It’s hard to believe how fast our trip to Colorado flew by. Now that we’re back I’ve had a chance to go through my pics and notes and I’m ready to share some of the trail highlights.
North Table Mountain
I sorta stumbled onto this mountain bike trail mostly by accident and I’m glad I did. After my visit with Spot Bikes in Golden I had some time on my hands and noticed what appeared to be a trailhead directly across the highway. Gavin at Spot mentioned some new singletrack being built nearby and I figured this must be it. Although the trail wasn’t yet listed on singletracks, the parking lot was open and there were even trail maps at the kiosk. Ride on!
From the road, North Table Mountain Park looks like a snoozer. It’s basically an exposed, grassy mesa across from a light industrial park on a busy highway where you’d assume the tread is smooth and wide – sorta like Green Mountain near Denver. Despite studying the map before heading out, I quickly found myself on a steep gravel road climbing toward the summit. After half a mile or so I was almost ready to turn around when I spotted a singletrack trail descending to the right.
The singletrack started off pretty mellow but quickly became rocky and technical with switchbacks that required me to come to a complete standstill to navigate. This is what I remembered about Colorado mountain biking. I started getting worried, however, when I realized the trail was descending into a neighborhood below with no obvious way back to the trailhead (while the rocks were fun going down, I wasn’t excited about riding back up the rocky trail). Eventually the track dumped me out onto a residential street and from what I could tell from the signage I had ended up in a city of Golden Open Space area. Fortunately I had the trusty MotionX app on my iPhone which helped me thread my way through the neighborhood to the trailhead for another attempt.
This time around I REALLY studied the map and chose to go clockwise around the loop. This worked out much better, though signage seems to be a work in progress in some places and I still ended up returning on a trail I had intended to skip. The trails at North Table Mountain alternate from grassy singletrack to doubletrack and on the north side of the park the climbs and descents are generally mild. As you approach the mesa summit, however, be prepared for rocks, switchbacks, and steep climbs. I definitely had to walk parts but I imagine that stronger riders can clean the whole loop. Near the top I came across an unexpected surprise – a hidden waterfall shrouded in trees and scrub brush.
Heil Valley Ranch
The plan for Heil Valley was to invite local singletracks members out for a good old fashioned group ride but schedules and traffic conditions conspired against us (on my way back to the car I did run into nanook on the trail). The weather seemed a little sketchy with dark skies and a bit of wind but a park worker at the trailhead assured me the rain would hold off. Thankfully it did and the clouds cooled an otherwise scorching hot day.
For some reason I expected Heil Ranch to be a sprawling open space trail with a big parking lot, sweeping views of the suburbs, and limited tree cover. Instead, “the ranch” felt more like a true mountain ride with very few signs of civilization. The climb was gradual enough and toward the top things started getting rocky, just as the singletracks reviews I had read mentioned. I took a right onto the Wild Turkey loop and after about a mile or so I ran into – wait for it – a flock of wild turkeys (the Ponderosa loop also had Ponderosa Pines on it, weird I know).
Things stayed pretty rocky around the top loops, though there were a few stretches of the pea gravel covered fast stuff. Despite all the rocks I felt great on my hardtail 1×9 and was able to clean the entire loop from top to bottom. Around the back side of the Ponderosa Loop I found incredible views of the valley below and some of the best singletrack of the ride. Talking with others on the trail it sounds like the Picture Rock Trail, which connects Heil Valley Ranch with Hall Ranch, is the real star here. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough steam or daylight to descend Picture Rock and ride the out-and-back to return to my car so I decided to leave that one for another trip.
By the end of the week I had notched 4 incredible trails I had never ridden before – Betasso Preserve, Trestle Bike Park, North Table Mountain, and Heil Valley Ranch – which is what trips like this are all about for me. Fortunately I’m just getting started this summer and can’t wait to return to Colorado in August!