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Winter riding in Colorado is a balancing act of temperatures, short days, snow and trail access. Rides after work require decent lights, and most of the popular trails close an hour after sunset. Temps can vary from below freezing to the 70’s, sometimes from one day to the next. Storms can dump two feet of snow in a 48 hour period, only for it to melt and dry out a week or two later. Many of the higher elevation trails are snowed in from November through May which further limits winter trail riding options. Combine all of these factors with the temptation to leave the bike and go skiing, and before you know it, a month will have gone by with no time spent in the saddle.

Here are some winter trail options for those of us who aren’t into snow biking.

Green Mountain

Green Mountain is pretty much the go-to trail for winter riding in the Denver area. With its southern exposure and lack of trees, it dries quickly and it is open until 11pm for night riding. There is ample parking at both the Rooney Rd and Alameda Pkwy trailheads.

I tend to use the Rooney Rd trailhead and ride counter-clockwise, with some backtracking to hit connector trails and add more mileage. My favorite way to come down is ‘Box o’ Rocks,’ and if you watch for it, there is a cut-off as you get back to the interstate that has some stuff to play around on. If you miss the turn coming down, look to your right just before the overpass. You can ride back up that short section from there.

Green Mountain photo by taiguy.

If you have energy and lights left, head across Rooney Rd. to Zorro Trail, which is a connector to the Dakota Ridge Trail and takes 10-15 minutes to climb.

Matthews Winters / Dakota Ridge

Just across the ridge, the Matthews Winters/Dakota Ridge area gets plenty of sun and is very rocky, which helps keep it dry. Start from Red Rocks Parking Lot #2 and head across the road to the Dakota Ridge trailhead. From the descent at the other end, head back across the same road and pick up Matthews Winters. Morrison Slide is an optional add-on, but either way you’ll end up back at your car. The Dakota Ridge section features some of the most technical riding in the Front Range area, whereas the Matthews Winters side, though still quite rocky, is much less intense.

These trails are not open at night.

Dakota Ridge photo by Grant Landsbach.

Ridgeline Open Space & Quarry Mesa

For some winter night riding other than Green Mountain, head a few minutes south to Castle Rock for Quarry Mesa or Ridgeline Open Space.

Ridgeline, as the name suggests, is rolling singletrack that follows a ridge on the west side of town. There are a couple of modest climbs and a few switchbacks, but the rest is fast, flowing singletrack. Access the trailhead from Coachline Rd and enjoy the views of the city lights from the top of the ridge.

Quarry Mesa is a short, lollipop-shaped trail. It’s all singletrack with some switchbacks leading up the side of the mesa and a loop around the top. Ride up, do the loop both ways, and come back down for a total of fivemiles. Like Ridgeline, there is nothing technical. (Note: Rhyolite Bike Park is not open at night, but the mesa trail is)

Both of these trails dry quickly and are open until 9pm. Day or night, they are great options for grabbing a few miles of wintertime dirt.

South Shore Lake Pueblo

Just two hours south of the Denver area, Pueblo is usually free of snow and has some amazing riding. The South Shore Lake Pueblo trail system has roughly 18 miles of interconnecting trails with everything from flowing singletrack to super technical rocks and ledges. I recently went there for the first time and it was incredible! A friend and I rode for over three hours and linked together 14 miles of trail and still didn’t see everything. The trail surface varies from gravel to hardpack as well as sections covered in broken shale and even some slickrock. Riders of any skill level will find plenty to do and trails can be looped together or ridden in opposite directions for even more variety. This trail network should definitely be on your winter to do list!

Parking at the main entrance will require a state parks pass, but if you drive about a mile further west, the “red gate” parking lot on the right-hand side of the road is free. From there you can access four of the major trails into the network.

Hopefully these suggestions will help keep you off your trainer this winter, and if anyone has other winter trail suggestions in Colorado, drop them in the comments!

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# Comments

  • trek7k

    In Colorado Springs, Captain Jack’s Palmer Park and Ute Valley stay in good shape through the winter since they get plenty of sun and are located at around 6-7,000 feet. Seems like pretty much anything below 8,000 feet or so is fair game but that excludes a lot of well known spots like Crested Butte, Monarch Crest, etc.

    Beyond the Front Range there’s also Grand Junction / Fruita where trails are lower and much more exposed.

  • wilsonrides

    Thanks for the article, starting to get spring fever. I road in Salida in the middle of January a few years back and it was really nice. They call it the “banana belt” as Salida and Buena Vista don’t get much snow and it melts quick if they do. The surrounding peaks get plenty of snow which makes for great vistas. This area is nice for snowbums like myself who wanna get off the snowboard and crank some pedal turns. Only about an hour or hour and a half from Summit County.

  • JohnsXCbike

    High Plains Trail just south of Boulder is an easy lower elevation ride as well, should be ridable now and perfect for those of us who haven’t been riding all winter to get back up to speed 🙂 Rabbit Mountain near Lyons I think should be doable now too, I’ve ridden it in February a few years back.

  • kvnrbrts

    Man…all these articles on Colorado are making me drool at my workstation. I am craving a trip to Colorado one of these days. What am I saying…I need to get out on my local trails as well…

  • Goo

    @maddslacker, I think he said that it EXCLUDES places such as Monarch Crest 😉

  • Goo

    But good article! I enjoyed the quick trail overview. I’ve ridden a few of the trails, but next time I’m out there I’ll have to ride the rest!

  • maddslacker

    @Goo, right, I was just pointing out that Monarch isn’t even open for early – midsummer riding. 😀

  • DLACHNIET

    Palmer Park in Colorado Springs is a good winter time choice. Rode Devils Backbone, Indian Summer, and Blue Sky near Loveland Sunday; was in perfect shape. Their is almost always something rideable on the front range, and if not there’s 100’s of miles of paved trails.

  • Goo

    @maddslacker, Ah, I see!

    @Dlachniet, Yeah I was wondering if the Devil’s backbone area would be rideable. Man, you guys in Colorado have it good all year round! And skiiing and rock climbing too…. spoiled rotten I tell ya!

  • skibum

    Great summary, Maddslacker!

    Couple short adds in the Springs area–
    1. Red Rock Canyon Open Space. Mostly wide, groomed trrails, but plenty of tech fun if you poke around a bit. there’s also a small skills park by the parking lot.

    2. Ute Valley Park–
    Kind of a mini-Palmer Park. There’s a nice variety of riding here and it usually dries out quicker than Palmer.

    3. Cheyenne Mountain State Park–
    20+ miles of singletrack of which about 14 are exposed and dry out quickly after a snow. Lots of easy stuff but also lots of rocky goodness as well. Requires parks pass or $7 entry fee. Well Worth it.

    4. Sprice Mountain–
    Nice climb, good Ponderosa-covered mesa-top loop, then a fun but too short descent. Great views of Pikes Peak and the Monument Valley along the way.

    One last note–beware the red gate at Pueblo Reservoir–smash-and-grab, break-in fest. The $7 entry fee into the park proper is cheap insurance against what else might happen.

  • western90

    Great thread, thanks. I will have a 3-hr ride in the CO Springs area next Saturday on the way down I-25. I have FS and like technical chunk and “rocky goodness.”

    Not a lot of time, obviously, for such a vast area. Red Rock Canyon seems like a reasonable choice. Suggestions or specifics appreciated. Thanks.

  • Gdb49

    Great thread, all these places are great. Winter riding in Pueblo can not be beat. If you have not been down there, it is a must! I live in Colorado Springs and still make the 45 min drive down on a regular basis. Best bet for dry and warm riding and can easily fill 3 hours. The canyons have short but great DH like feel and they have put some great new trails in recently. Sounds like you’re heading down I-25 anyways. If you are looking for chunky rock it is endless out there, it’s like an amusement park for Mtbers. Get some mileage in on Inner and Outer Limits, and some of the many other trails on that side of the park.

  • bonkedagain

    western90, Palmer Park is the place for “rocky goodness” — way better than Red Rock Canyon. Just get on the Templeton Trail and ride the whole thing.

    As Gdb49 said, South Shore Lake Pueblo is a lot of fun too, and well worth the visit.

  • western90

    Thanks for all the info. Had to cancel this trip but looking forward to next time.

  • bravesdave

    Just to add to the list, oftentimes, Stratton Open Space in COS is snow-free in the winter. Very flowy trails and of course “The Chutes” are one of the main attractions.

  • jwind

    I actually find North Table Mountain dries up the fastest in the Golden area. Just a wee bit faster than green mountain.

  • Gdb49

    Have to add Canon City- Oil Well Flats, now that they have finished the trails. Gets very little snow and stay nearly as warm as Pueblo. This is one of the best new additions to the Front Range.

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