When I first moved out to Colorado Springs I was stoked to check out the biking scene and find out why people get so excited about mountain biking in the west. Within my first few days in town I tried riding at the US Air Force Academy (too technical/sandy) and at Rampart Reservoir (too little oxygen, hike-a-bike in spots) and I was quickly frustrated with the trail offerings. Over the next year or two Leah and I explored trails all around the Springs and Denver and weren’t too impressed with what we found. Sure there were plenty of technical trails (we were actually starting to get pretty good at these) and challenging climbing workouts (now a favorite for both of us) but we really wanted to find some fast, scenic singletrack loops we could enjoy without doing too much thinking. Little did we know that some of the best singletrack in the state could be found in the middle of nowhere, halfway between Denver and the Springs.
The Buffalo Creek area is one of the best kept mountain biking secrets in the west (you won’t tell anyone, will you?) It’s even been designated ‘Epic’ by IMBA, one of only 32 trail systems in the world to receive this honor. In fact, there are only 2 IMBA-designated epic rides in the state of Colorado and the other one is clear across the state in Durango (bet you thought it was Boulder, huh?). Don’t expect to see lots of crowds on these trails either: most of the chuckers are riding closer to home in Denver, dodging hikers with dogs and grinding it out on washed out and overused trails. Nope, Buffalo Creek is reserved for those willing to make the scenic drive up from the city, to spend half a day or more on the bike enjoying the fast trails and solitude of nature.
The first trail I tried out here was the Green Mountain loop (not to be confused with Green Mountain in D-town). The parking area for this lollipop route is easily the most popular and can actually get a bit crowded on weekends. This is also the only parking lot I’ve seen in the area where you have to pay, about $4 per vehicle last I checked. This happens to be the trailhead for the Morrison Creek loop as well and you can combine the two routes if you like (Morrison Creek can alternatively be connected with the Buffalo Creek Loop if you prefer). The Green Mountain loop is amazing with about 16 miles of sweet singletrack and 3-4 decent climbs along the way. The longest climb, up Green Mountain itself, is a gut buster and marks the halfway point around the loop.
The Morrison Creek loop shares a bit of trail with the Green Mountain loop but quickly branches off to the north as it traverses some sections of burned out forest. The scenery is often surreal but the singletrack is just as sweet as on the Green Mountain loop. In fact this loop has some of the fastest downhill runs in the area, some with nary a turn or a switchback in sight for half a mile. You’ll ride along beautiful Buffalo Creek at the bottom of the loop before you climb back up the virtually bare hillside to the main trail.
My favorite trail in the area is the title trail, Buffalo Creek. This trail has the best features for my money: a gravel road climb, smooth trail, beautiful scenery, and sustained flowing downhills on the way back to the car. Buffalo Creek trail has it all, including some sections that will keep your technical skills alive without totally exhausting them. The parking area is free and the trails are lightly trafficked: what more do you need?
If you’re still looking for more, don’t worry. Since the Colorado Trail slices through the area, there are plenty of feeder options for getting on the trail. The Buck Gulch trail is a tough climb out of Pine Valley Ranch park. There are several trails here and you’ll actually traverse some common sections with the Buffalo Creek trail (in particular, Charlie’s Cutoff, one of the best sections of trail around). There’s also the Redskin Mountain loop, but I have to admit this is my least favorite trail here. It might have something to do with the fact that Travis and I rode the loop backwards or the fact that we couldn’t shake a group of horseback riders no matter how hard we tried. Anyway, ride this one if you must, but I will warn you it’s a bit difficult to find and reach the parking area.
There are even more trails close by (as the crow flies) but none compare to the five mentioned already. Kenosha Pass is popular and there’s even more riding along the Colorado Trail nearby that I haven’t had a chance to check out. One of these days this area is gonna get the respect it deserves; until then, ride it while it’s not crowded!