Colorado is a blessed state. Take, for example, Boulder’s easy living. This November and December have seen big snows in the mountains. But we’ve hardly had to lift a shovel of the white stuff down here in B-Town. For mountain bikers, that’s a good thing. After all, while the high country has a ton of trails, it also has a ton of snow. So if you’re not into riding planks (one or two) and wheels are your thing, you’ve still got options, even in the middle of winter. And the options don’t end on the Front Range. Drive up over the passes, through all that snow, and you can end up way out on the Western Slope, Grand Junction way, where it’s possible to tap into spring-like temperatures in January and enjoy a heaping helping of singletrack along with red rock vistas. So with storms pounding the Continental Divide, and skiers and snowboarders flooding I-70, here are a few of our favorite winter rides. These are rides which, at this time of year, will be empty of people and, thankfully, snow.
Rabbit Valley — Grand Junction area
Head west, young mountain biker, to the borderlands of Colorado and Utah. Out there, on the edge of the Centennial state, nearly a stone’s throw from Utah is Rabbit Valley. This area has long attracted dirt bikers and ATVers to its high desert environment. But fear not, as the zone is also a mountain biking hot spot because it’s not controlled, coddled or costly. So, while you may have to hear the engines and smell the exhaust of the dirt bikers at the campsite next to you, they’ll also probably share their cold beer and let you sit next to the huge bonfire they’ve built with wood hauled in by the cord from Jimmy Bob’s logging operation down Telluride way (hey, they are on two wheels, too). Easy singletrack like Trails 4 and 5 are perfect for beginners, while advanced riders will appreciate new developments like the Western Rim Trail, an 18-mile loop that features sweet desert singletrack and fantastic views of the Colorado River, or the ripping singletrack of Zion Curtain, a 20-mile ride. Check out Rabbit Valley West’s trails, including the Westwater Mesa/Overlook trail, where you can combine a series of loops to go as long and as hard as you’d like. The well-marked paths allow for plenty of creativity, but watch out, there’s also plenty of sand that will sap your motivation and suck the life out of your legs if you forget to put a few miles in before testing yourself in this playground.
Marshall Mesa — Boulder area
Much closer to home, the local trails of Marshall Mesa just south of Boulder remain empty on weekday mornings when it’s possible to beat the crowds out of bed and grab a pre-breakfast ride on the several loops that bisect open space. Riding here isn’t technical, and the terrain is a mix of double track ranch roads and singletrack multi-use trails. Because of this, keep on the lookout for bird watchers, dog walkers and equestrians: they all enjoy the right of way and will appreciate you taking the time to slow down and give them space. But if you must open it up, then do so on the Ditch Trail, which features fast double track from Highway 93 west towards Eldorado Canyon. The views down the wide open trail are unobscured by trees or tight corners, meaning you can put the hammer down while also keeping a lookout for obstacles ahead, including cows, which sometimes can be seen roaming free and wild in this area. It’s enough to take your breath away.
Mt. Falcon — Golden
While Boulder is locked in a seemingly intractable debate about the merits (or lack thereof ) of mountain bikes on local trails (Marshall Mesa included), the land managers next door in Jefferson County have quietly gone about creating a world class system of multiuse trails that offer something for everyone and which put Boulder’s parks department to shame. One of the easiest to access is Mt. Falcon. Located near Red Rock, the area features a combination of dirt roads and singletrack, with a variety of adjacent trails and other options. It’s possible to combine Mt. Falcon with nearby Lair o the Bear or other Jefferson County rides via short jaunts on paved roads.
As with Marshall Mesa, remember that multi-use trails are for everyone, so take it easy when non-bikers are recreating on the same trail that you’re riding.
West Rim — Taos, New Mexico
Everyone knows it’s warmer when you head south in the winter. Warmth and sun are good things. Throw in an authentic Native American culture, a rich Hispanic history and a fairly straightforward drive south, and you have Taos, N.M. Taos’ snowcapped mountains rise above the desert in the winter, but the desert is still, well, desert. You don’t see much snow down there even during the coldest part of the year. One of Taos’ gems is the West Rim trail. This relatively flat singletrack follows the west rim of the Rio Grande Gorge. With New Mexico’s mountains above and the river deep down below, it’s a highly scenic journey. If the West Rim isn’t enough for you, you can tap into the nearby Rift Valley Trail and Horse Thief Trails. There’s plenty of other riding in this valley, so make a long weekend of it. True action sports junkies can even bring their skis and tap into the superlative skiing at nearby Taos Ski Valley. But that’s not why you’re here, right?
information on biking in Fruita, Grand Junction, Rabbit Valley and
other nearby locales, check out gjmountainbiking.com. For details
regarding Marshall Mesa and other Boulder County rides, visit
bma-mtb.org. To learn more about trails in Jefferson County, check out
co.jefferson.co.us. To learn more about riding in the Taos, N.M., area,
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