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HomeMountain BikeThree of the Finest Alpine Mountain Bike Rides 90 Minutes from Denver

Three of the Finest Alpine Mountain Bike Rides 90 Minutes from Denver


Picture: Hannah Morvay

More often than not if somebody mentions large, excessive nation mountain bike epics in Colorado, folks suppose of some choose locations: Salida, Aspen, Crested Butte, Telluride, Durango, Steamboat Springs… surprisingly, the checklist goes on. Residents of the Centennial State are fairly fortunate to have a lot unbelievable terrain inside a four- to six-hour drive.

Prior to now few years although, life acquired busier whereas my love and want for stunning, distant, and punishing mountain bike rides grew. I, like a lot of my working, grownup buddies may need time to drive to certainly one of these particular locations a handful of instances per yr, however by no means as a lot as I would like.

By means of buddies that lived in close by Summit County, exploring path maps, native path boards, and even finding out a sure excessive elevation stage race’s course description web page, I’ve discovered a lot of what I search for in Crested Butte or Steamboat, however inside a a lot shorter drive.

I wrote this piece with some trepidation, assuming there could be some sad individuals who could declare that these trails at the moment are ruined perpetually, however I’m unsure that’s the case. These rides have been round a very long time and they’re nonetheless a few of the most calmly trafficked trails within the state.

There’s a excessive barrier of entry to the alpine which naturally makes them unique. These rides require a excessive diploma of health to climb above 12,000 ft, the suitable gear and planning to not get caught below a thunderhead above treeline, and superior using expertise to navigate skinny, steep, and rocky singletrack. I’ll go away the routes as unfastened as doable to place a few of the planning accountability on the motivated rider.

So, with out additional adieu, right here ya go.

The Lenawee Path

Picture: Hannah Morvay

The Lenawee Path is a excessive nation traditional and its rugged essence matches proper in with the Legendary ski space it begins on prime of. For a very long time, it was the one bike path at Arapahoe Basin, although now there are plans to significantly bolster alpine mountain biking choices. Nonetheless, I’ll be arduous pressed to forego Lenawee for the brand new singletrack.

The Lenawee Path is simply over three miles lengthy and drops 2,200 vertical ft over three sections: a rocky, technical, and uncovered drop-in with some large penalties for using off path. Subsequent, you’re nonetheless above tree line for a bit, however it smooths out to hold pace by means of extremely Instagrammable alpine singletrack, after which all the way down to techy, chunky path using below pine tree cover all the way down to the electrical blue waters of Peru Creek.

The whole quantity of descending pales compared to the quantity of climbing you’ll do. The Lenawee Path might be partially shuttled, besides you’ll log someplace round 1,500 vertical ft of climbing from the bottom of Arapahoe Basin, which begins at 11,000 ft. And not using a shuttle, it’s extra like 3,200 vertical ft and a 17-18 mile loop.

Picture: Hannah Morvay

Like most of those trails talked about, the window of time to experience Lenawee is brief. Lenawee usually doesn’t dry out till late June and it might probably begin snowing once more in early October, to not point out that Arapahoe Basin begins snowmaking operations as early late September. Situations might be fickle too with afternoon thunderstorms or sprinkles of snow, however chances are you’ll be fortunate to catch it on a ravishing bluebird day.

  • Max elevation: ~12,500ft
  • Finest for: Superior riders who desire a technical thrill on distant singletrack

Wheeler Path

Picture: Matt Miller

The Wheeler path has been part of the Breck Epic‘s six stage sufferfest for a very long time, and it’s straightforward to see why. Working close to the highest of Peaks 8-10 within the Ten Mile Vary, the Wheeler path provides you superb views of a few of the most jagged peaks and huge views this near Denver.

In whole size, Wheeler runs 5 miles and has someplace between 1,500 – 1,600ft of elevation acquire beginning at ~11,000ft and topping out at about 12,500ft. There are a selection of the way to experience the Wheeler path, whether or not it’s by means of Breckenridge Mountain Resort, and over to one of many ripping descents on both aspect of Wheeler’s begin, or from I-70, up onto Miner’s Creek and onto Wheeler. Once more, within the spirit of journey (and never gifting away all of the solutions), I gained’t present a devoted route as there are a number of nice choices to sort out the path.

Picture: Matt Miller

In both case, count on a variety of time within the saddle. This stunning ribbon of singletrack, dashing by means of brushes of Elephant Heads and Indian Paintbrush might be partially shuttled to, however you’ll have extra time to soak within the views should you commiserate up the climb with buddies.

Wheeler itself is as technical as different excessive alpine rides within the space. The path is kind of slim and quick/steep in some components with some occasional derailleur-eating traces.

  • Max elevation: ~12,500ft
  • Finest for: Match riders who wish to a number of route choices on a experience by means of superb views

Searle Cross

Picture: Matt Miller

If somebody had the aptitude for it, one might hyperlink Searle Cross with the Wheeler path above for a serious excessive nation epic as the 2 almost join, however Searle Cross by itself is a good experience. Searle begins close to Copper Mountain Ski Resort ascending above the bottom and into the Colorado backcountry.

There are some stiff climbs on Searle, however contemplating it’s part of the Colorado Path and a excessive alpine experience, it’s one of many extra approachable choices for riders who desire a candy excessive nation expertise. The terrain and vegetation adjustments the upper you get. You’ll begin with loamy forest flooring below tree protection then broach tree line after a couple of miles of climbing.

Picture: Hannah Morvay

Most individuals experience Searle Cross as an out and again from one finish to the summit because it’s only a section of the Colorado Path. There’s no shuttling right here, until you get dropped off at one level and plan to experience the complete size of the path. Plan on a very good Colorado-style mountain bike experience the place you’re chipping away on the climb for some time after which descending for a fraction of that point.

Both manner, it’s a reasonably particular summit with large views on each side of the move. It will get rockier, and extra hike-a-bikey if you close to the highest. I like to recommend packing some gummy bears or a slice of final evening’s pizza for an additional little bit of motivation if you’re nearly there. Preserve a watch out for hikers, backpackers, and bikepackers making the push by means of Searle Cross.

  • Max elevation: ~12,300ft
  • Finest for: Intermediate/superior riders who wish to zip by means of flowers, large views, and open meadows.

Issues to recollect within the alpine

Picture: Hannah Morvay
  • Keep on the path. These trails traverse by means of delicate environments and using off path over tundra crops can devastate them. Restoration of tundra species can take CENTURIES. Be further aware of etiquette up right here and discover protected locations to permit folks to move when crucial.
  • Take a wag bag. Leaving human or canine waste within the alpine can jeopardize water sources, vegetation, and entry. Pack it out.
  • Give wildlife house. You most likely gained’t catch a marmot or pika, however it’s widespread to see mountain goats within the alpine. Don’t be the ignorant vacationer chasing goats throughout the tundra for a crappy cellphone picture.
  • Anticipate the surprising. The very last thing you wish to be is caught at 12,000ft with out sufficient water, meals, the correct instruments, or rain layers.

There are handfuls of different nice backcountry rides near Denver. We deliberately saved the checklist brief to focus on a couple of choose rides. What’s your favourite alpine, backcountry experience near Denver?

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