Mountain Biking in Boulder, CO

Even the local beer is MTB-flavored in Boulder.

Boulder, CO has a bit of reputation for being unfriendly toward mountain bikers and that reputation isn’t entirely undeserved. Still, judging by the number of mountain bikes you see being carted around on cars and the variety of mountain bike trails nearby, I say it’s time to reassess Boulder’s MTB reputation. Here’s what I found on a recent visit to “The People’s Republic.”

Valmont Bike Park

This new addition to the Boulder mountain bike scene is easily the most extensive public bike park in the country and it’s located just a couple miles from the center of town. No matter what kind of dirt rider you are–cross-country, cyclocross, slopestyle, or dirt jumper–Valmont has you covered.

Valmont features several XC-style trails and loops including Hot Lap and The Glades for a total of about 3 miles of riding. But don’t come to Valmont just to get your miles in; this park is set up to help you build your skills too. Each XC trail has (optional) progressive technical trail features including rocks, skinnies, and drops. Believe me, you’ll want to ride the loops multiple times so you can nail each feature!

For gravity-oriented riders, Valmont features a slopestyle section with large wooden ramps ranging from “small” to “extra-large.” There’s also a dirt jump section with S-XL lines and two separate pump tracks on site. Even cyclocross riders can practice their dismounts on the Belgian steps and the 5280 Run-up. One area I couldn’t quite get into is the Sand Box, a large pit of deep sand beside Hot Lap. I didn’t see anyone playing in the Sand Box, probably because most riders try to avoid riding through sand whenever possible. Still, I guess practice might make riding in sand a little easier.

There are great facilities at Valmont including picnic tables, restrooms, and even a fixed podium platform for events. We checked out Valmont on a Thursday morning and the place was humming with young riders taking part in day camps and older “kids” playing hookie from work and school. Valmont is a great model for communities around the country and a must-visit if you’re in the area.

Boulder County Open Spaces

Outside of town, there are about half a dozen open spaces and parks in Boulder County with trails open to mountain bikes. One trail we rode last week was at family-friendly Marshall Mesa and everyone all had a blast! The trails here are all very mellow and offer incredible vistas of the Flatirons to the west. Many of the trails cut across ranch lands where we found ourselves sharing the trails with cows and prairie dogs.

For more forested singletrack, Boulder County is also home to trails at Heil Valley Ranch and Walker Ranch. There’s even a short bike-legal trail in Eldorado Canyon State Park south of town called Rattlesnake Gulch for those looking for a real technical (and aerobic) challenge.

IMBA Headquarters

Not only does Boulder boast a world-class bike park in town and dozens of miles of singletrack nearby, it’s also home to the International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA). Even if you’ve only ridden a few trails you’ve probably benefitted from the advocacy work this group does all around the globe.

Greg and I met with several of the IMBA team members and checked out their offices on Canyon Blvd. right in town. Everyone at IMBA is gearing up for the World Summit happening this October in Santa Fe, NM and there was a ton going on. Still, the IMBA folks usually find time to sneak out for a ride during the week–the singletrack at Betasso Preserve is just a short climb into the mountains.

Places you CAN’T ride

Boulder seems to be known more for the trails that are CLOSED to mountain bikes than the ones that are MTB-legal. The Flatirons/Chautauquaarea features amazing hiking trails and iconic vistas–unfortunately it’s all off-limits for mountain bikers. Clearly there’s also a dearth of singletrack inside the city limits but that’s not unusual–much larger cities, including nearby Denver, don’t have trails either. But unlike larger cities, most of the singletrack surrounding Boulder is easily accessible via bike lanes and dedicated bike paths.

After spending a week in Boulder I’ve decided it’s actually a great place for mountain biking, despite its reputation. I have a feeling I’ll be back soon…

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