15 for 15

We’re almost two months into 2015 now and trails will be drying out sooner than you think.  So, between work, family, and skiing, my thoughts turn to where to ride in 2015.  Having published my Top 14 Trail Discoveries of 2014, it’s time to start thinking about what has the potential to top that; as my top 15 of ’15!

Each year I set goals as to how many new trails I would like to ride, and where they might be.  My goal for ’15, in addition to covering as much new-to-me singletrack as possible, is getting back to expanding my geographic horizons, which means moving beyond just the Four Corners states.  Potential family and work trips may deliver me to areas outside CO, UT, NM, and AZ, including a few states I’ve never ridden in, so should those trips come to fruition, I plan to be prepared to ride those areas while visiting.  What follows are 15 as yet unridden by me trails on my wish list, which I believe I actually may have a chance of getting to.

Close to Home

Having lived in the same place for four years now, finding rides I haven’t done within a day trip–which are actually worth heading to–is getting tough.  However, I have identified three which beckon me in this coming year.

1.  Elk Park, Colorado Springs, CO

The fact that I haven’t ridden this one yet is currently intolerable.  It lies on Pikes Peak, which rises up almost directly above my home.  What’s more, my son, Miniskibum, has done this one… without me (friends picked him up on a day when I was not free to ride).  Upon arriving back at the house, his first words to me were “Dad, why did you never take me on that trail?!”  Well, the reason was it requires a shuttle, and the shuttle must go up the costly Pikes Peak Toll Road.  But now I have reliable confirmation that the trail is worth it and then some, so off we will go.

2.  Canyon Creek, White Pine, CO

Canyon Creek lostcause

High and steep on the Canyon Creek trail (photo: lostcause)

When Singletracks Editor in Chief Greg Heil, veteran of 450 trails and multiple enduro races says “this is one of the best trails I’ve ever ridden, bar none” and specifically raves about the downhill and the scenery, you know it’s got to be good.  Quite frankly, that’s all the recommendation I need, especially for a trail within four hours of home.  I see a weekend camping/biking trip in my summer.

3.  White Ranch, Golden, CO

White Mark Zahn

Rocky tread at Golden’s White Ranch (photo: Mark Zahn)

I live in Colorado Springs at the southern end of the Front Range.  I used to live in Cheyenne, WY at the northern end of the Front Range.  White Ranch sits just west of Golden, CO, smack dab in the middle.  White Ranch is one Colorado’s earliest and most popular mountain biking venues, but for some reason I’ve never made it there.  This year I will rectify that.

A Little Further Out

THE Michael Paul

Moab’s spectacular Enchilada serves up a monster descent with scenery and exposure (photo: Michael Paul)

4.  The Whole Enchilada, Moab, UT

8,300 feet of descending from the high alpine to classic desert—why haven’t I done this yet? On my first pilgrimage to mountain biking Mecca, the UPS and LPS sections of The Whole Enchilada were still renegade trails, so I rode just the traditional Porcupine Rim… and declared it to be my favorite trail.  What could possibly be even better?  Doing the whole thing, of course.

Subsequent Moab trips have been in early spring or late fall, meaning Burrow Pass and even Hazzard County were snowed in.  This is the year I schedule my pilgrimage for a time when The Whole Enchilada will be rideable in its entirety.

5.  Glorieta Canyon, Glorieta, NM

Shaggy peak from Glorieta Baldy Trail  mikeholdsworth via us.geoview.info

The view of Shaggy Peak from the Glorieta Baldy Trail (photo: mikeholdsworth via geoview.info)

Glorieta Canyon rises over 2,000 vertical feet, includes an old ghost town, and then provides access to the summit of Glorieta Baldy with views of the enchanting mountains east of Santa Fe.  After looping Baldy, another canyon delivers the rider down a long, steep, rocky route back to the base.  The problem?  The only realistic access to the route is through private property.  When I first went to ride the route, the Glorieta Baptist Center, which owns the access, was in the process of being sold and no longer allowing access.  Since then, it has been purchased and word is that the new owner may return to granting access.  If they do, I will thank them profusely and enjoy the exploration that follows.

California Trip

A family trip to San Diego is in the works.  While it is not specifically a bike trip, I can’t imagine not taking the bikes and hitting a few rides along the way.  By doing a circuit there and back, I can hit four of my most desired bucket list rides.

6.  Bootleg Canyon, Boulder City, NV

bootleg aabiking

Switchbacks in the Bootleg Canyon network (photo: aabiking)

The trip there will take us through Vegas, so why not stop in at Nevada’s premier riding venue while we’re in the neighborhood?  With many miles of rugged desert cross country riding as well as shuttleable downhill routes, I suspect Miniskibum and I will really enjoy the stop.

7.  Hurkey Creek, Idyllwild, CA

Hurkey joetutt

Swoopy SoCal singletrack on Idyllwild’s Hurkey Creek trail (photo: joetutt)

Ever since I saw the helmet cam video from Mountain Bike Bill’s blog, I’ve wanted to hit these trails, but never expected to be returning to SoCal.  Now, with the trip on the books, I’ll make sure I don’t miss the opportunity to hit what looks like a very entertaining trail system.  I hope there’s something for a non-riding spouse to do for a few hours!

8.  Noble Canyon, San Diego, CA

Noble bakerstetter

Sweet SoCal Singletrack in Noble Canyon (photo: bakerstetter)

Considered by many to be the premier ride in Southern California, Noble Canyon looks to me a lot like a California version of New Mexico’s great South Boundary trail with a little climbing, some ridge riding, occasional exposure, and a long plummet to the valley floor for a finish.  I look forward to seeing how it stacks up.

9.  Hangover, Sedona, AZ

Hangover Michael Paul

The gorgeous Hangover Trail (photo: Michael Paul)

A slightly circuitous route home will allow us to make yet another pass through Sedona and hit the one must-ride which has eluded me so far.  Those who have ridden it say the Hangover trail has plenty of scenery and exposure, even by Sedona standards, which is really saying something.

Montana Trip

This fall, my daughter will enter her senior year at Montana State University, after which I will lose my built-in excuse to visit my beloved Big Sky State.  So this may be my last gasp at a couple great Montana Routes.  One has sat at the very top of my wish list for years.

10.  Curly Lake Highline, Whitehall, MT

Curly -- Lost Cabin

Looking out across Montana’s magnificent Tobacco Root Mountains from the Lost Cabin Lake Trail.

I have a particular affinity for the Tobacco Root Mountains west of Bozeman.  To me, they are the single most beautiful range it’s been my pleasure to visit.  The routes I’ve ridden there are beyond gorgeous.  The biggest route in the area, which has eluded me mostly due to a lack of fitness for approaching such a strenuous backcountry adventure, is the Curly Lake Highline loop.  While it’s only 23 miles, it requires a full 5,000 vertical feet of climbing, mostly at altitude in very rugged, remote mountains.  As of now, I’m officially in training.

11.  East Tensleep Lake, Tensleep, WY

East Tensleep wyomingtourism.org

Meadowlark Lake at the beginning of the East Tensleep Lake route with the Bighorn Wilderness in the background (photo: wyomingtourism.org)

Ever since reading the description of this ride in the Mountain Biking Wyoming Falcon Guidebook, I have wanted to ride here.  The Bighorn Mountains are remote and beautiful, and East Tensleep lake is reported to be beautiful and pristine.  On each previous trip to Montana, I was weathered out when passing through.  Maybe this will be the year I finally get to sink my knobbies into Bighorn dirt!

Alabama Trip

I generally avoid the Southeast.  I can’t stand heat, especially when combined with humidity, and I prefer my tea unsweetened.  However, work may send me to a meeting in Northern Alabama.  If so, I’ll see if I can take some vacation time while there to beef up my resume in the Southeast, a region I have very little riding experience in.  Hopefully, I’ll get to go early season, before things heat up.

12.  Coldwater Mountain, Anniston, AL

coldwater Jeff Barber

It may not be out West, but my heart rate accelerates just looking at a sign like this one at Coldwater Mountain (photo: Jeff Barber)

No high alpine, no desert, no anything that I usually gravitate to, but this place just looks like tons o’ fun.  I can’t believe I’m actually excited about the prospect of riding in the deep south.

13.  Raccoon Mountain, Chattanooga, TN

Raccoon jbond352

Rocky Raccoon trails (photo: jbond 352)

While in Tennessee, this appears to be not too far from Huntsville, and the reported predominance of rock gardens beckons to me.  From my time in Virginia riding the likes of Elizabeth Furnace, my recollection is that the rocks out east tend to be of less flow and greater challenge than rocky western venues.  I look forward to seeing how this area compares.

Minnesota Trip

This family trip is the least firm, but if it happens there are a couple venues I would like to hit while in the northern tier.

14.  Cuyuna Lakes, Ironton, MN

Cayuna Jared13

Very inviting singletrack at Cayuna Lakes (photo: Jared13)

Not yet having been to either, this one strikes me a lot like Coldwater.  Densely wooded and not a lot of elevation change, but a rather sizable network of purpose-built singletrack perfect for swooping through the forest.  Being relatively close to our primary destination of Bemidji, this one looks like a must-do when visiting.

15.  Copper Harbor Trails, Coppor Harbor, MI

Copper ukraine

I normally prefer natural trails to man made features, but this sequence at Copper Harbor looks mighty interesting (photo: ukraine)

This one is a long shot at almost eight additional hours from Bemidji, but I may never be in that part of the country again, so I gotta give it a shot.  Everyone who’s ever ridden this remote venue on the shores of Lake Superior says it compares favorably to anything they’ve ever ridden, including some of the great rides out west. If nothing else, I can tell it is wonderfully unique, and that alone makes it worth a visit, as well as the desire to support all the intrepid locals who have constructed such a network in such a remote area.

It’s an ambitions schedule and I’ll be shocked if I pull it all off.  But the goals are set and the pursuit begins with vigor.

Your turn, share with us: what bucket list trails are you pursuing this year?

# Comments

  • Jeff Barber

    Great list. I’m adding some of those Colorado picks to my list right now!

    Looking at your map, it seems you might be able to squeeze in a stop at CAMBA between Cuyuna and Copper Harbor. I haven’t ridden either of those but they’re already on my list! I have ridden CAMBA and it’s a blast–you would probably enjoy the Rock Lake loop which is CAMBA’s IMBA epic.

    Since you’re looking forward to the rocks at Raccoon Mountain, also consider White Oak Mountain in the Chattanooga area. There isn’t nearly as much mileage here but the Yellow Trail is basically a continuous rock garden set on top of the ridge. Challenging, yes but also totally rideable.

    Hope you make it out here to the SE–you’ve got some excellent picks.

    • John Fisch

      Thanks, Jeff
      CAMBA is also on the longer wish list. It should be easy to pick it up on the way to or from Copper. I also read the Singletracks page on White Oak and it looks like a place I’d really like as well. That one will all be time/trip dependent. As of now, my AL trip is on hold–hoping to reschedule in April.

    • John Fisch

      Additional note: I hope to have time to hit Five Points as well. That looks like a great trail and I’ve never ridden in GA either.

  • Michael Paul

    Let me know when you come up to do White Ranch…I’ll give you the tour. 🙂 Mustang is still closed but I’ll show you a route you won’t forget.

    Great list btw…IF you have time when you are in Coldwater, hit Oak Mountain in Bham. They just added some trails out there to connect to Lightninig, so the Jekyl/Hyde, Ridge, Lightning loops is a must, must do.

    • John Fisch

      Thanks for the invite and the tips on Colwater. Oak Mountain is also on the longer wish list and it will just depend on how many days I can take off when I’m out east, providing I get to go in the first place.

  • Jerry J M Smith

    Hey John,
    I am located in Bemidji, MN, hopefully I run into you when you are in town! We have a nice little singletrack system here as well, with a few dirt jump lines and fun sections. I definitely recommend Copper Harbor. I lived up there as a mechanic for a few seasons, and it is legit. I take a few trips out west every year, and Copper Harbor is still my favorite place in the US to ride. On your way over there, check out the Duluth trails as well. Many options and some great lift accessed riding at Spirit Mountain.

    • John Fisch

      Thanks. Time permitting, Piedmont would be on the wish list. That Movil Maze ride looks interesting as well.

    • Jerry J M Smith

      Movil is pretty fun for a small local system. The new skills pit adds a bit of variety, and if you are spending some time in town it is worth checking out. Swing by the bike shop (Northern Cycle) to connect and hopefully I can join you for a ride!

    • John Fisch

      I’ll definitely do that if I make it up there!
      Thanks again.

  • Greg Heil

    Nice list! I have a bunch of trails on my own list right in and around Central Colorado, but I haven’t done much planning outside the state. I guess I need to get on that!!

    Also, be sure to give me a little advance notice before you come over to shred Canyon Creek. I only need a shred of an excuse to shred that trail again…

    • John Fisch

      “I only need a shred of an excuse to shred that trail again…”
      🙂 that’s why it’s so high on my wish list!

  • Chris Daniels

    Copper Harbor trails are awesome, but it’s the surrounding geography that makes it such an epic experience. Cuyuna is pretty fun, but I might substitute it for Duluth.

  • Jared13

    Great looking list!

    One cool thing about Cuyuna’s relative lack of elevation change was I was able to ride almost all the trails that were open even though I wasn’t in the best shape. It stood as my longest ride for almost two years.

    As for my list, it’s not really trail related, it’s more race related. I’d like to do the entire Montana Enduro Series and I’ve been selected to do the Butte 50. I won’t be competitive in any of the races, but it’ll force me to hit more trails that I probably would hit if I wasn’t doing them. And if I pre-ride (or post-ride) them, I should be able to get some decent pictures 😀

    Other trails/cities that I plan on hitting outside of the races are Bend, OR and either Sedona, AZ or Moab, UT…or maybe all three. It all depends on time, money, and work.

  • k2rider

    That’s a nice varied list. It’s also nice that you’re “kind of” towards the center of the country which makes branching out easier. While many of the photos look cool, bing in San Diego County, I don’t see myself ever making a road trip to Michigan or anywhere up that direction specifically to mountain bike. I have a hard enough time convincing my friends to go 6 hours to St George/Hurricane for (3) days.

    That being said, I’ve already ridden (3) new trails this year in Hurricane alone and will get in a lot more in Oregon this summer and Sedona in the fall. Heading out to Fruita for the Fat Tire Festival and have already told my friends that we need to branch out from our standard routine there. As for your SoCal leg, Hurkey Creek still isn’t back open after a fire in 2013. It is supposed to open up this spring but not be pretty for a long time. It definitely won’t look like MTB Bill’s video 🙁 It’s my favorite SoCal ride. As for Noble Canyon, pay attention to the weather as it gets HOT up there and when it does, the bugs come out. The best way to ride Nobel is to shuttle it and ride all of the Big Laguna Trail (BLT – possible best scenery in SoCal) as a lead into Nobel.

    • John Fisch

      Thanks for the heads up on Hurkey Creek. I’m going to spend some time in the LBS in the area and see what the best possible Idyllwild route may be.

      And yes, BLT is planned as the lead-in to Noble!

  • jkldouglas


    I raced the NM Enduro series last year and had a blast. I say that because the NMES makes a stop in Glorieta this year as part of the Outside Bike n’ Brew Festival in NM. The race is on May 17th. You can get more details on Sport Systems Mountain Top Cycling facebook page.

    If you can’t (or don’t want to) race I am not sure of the access to Glorieta. However, I have to imagine that the race is a good thing for trail access. Let me know if you end up heading down.

    • John Fisch

      Thanks, JK
      I checked out the facebook page and the link to the race description. I couldn’t find a course map–it’d be nice to see what they have planned.

    • jkldouglas

      You won’t find a course map. Last year they didn’t post the map of the races until Wednesday night or Thursday morning before the race. They didn’t want people spending the season shuttling the courses and getting an advantage over someone who lived further away from the venues. The best you can do is email them and ask what they had in mind for the Glorietta race. I will say that I did 3 of the 4 races last year and had a blast at all of them. The did a great job of picking trails that were both challenging and fun. I am the most excited about the Glorietta and 2 day Angel Fire backcountry race. Really excited to see what they come up with for the backcountry trails.

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