Fall can be a frustrating time for outdoors fanatics. As the days grow shorter and colder and the high country is blanketed by snow, the options for outings shrink.
Mountain bikers, however, should take heart. One advantage of living in an arid climate is that plenty of places remain dry right through the winter.
Here are some local stand-bys to keep on tap, along with some nearby hot spots for the cold months.
Palmer is home to easy, if sandy, trails and some wicked rocks. A lot of top local riders say Palmer is their favorite in-town ride because of the challenging terrain, but there are trails for all abilities in the park’s 730 acres.
Getting there: Take Union Boulevard to Paseo Road. Turn east and park at the park entrance just past the stables.
Ute Valley Park
Ute Valley is like Palmer’s little brother, albeit in a more scenic locale on the city’s northwest side. The trails are shorter, but there is plenty of variety and some challenging sections to test your skills on.
Getting there: Take Rockrimmon Boulevard to Vindicator Drive, turn west and park on the left.
Stratton Open Space
Stratton’s Chutes trail is often the exit point for riders finishing Captain Jack’s or Jones Downhill, but in fall and winter, the open space’s twisting trails offer plenty of quality riding in their own right, with tight, not-too-technical climbs and descents through forested slopes.
Getting there: Take Cheyenne Boulevard west to Ridgeway Avenue. Turn north and go one block to the parking area.
Red Rock Canyon Open Space
There are a few technical rock moves, but most of the open space is twisty climbs and fast descents suitable for riders of all skill levels. For more of a challenge, tie it in with the Intemann Trail and Section 16 to the south, which boast some very challenging riding.
Getting there: Take Highway 24 to Ridge Road. Turn south and then left into the parking lot.OUT OF THE CITY:
Lying just south of the Palmer Divide, the 26 miles of trail around the U.S. Forest Service’s Monument Fire Center catch a fair amount of snow, but the trails are usually rideable through the fall and many are clear much of the winter. The Fire Center offers a mix of terrain and challenges as the trails climb from the Mount Herman Trailhead to Mount Herman Road. Forested single track and rolling fields around Monument Rock give way to rocky, technical climbs at the top of the area.
Getting there: Take the Monument exit (161) off Interstate 25 and drive west for a half-mile on Second Street until it ends at Mitchell Avenue. Turn left and drive 0.6 mile to Mount Herman Road. Turn right and drive less than a mile to the trailhead on the left.
Lake Pueblo State Park
The miles of trails on the south shore of Pueblo Reservoir are pure gold for fall and winter riding. Dry as a bone a few days after most snowstorms, the desert mesa is a taste of mountain bike-mecca Fruita in our own backyard. The singletrack is tight and technical in the ravines radiating down from the mesa, as names like Skull Canyon and Broken Hip imply, or you can opt for the less challenging open prairie rides like Outer Limits to the west.
Getting there: Take Interstate 25 south to U.S. Highway 50 (exit 101). Go west 4 miles to Pueblo Boulevard/Colorado Highway 45. Turn right and drive 4 miles west to the park. Don’t enter the park (although the visitor center has area maps), but drive to the trailhead at the top of the hill.
Red Rocks-Dakota Ridge
This is not our own Red Rock Canyon Open Space, although that offers some fine fall mountain biking itself, but its cousin outside of Denver, home to the world-famous music venue and some of Denver’s most challenging mountain biking. This 6.3-mile loop is no secret to the Denver biking community, so don’t expect solitude, but it’s a fun change of pace from the local rides and you get some good views of the amphitheater. Be prepared to hike-a-bike up the steep initial section and the challenging terrain on the ridge. Things mellow out considerably around Red Rocks (which can also be ridden on its own starting in Morrison).
Getting there: Take Interstate 25 to Colorado Highway 470, turn west and continue to Interstate 70. Continue west and take the Morrison exit (exit 259), turn left onto Colorado Highway 26, then turn right onto Road 73 and into the parking lot.
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