bustle of Denver. The preserve is situated between Interstate 70 and Colorado 470, bordering the green hills and red rocks of the city’s most famous concert amphitheater. We previously spotlighted a loop that visitors on foot will enjoy.
On to the trail that is iconic for mountain bikers.
Dakota Ridge is a high, rugged spine dividing urban sprawl. As much as it feels like a wild escape, the highway din is constant. Not that bikers notice as they work to navigate this slender, rocky top, leaning back as they pick lines in jumbled gardens.
“Gnarly” and “spicy” are among descriptions from Dakota Ridge’s broad online fanbase.
Hikers can also start from the northern portal off I-70, from the clearly marked Stegosaurus parking lot. The thin trail rises up the sloping meadow on the lot’s south end, meeting a trail map ahead. Maps are also stocked here; take one to plot your return on the well-marked trail network.
It’s a steep start to a switchback leading into brief woods. Here the single track is sandy before the chunky takeover. However rough and tumble, the route is well-maintained, with chutes and rocks for hucking before accelerating wood rollers.
Speed picks up toward the cutoff for Zoro Trail, which riders on the other side of the park take to start the route. From this junction, it’s another steep uphill to an even more technical hogback, where views of Red Rocks Amphitheatre open up.
There’s a bail-out option before a bike-only portion, a nearly mile-long downhill reward after the previous 1 1/2-mile challenge.
Trip log: 5.2 miles round trip (out and back), 988 feet elevation gain
Difficulty: Moderate-difficult; black diamond-rated trail
Getting there: From Denver, go west on Interstate 70 to exit 259 for County Road 93. From exit, turn left (south) to 93, drive under the highway and take the first left (east) into the Stegosaurus lot.
FYI: Dakota Ridge mostly multi-use. Park open one hour before sunrise and one hour after sunset. Dogs allowed on leash.
SETH BOSTER, THE GAZETTE