Tucked high in the Rampart Range, this beautiful body of water and the trail that traces its banks serve scores of outdoor enthusiasts.
Anglers flock here in hopes of hooking into several species of trout. Runners come for distance and altitude training. Hikers find postcard possibilities at almost every turn. And canoeists and flat-water kayakers enjoy endless acres of sweet solitude.
But Rampart Reservoir might be best suited for mountain bikers.
Experts will treasure the technical obstacles littered along the route while beginners will favor the miles of flowing singletrack. So no matter a rider’s skill level, a challenging day in the saddle awaits.
Most begin the journey at Rainbow Gulch trailhead off Rampart Range Road, where a wide path descends quickly through a forest of pines and stands of aspen. This section is heavily trafficked by anglers and hikers, so remain cautious, especially on summer weekends.
As the reservoir appears, the path soon narrows and the fun begins. Stay left of the canal, heading clockwise on the loop.
After 9 miles, the trail pours out onto a parking lot. Take the road across the dam and rejoin the singletrack on the south shore. This final section winds through areas affected by the Waldo Canyon fire before returning to the canal.
While there will be several opportunities to veer off on social trails, the loop never strays far from the reservoir. Difficult sections of rock outcrops will cause most riders to dismount and walk. But that’s all part of the overall experience on this classic ride.
Trip log: 14.5 miles round trip (from Rainbow Gulch trailhead), 1,034 feet elevation gain, 9,286 feet max
Getting there: Going west on U.S. 24 through Woodland Park, turn right onto Baldwin Street at McDonald’s. After about 3 miles, turn right onto Loy Creek Road. After 1½ miles, turn right onto Rampart Range Road. In 2 miles, see the trailhead and parking area to your left.
FYI: Multi-use, nonmotorized. No wading or swimming in the water. Dogs on leash. Parking and camping at designated sites only. Rampart Range Road typically gated Dec. 1 to April 1.
NATHAN VAN DYNE, THE GAZETTE