Known worldwide as a premier ski town, Breckenridge racks and stacks with the biggest and most famous ski resort destinations in the world, and rightfully so. Breck sports over 2,300 acres of skiable terrain on nearly 3,400 vertical feet from top to bottom, including long groomers, hairy steeps, glades, cornices, above tree line peaks, and epic terrain parks, all anchored by a beautiful Victorian town hosting a full compliment of dining, nightlife and shopping options.
What’s slightly less known outside of Colorado, is that Breckenridge also hosts an equally big, diverse, and excellent network of singletrack for everything from the timid novice to the super-adventurous expert. One of the things that makes Breck so wonderful as a mountain bike destination is that many of the great routes are accessible directly from town with no driving or shuttling required. Here’s a quartet of such fossil fuel-free rides for the summer visitor to the heart of Colorado:
The Peaks Trail: A Colorado Original
The Peaks Trail has the distinction of being one of Colorado’s first popular mountain bike routes, but don’t let the fact that this trail was blazed before the modern era of mountain biking dissuade you from hitting it now. This oldie is definitely a goodie! It also has a number of route options to suit any rider’s desires or timetable. The classic route is a 17.5-mile loop consisting of 50% singletrack and 50% paved bike trail/road, connecting the towns of Breckenridge and Frisco.
The usual start is anywhere in downtown Breckenridge. The route begins with a steady climb up Ski Hill Road to the base of Peak 7, where the singletrack begins. This gorgeous, wooded trail runs just over 8 miles to the town of Frisco, where you can retrace your route for a fine, challenging out-and-back, or pick up the paved Blue River Bikeway for an easy spin back to Breck. If you’ve got the energy, be sure to stop by the Frisco Adventure Center and hit the very well maintained bike park, which includes tabletops and gap jumps from kid-friendly to scary. The park also offers a perfectly-designed dual slalom course, which is marked double diamond, but is rideable by just about anyone.
My personal favorite option peels off the Peaks Trail well short of Frisco and makes the climb up and over the more interesting Gold Hill Trail. This trail offers a good, stiff (but rideable) climb up seldom visited, rooty singletrack, and rewards your effort with a wicked good, fast, and narrow descent down the far side of Gold Hill, terminating on the Blue River Bikeway a couple miles north of Frisco.
The Flume Trails: Suburban Mountain Singletrack
The Flume Trails appear to have been built specifically for the convenience of the wealthy mansion owners through whose subdivision the trails pass. Again, don’t let this dissuade you, as there is some great riding to be had. The Lower Flume is positively level by Breckenridge standards, and there are no major technical obstacles. But much of the trail is scarcely handlebar width, and some of the trail is on a narrow, elevated ridge sitting between ditches on either side. It’s novice, but not completely beginner-friendly.
Once on the Upper Flume trail, however, things get more interesting with some sustained climbs, a more remote feeling since you’ve left the “parade of homes” portion of the ride, and a number of side trails that offer unique experiences. I recommend doing a large, clockwise loop going north on Lower Flume and working your way east on Middle Flume to the big southerly climb on Upper Flume, and taking additional rights until you find yourself on Mike’s Trail for a rip-snortin’ good descent to finish. This last descent isn’t treacherous, but is certainly not novice-friendly.
The Baker Tank Loop: Great Bang for Your Effort Buck
The classic Baker Tank Loop, starting a few miles up Boreas Pass Road from town, is one that gives a superb payoff for the amount of effort required. The start of the classic route is where the Boreas Pass Road turns from pavement to dirt a few miles above town. The grade is easy, so it’s a nice warmup, or you can drive to save time and energy for the classic loop.
This is a fairly simple loop, three miles up the dirt road and three miles back down singletrack. I’m not usually keen on spending half of my ride on a dirt road, but this one gave me no room for complaint: the grade was very steady and easy enough to keep up a good, aerobic cadence, and the views were so distracting, you won’t care what’s under your knobbies. Be sure to ignore the first singletrack you see, as it is a short connector trail only. The singletrack begins just before the old, well-preserved water tank.
The singletrack begins with a kick-in-the-gut climb. Thankfully, it’s mercifully short, and soon you will find yourself bobbing and weaving through a magnificent pine forest. Before you know it, you’ll be losing elevation rapidly and an ear-to-ear grin will spread across your face. There are a couple forks on the way down, but it’s easy to tell which is the main route—the first merges in from your right side; keep going straight and the second is a fork left which you will ignore (goes back to the Boreas Pass Road as noted before) so take the right fork and enjoy the rest of the steep, narrow, rocky, rooty plunge back to the paved part of Boreas Pass road.
The Argentine Loop: A Little of Everything
The Argentine Trail itself is not long, but getting to it from town takes a little doing. You can drive up to within a couple miles, but you would be cheating yourself out of some very nice singletrack in the process.
Starting from the Ice Rink at the south end of town, you can link the Illinois Creek Trail, Southside Trail, and Blue River Trail to rack up another 5 miles of scenic, wooded singletrack each way. Between the end of the Blue River Trail and the beginning of the Argentine Trail is a good deal of graded dirt road and relentlessly steep jeep road.
The full loop is only 15 miles, but it will feel like a lot more. First, this is the highest ride in this article, starting out at almost 9,700 feet and topping out over 11,400 feet. While that’s only a 1,700ft differential, for the first half of the climb you will gain and lose significant chunks of altitude more than once.
The second half of the climb is what I think of as “character building.” Once on the jeep road, the grade never abates, and the merely human will likely take a break or two. Like the Baker Tank loop, you will pass by one singletrack enroute to your entrance, this time coming out on the one you bypassed.
Once on the singletrack, things just get tougher. This trail is shared with motos, so it’s very rutted and extremely loose–it will suck the very life out of your legs. The final pitch up to the summit of Mt. Argentine is purely hateful, but once on top, the 360-degree view is magnificent and you’ll gladly take a breather and regain your wits before descending.
Fortunately, the descent is a little less rutted, and even has some nice berms along the way. It is also relentlessly steep and requires your full attention, especially if you try it at speed; make sure your brakes are in good working order before giving this one a go.
If you’re looking for something less strenuous, simply ride the lower trails as a shorter out-and-back. There’s also a small, very kid-friendly skills park/pump track at the Illinois Creek trailhead.
Breck ain’t cheap, but even with all the available activities in the summer, it is still considered the off-season relative to skiing. Consequently, a nice condo can be had for far less than it would cost during the winter. There’s also no shortage of camping opportunities in the area, especially if you’re not looking for a developed campground.
If you’re looking for a good meal, most of those winter hot spots remain open for the summer season. You can go light at the always busy (for good reason) Crepes a la Carte, or get the full-on butter bomb at Bubba Gumps. There are also many pizza joints, ranging from Dominos to the more unique but still reasonable Extreme Pizza, to the more gourmet Giampetros.
Time to start planning your trip to Breckenridge!