Colorado Mountain Biking Adventures - Part 4
Keep in mind that Aspen lies at 8,000 feet and most rides climb sharply up to 10,000 feet or more. The altitude can turn many moderate rides into more strenuous endeavors and leave you gasping for air worse than Arnold Schwarzenegger on Mars.
Smuggler Mountain to Hunter Creek: This more advanced trail is Aspen's most popular mountain bike route. East of town, it climbs up Smuggler Mountain on a four-wheel drive road. It is a constant climb and the surface is rocky, but definitely rideable. Near the top, catch your breath and enjoy the great views of Aspen and the mountains to the west. Then bear left and descend along a north facing slope on pleasant single track through thick forest. Near the valley floor, options to the right lead farther up into the valley, or go left along the creek for a rocky descent back to town via Red Mountain Road.
Bike path to Maroon Creek Road: For riders looking for longer paved routes. Aspen's extensive bike path network is splendid. From town, a path goes west up Maroon Creek Road to the beautiful Maroon Bells. It is a long, gentle climb with several rest areas along the way. It's also a terrific downhill.
Spring Creek Trail is popular with local hikers and is a nice introduction to single-track riding. The ride starts on an easy dirt road, then turns into a wide single track that slowly progresses to more moderate riding levels. The fun trail zig-zags over Spring Creek many times on nice dirt-covered bridges. On one side the path is forested and shaded. On the other, it's sunny and dry. Most obstacles are small and entertaining, except for a short but steep walking climb at 3.5 miles. Leaving the cool creek bed, the last half mile is a grind on a dry, exposed south-facing slope. The small lake at the picnic area is a nice place to cool off on the way back down.
To reach Spring Creek trailhead: From U.S. 40 in Steamboat Springs, drive or ride east on Third Street past two stop signs. Turn right on Pine Street. Follow the main road as it transitions into Maple and straight into the parking area at the trailhead.
Buffalo Pass Road: It is possible to include the Spring Creek Trail as part of a loop ride. From the end of the trail near Dry Lake Campground, turn left on Buffalo Pass Road and descend to Strawberry Park Road to join Hot Springs Road back to town. This loop can be done in either direction. The road can get busy and dusty on weekends with vehicle traffic.
Mad Creek/Red Dirt Trail: From Steamboat, drive west on U.S. 40 1.8 miles and turn right on County Road 129 toward Steamboat Lake. The signed trailhead is another 5.4 miles up this road. The 7.8-mile single-track ride starts with a moderate climb above Mad Creek before it levels off in a high, lush valley with some historical buildings. It continues east through lush ferns near the creek to end at the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area. At 1.5 miles into the ride, the signed Saddle Trail goes west and north to meet the Red Dirt Trail before dumping out onto CR 129 and back to the parking area.