Identifying a “favorite” bike trail is tough. Sometimes a favorite trail one day isn’t a favorite the next day. Sometimes I’m in the mood for a tough technical trail; other days I want a mellow scenic ride. For my top five trails in western Colorado I decided to pick a variety of trails to cover all my bases. These are in no particular order because I couldn’t choose which would be #1.
My favorite place to bike in general is at the Kokopelli trails in Loma, CO. These trails have it all: scenic views, a variety of technical and flowing trails, single and doubletrack, and a nice range of distances and loops. It makes sense then, that 2 of my favorite trails (and really more) are here.
1. Horsethief Bench – This is, as you’ve heard before, a classic western Colorado ride. After climbing up Mary’s and then cruising along a bit of doubletrack (about 2 miles), you’ll hop over the cattle guard and stare down the hike-a-bike of the Horsethief Bench entrance. Rideable by some, hikeable by all! Once you get to the bottom you might want to lower that seat post a tad because you’ve got several drops headed your way. The front side of Horsethief is filled with drops, ledges, and river views.
Watching the river halfway through the front side of Horsethief Bench
Soon you hit hike-a-bike #2 and right after that the climb begins up and around to the backside of Horsethief. This part rolls through a dry wash, up and over ledges back to the start.
Cruising around a corner on the backside of Horsethief Bench
Sure you’ve got to climb the portage again, bike in tow, but the views and the awesome 4 miles of riding you just did make it worth the effort! In my opinion, this trail can be tackled by true intermediates, but I think beginners would get tired of walking their bikes.
Hiking up the portage at the entrance/exit to Horsethief Bench
Horsethief is fairly short, so you can ride it in about an hour if you’re familiar with the trail. Otherwise, plan on at least an hour and a half because you’ll stop to take a lot of pictures. Horsethief should always be ridden clockwise.
2. If you’re looking for a longer ride, ride Horsethief, hike back up the portage, turn left and continue on one of my other favorite trails: Mary’s Loop. Another classic with amazing views, Mary’s hugs the rim above Horsethief and is, I think, a great trail for even early intermediates. New riders will have to walk some, but there are long sections of doubletrack that are great for practicing pop-ups, drops, and other skills.
My friend “A” cruises along a smooth portion of Mary’s Loop.
Don’t be fooled however. There are sections of Mary’s that will test your fear of exposure and heights a bit (or at least they tested mine). There are portions that I still walk and I’m okay with that!
Here Mary’s starts to narrow and becomes a bit more exposed. You can see the trail (faint white line) continuing in the distance.
Even if I still walked this whole section, I’d ride the rest of the trail just for these views.
Together Horsethief and Mary’s make up about 12 miles of riding, the last 2.5 of which are a frontage road. Another option is to ride just past this point to the connection with Steve’s Loop and then turn around and ride Mary’s the opposite direction. Of course you could extend your ride by adding any assortment of other trails in the Kokopelli system.
3. No favorites list of mine would be complete without once again mentioning Western Rim. I’ve talked about it before in my “Four Trails for Avoiding the Crowds” post, but this trail bears mentioning a second time. Here are a few more pictures of this awesome 14-mile trail to whet your appetite:
Allow at least 3 hours to ride and rest on the Western Rim trail and make sure to bring plenty of water and a map.
4. I’d be remiss if I didn’t include a set of trails at 18 Road. I love 18 road for days when I want a good workout, but I’m not feeling like riding anything super rocky and technical. Some new trails have been added that can help you create even more loops for longer rides.
Joe’s Ridge is one of my favorite rides but to get to it your best bet is to ride up Prime Cut. Prime Cut climbs, but it adds some fun twists, turns and whoop-de-whoos along the way. Joe’s is a steep, narrow ridge top that will make you scream like a girl even if you aren’t one.
Cruising down Joe’s Ridge
Riders speed down the hills on the ridge then climb up again before dropping back to a gravel road. From here you can pick up the bottom half of Kessel Run for some more roller coaster riding on the way back to the car.
The top of Joe’s Ridge starts at the camel’s hump in the middle of this photo by the treeline.
Total ride time (including Kessel Run) is 60-90 minutes. You can extend this by adding the new PBR trail or riding through the campground to the top of Kessel Run. Prime Cut and Kessel can be ridden by beginners with a few rides under their belts.
5. Finally, I’ve got to include a trail from Lunch Loop/Tabeguache. More technical than other trail systems in the valley, the Tabeguache trails are also often less crowded. These trails are close to home, so we ride them often and there is always something new to conquer. For a great after-work ride, I like to park in the main lot and ride up Pet-y-Kes.
The singletrack, light-colored line snaking through the middle of the wall there is Pet-y-Kes.
Another view of parts of Pet-Y-Kes
I didn’t start riding at Tabeguache until I had been biking for at least a year. The trails here are very narrow and there are lots of rocks. In some places the penalties for failure in a technical spot include pretty big cliff drops. There are still many features on trails here that I can’t ride or don’t ride. That being said, the landscape here is stark and beautiful and the views from the ridgetops are awe-inspiring.
After riding up Pet-Y-Kes, I like to cruise across and down High Noon to the main ridge and then down the switchbacks of Kurt’s Lane to the car. From the parking lot you can see these switchbacks if you look left.
This little hollow is found toward the end of High Noon.
Views from the ridge at Tabeguache.
Everyone has their favorite rides. I have favorite rides depending on my mood and my level of bravery on any given day. I can tell you this though: If someone told me I could only bike at one set of trails in the valley, I’d choose the Kokopelli trails.