My Top Five: Best Mountain Bike Trails in Denver

Singletracks lists a couple hundred mountain bike trails in the Denver "Front Range" area. How could I possibly pick just five?

When the singletracks editors asked each of us to come up with our five favorite mountain bike trails in our respective areas, I was stoked to start writing. Then I realized I had to pick just five trails. Singletracks lists a couple hundred mountain bike trails in the Denver “Front Range” area. Picking a mere five is just … wrong.

5. Buffalo Creek – Pine, CO
Buffalo Creek is the number one rated trail on While I’m not convinced that lofty status is completely deserved, it certainly is a great ride. Located fairly close to the Denver Metro area, it’s also far enough away to not be as crowded as some of the rides closer to town. It’s a mix of fire road, twisty singletrack and some moderately technical stuff. There is climbing, but it is spread out over enough miles to make it easy to find a rhythm and crank it out.

Buffalo Creek offers several loop options that can be connected in different ways to make each visit a little different. It is perfect for beginners to get that first “epic” ride under their belts, but seasoned XC riders will have plenty to grin about too. There is even a double black diamond section beingconstructedto give the gravity crowdsomethingto do.

4. White Ranch – Golden, CO
White Ranch is a network of trails that includes some doubletrack and lots of singletrack. Decent sun exposure makes for generally dry trail conditions. A popular route is to go up the left side, which is doubletrack and then come down the singletrack. There are also several singletrack cutoff trails that traverse the mountain and connect the sides of the larger loop. White Ranch also features some challenging sections, including the sandy rock garden near the parking lot. Intermediate riders can push themselves and advanced riders can find lots of stuff to play on. It can even be done as a shuttle ride by leaving a car at the bottom parking lot and then driving to the parking lot at the top, but you reallyshould earn all that downhill with some steep, technical climbing. 😀

Photo by Grant Landsbach

3. Red Rocks / Dakota Ridge – Denver, CO
Ask 10 Denver mountain bikers to name the first trail that comes to mind and I’ll wager seven of them will say Dakota Ridge. It is typically ridden as a loop with Dakota Ridge, Matthews Winters and Red Rocks bringing you back to where you parked. The Dakota side climbs straight up a “hog’s back” and then traverses some crazy technical rocks. The descent at the other end is just as abrupt as the climb was. After crossing the paved road, Matthews Winters starts out as hard pack and gradually gives way to small ledges and babyheads, all with very little climbing. Next, drop through a huge notch in the sandstone, and the fast singletrack of Red Rocks trail returns you to the trailhead. A variation is to add Morrison Slide which splits off from Matthews and reconnects with Red Rocks after climbing over the top of the mesa.

Photo by (and of) Grant Landsbach

2.Bergen Peak – Evergreen, CO

Like most trails in the Denver Metro area, Bergen Peak involves a fairly steep climb, a nice view while you catch your breath, then fast, grin inducing singletrack all the way back to the parking lot. This trail seems to strike a nice balance between climbing and descending. Most people who have ridden it will attest that it feels like there is more downhill than you climbed on the way in. It is listed as black diamond here on the site, but if you’re an intermediate rider or even a beginner with decent endurance, you will still enjoy the ride.

Photo by BFD

1. Apex – Golden, CO
Apex starts out with a rocky singletrack climb that connects to a figure eight. The right hand side of the eight is a hard pack climb up and over the hill with a series of switchbacks coming back down. The left side is called Enchanted Forest and is one of the most fun descents of any Denver area trail.

While Apex is a great trail system and a lot of fun to ride, many will argue that it is notnecessarilythe best trail in the Denver area. The reason I listed it at number one is because it is the trail that we have come the closest to losing access to. It is enormously popular with bikers, runners, hikers and equestrian users. In 2009 the latter two groups spearheaded an effort to severely limit the biking experience at Apex and they lobbied the county commissioners heavily to that end. Colorado Mountain Bike Association (COMBA)gotthe word out and hundreds of mountain bikers respectfully made their voices heard. The upshot was the county was obliged to do more trail use studies, and although the current compromises are still skewed slightly in favor of the smallest user group who contributes the least in terms of money and volunteer hours, the trail was not closed to bikers, and we are still allowed to descend Enchanted Forest, albeit on even days only.

Photo by Grant Landsbach

Honorable Mentions:
As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, it’s tough to pick just five great Denver area trails so here are my honorable mentions: Lair o’ the Bear, Deer Creek and Mt Falcon. Check them out in the Mountain Bike Trails section of the site.