Colorado Mountain Biking Adventures - Part 12
Canyons are worth a thousand pictures and the mountain canyons west of Fort Collins are smaller and more picturesque than those along the Interstate 70 corridor. As the name implies, beautiful wildflowers embrace the first 3.1 miles of steadily climbing, mostly smooth double track. In contrast, the single-track portion penetrates a thick, dry pine forest where the surface is rocky, both loose and embedded, as the climbing gets steeper and more technical. The trail skirts a wilderness area and ends at its boundary.
Hewlett Gulch: On Highway 14 just past Poudre Park, a wide bridge crosses the river to the north where a road climbs for about a quarter-mile to access the trail going left. The scenery is beautiful, but attentions are usually focused on the dozen or so rocky creek crossings that usually require dismount. The trail sometimes follows in the creek as well. Between the crossings, the narrow single-track trail is smooth and twisting and makes for good cruising. Front chain-ring shifts are typical in the transition. Pass old cabin remains and a stone chimney in a shady glade.
At a trail junction, go right, then left, which leads to more creek crossings, and finally climb a steep rocky ford out of the gulch at 3.1 miles. High, dry meadows swing west and south on more smooth single track where scenery abounds. After reaching a high ridge, descend and then climb a gully where the best option goes right at 5 miles. The trail ends at about 6.5 miles at a sign for private property. Return the way you came, avoiding the very rocky and loose descent option above the gully at the 5-mile mark.
Betasso Preserve: Named after a miner and rancher in the early 1900s, the 773 acre preserve is open to mountain biking. This mostly easy 3.2 mile dirt loop is a popular multi-use trail. Take Canyon Road (Colorado 119) turning right onto Sugarloaf Road. Turn right again onto Betasso Road to the signed parking lot.
Apex Park: Most cyclists have a favorite ride, one that's conveniently close, short enough to squeeze in after work yet still affords a good workout. For these reasons, Apex Park is a favorite for many riders. After a tricky start, ride up Apex Gulch, which was a toll road to the mines of Central City in the 1860s and 1870s. Follow the creek, climbing numerous obstacles that will challenge most riders, before the trail levels off at 1.3 miles. Go left at the second bridge at 2.4 miles to the signed Enchanted Forest. Great single track awaits with some exposed roots and rock as the trail twists through lush forest and back to the Apex Trail.
From the Apex Trail at 0.6 and 1.3 miles, more route options climb the hillside to the north. Both Pick 'n' Sledge and Sluicebox lead to the Grubstake Loop, which can be ridden in either direction. Add Bonanza and all four can combined in different schemes to expand the ride. These options involve more climbing, and all have loose and embedded rock obstacles and tall water bars that seem to be strategically placed at the apex of tight switchback turns just to make them harder.
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