Five Trails that Beat the Heat in Colorado

It’s hot here in Grand Junction. Really hot. This weekend’s temps are projected to hit 100 degrees. Hot. The one good thing about biking in this weather is that you have to get up really early to beat the heat. That means having breakfast and bloody marys after a bike ride instead of pizza and beer. I like breakfast. I like bloody marys. I do not like getting up at 7 a.m. on a Saturday. (Sidenote: I did get out by 8 a.m. to bike both days; it was pleasant and worth it!)

The other option is to get the heck out of dodge. Here are some places I like to go when it gets hot.

1. West Bench trail on the Grand Mesa – This can be a fun high-altitude trail or it can be soggy, boggy and gross. I’ve ridden it in both conditions. Last year the Forest Service got half-way through clearing dead and fallen trees and then got sidetracked with another project, so there were several trees to crawl over/under. Still, it does have some nice views and it’s fun to take the spur trail over to the top of Powderhorn Ski Resort’s quad lift and eat lunch on a lift chair.

You can get here by heading up Hwy 65 and parking at Jumbo Lake. Ride towards the ranger station across the dam and then take the singletrack that heads over the bridge and is marked “West Bench Trail.”

The Grand Mesa is dotted with scenic lakes perfect for soaking tired feet or fishing

Some parts of the trail are fairly rocky.

Other parts just roll through the meadow


2. Crested Butte Mountain Bike Trails – Who doesn’t want to be in Crested Butte in the summer? Wildflowers, festivals, trails, cool temps… We’ve mountain biked quite a few trails in CB and we come here every year. We camp out on the road to the Taylor River Reservoir at the Rosy Lane campground (reservations need to be made far in advance). If you can’t score a sweet spot here, check out the Lodgepole campground. It’s further up the road but the sites are big and they often have room available.

What should you ride? Anything. Everything. Trail 401 is gorgeous. We like to park halfway between the start and end. We warm up with a jeep road ride up to Schofield Pass and then whoever finishes first is required to go get the car. Locals often do this ride straight from town and just bike all the way up Gothic road, do the ride and then head down. They’re much more used to the altitude than me! Of course, the trail itself is a lung buster for the first half but then lets you coast and coast and coast through wildflowers as high as your handlebars on the way down.

Views and wildflowers are two great reasons to bust a lung on the 401 trail

From right in town you can head out to the Lower Loops. These are used by hikers and bikers and are mostly rolling singletrack trails. Park a car in town, bike out to the start down Butte Avenue, ride a loop and head back to town for pizza and beer at the Brick Oven. You can connect several loops out here for a variety of ride lengths.

Taking a break and taking in the views on the Lower Loop

I could go on for days about trails here. If you’re in town you should also check out the Snodgrass trail (which we often do after riding the 401 trail). It’s an easy ride back to the trail head at the start of the gravel Gothic Road from the end at Washington Gulch.

One last one I’ll mention here is Doctor Park. If you’re camped out on the Taylor River road you might as well do this one! Head up Spring Creek Road for a little over 8 miles to Doctor Gulch (trail 554). You’ll see a very obvious jeep road on the far side of Spring Creek. Leave a car (or just bike up, I hear it’s not that bad), cross the creek and head up the jeep road. Bear right. Eventually you’ll come to some singletrack through the trees. This gets very technical at one point. Soon you’ll hit smooth, fast, flowing singletrack through an Aspen forest. The trail ends at the One Mile campground. Park a vehicle here or ride the road back to your car.

A cool refreshing creek crossing starts this ride. Yes, one person did try to ride across. She fell over halfway through.

Bombing through the Aspens on the Doctor’s Park trail

3. Hartman Rocks Recreation Areain Gunnison -This is a crazy area of single track multi-use trails. Some allow dirt bikes, runners are welcome everywhere, and there are even trails for horses here. Make sure you have a map because, even though they’re signed, you can easily get turned around on these trails. Still, they are rocky, dusty, flowing, fast and fun!

Our favorite way to start is to head up Jack’s and then take the double track out until we get to the left turn off for the Rocky Ridge. After this we might try Luge, Buddy Boy or any number of trails winding around the dusty high desert of Gunnison.

Navigating a rocky section on the Rocky Ridge at Hartman Rocks

4.Snowmass– Ideal if you only have one weekend. Here the gondola can take lazy riders like myself to the top of the Elk Camp area. Of course, if you want the extra calorie burn, you can ride up to the top as well. From the top we work our way down to the Government Trail. From this we head over to An Aerobic Nightmare, crossing a few creeks along the way and then head one way or another on the Tom Blake Trail. There are some new trails at Snowmass like the Vortex – a series of switchbacks from the very top of the Elk Camp lift back down to the gondola and Gravity Logic – perfect for downhillers!

Brief rest before the steep downhill switchbacks of An Aerobic Nightmare

5. Breckenridge, CO-There are great trails up here for biking in the summer and I’m lucky enough to have friends living here and a free place to stay! I like to start out on the Peninsula Trail that wraps around Lake Dillon. This is a great singletrack trail; it’s easily navigated by intermediates and the views of sailboats on the water are spectacular.

Stopping along the Peninsula trail in Frisco, CO

Once I’ve had at least a day to acclimate, we head towards Breckenridge for a longer ride. Turning left on Tiger Road, we park at the Tiger Road Dredge trail head and ride down the trail towards the powerlines – over river rocks and a few small bridges. A short climb later the trail smooths out and you come to an intersection with several spur trails. Before heading straight down to the Colorado Trail, we turn left onto a sweet piece of narrow singletrack called Blair Witch. Blair Witch twists so tightly through the pines that I keep my hands right at the edges of my handlebars. Somehow I think this will prevent my slamming one side or the other into a tree.

At the end of Blair Witch we pick up the Colorado Trail again for a long ride through meadows and then up through dark woods before a final set of switchbacks and a nice long bomb back to the car.

The Dredge at Tiger Road – Breckenridge, CO

Heading across the meadow on the Colorado Trail

It’s supposed to hit 100 here today and tomorrow. In all of these places (except on the Grand Mesa) the highs are supposed to be in the high 70s, low 80s. If you get a chance, check one (or all) of them out!