Beginner and Intermediate Bike Rides in the Pikes Peak Region
There are literally thousands of miles of mountain bike accessible trails in Colorado, from ultratechnical downhill thrill rides to mellow mountain meadow cruising and everything in between. You don’t have to be an expert rider or have a five thousand dollar mountain bike to enjoy them either. In fact, many of the trails, like the ones outlined below, can be enjoyed with moderate fitness and skill levels. Mountain biking is a great way to get outside, get some exercise, spend time with your family, and explore the world around you. Let’s go!
SALIDA: Methodist Mountain Spartan Loop — 5.5 miles (Beginner)
The Methodist Mountain Trail System lies to the south of Highway 50 in Salida. It’s comprised of mostly beginner to intermediate trails that have mainly been machine built. The wider, more forgiving trail surface is perfect for families and beginner riders wanting to build up their skill set. A great loop that includes two of the newest trails in the area starts at the trailhead off County Road 110. From the parking lot, begin on the Spartan West Trail. This downward trending trail is full of flowy goodness and out-of-this-world views. As you effortlessly weave through the piñon forest, glimpses of the mighty Sawatch Mountain Range and verdant Upper Arkansas River Valley peek through. Cross County Road 110 and continue on the Spartan East Trail. The flow keeps going, contouring the hillside with views over the idyllic town of Salida and S-Mountain in the distance. At one point, you’ll pass a shaded grove of majestic ponderosa pines. This is a neat spot to see what the forest used to resemble before the area was developed. Spartan East ends at Little Rainbow Trail where you’ll head right (west). Continue up, down, and around back to your car. If you’re feeling strong and looking for a bit more challenge, head on up the intermediate Double Rainbow Trail for a 5.4-mile out-and-back jaunt featuring solitude and a true singletrack experience.
Salida has three great bike shops to choose from, each with their own style and character. Absolute Bikes, Salida Bike Company, and Subculture Cyclery can all be found a couple of blocks from each other in downtown Salida. All three boast friendly employees, great service, and a variety of rentals and bike accessories.
BUENA VISTA: Midland Hills Figure Eight Loop — 7 or 10 miles (Beginner/Intermediate)
This loop has it all! You’ll find everything from technical rock riding and flowy singletrack to relaxed dirt road riding and an interesting section of the historic Midland Railroad grade. Incredible views are omnipresent and you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment once finished. Start the ride by driving up County Road 304 a couple of miles from its junction at Highway 24 just east of Johnson Village. A small parking lot is found where County Road 304 meets the Midland Railroad grade. Start the figure-eight loop by heading east for two-tenths of a mile and then down Django (Trail #6033). This purpose built singletrack descends through a sparse piñon forest winding over and around many rock features, some of which may test your bike handling skills. Once at the bottom, cross County Road 304 and pick up Fist Full of Dollars (Trail #6034). Heading back uphill, you’ll encounter similar terrain to that which you just rode down, but easier and less technical. Once back at the car, grab a snack and refill your water pack; the best is yet to come! Pick up County Road 376-A, essentially across from the start of Django. Pedal up this graded dirt road for about a mile and a half to a small meadow and the start of Bacon Bits (Trail # 1450A). Ready to smile? Downward trending and full of surprises, this trail features some of the most fun singletrack in the area. Twisty, flowy, scenic, and never too demanding, Bacon Bits will leave you grinning from ear to ear. Head right on the historic Midland Railroad grade (Midland Bike Trail) and enjoy a slight downhill cruise with occasional semi-technical ups and downs through various washes back to your car. If Django and Fist Full of Dollars are omitted, this ride is an approximate 7-mile fun loop than leans toward a beginner skill level. Otherwise, consider it to be an intermediate 10-mile figure-eight loop.
Boneshaker Cycles in downtown Buena Vista is your one-stop shop for bike rentals, repair needs, and local trail advice. They pride themselves on making everyone feel welcome, no matter your biking skill level. They may even invite you to play bike polo!
CAÑON CITY: South Cañon and Tunnel Drive Trail — 3 and 4 miles (Beginner)
Cañon City has trails for every level of rider, although it is a bit scant on the beginner side. Not to worry though; the two trails outlined below are perfect for the casual rider and only a few miles from each other. The South Cañon Trail System starts and ends at the Eagle Wing Trailhead. To get there, take South 1st Street, near the west end of town off Highway 50. Immediately after crossing the Arkansas River, take a right on Riverside Avenue. Take a left on Colburn Lane, then a right onto the dirt road leading to the trailhead. Be sure to get an early start on those hot summer days, but keep this trail system in mind for when it’s colder too — it’s also a great winter destination.
A short, fun loop for beginners starts on Mutton Bustin. Continue up this smooth and gentle trail for half a mile before taking a left on Schepp Ridge. A few switchbacks will take you to the crest of a small ridge with nice views. Continue along the ridge and maneuver over a few short pitches before dropping down to the upper end of Mutton Bustin. The next 1.5 miles back to the trailhead are smooth, fast, and fun for all ages! This section feels like a roller-coaster ride and will have you begging for more!
For the next family adventure, head over to the Tunnel Drive Trailhead at the mouth of the Royal Gorge. Take Tunnel Drive off Hwy 50, also on the west end of town, and drive a half mile to the parking area. The four-mile round trip out-and-back Tunnel Drive Trail is a nonmotorized, 8-foot wide smooth gravel path that anyone can enjoy. The trail follows an abandoned railroad grade featuring two short tunnels and a bridge as it parallels the Arkansas River. During the summer, you’ll spot rafters down below navigating the rapids, and you’ll find plenty of opportunities for family photos! The views into and up the canyon walls are absolutely breathtaking, so don’t forget the camera!
Cañon City Bike and Brews is a neat place to grab a bite to eat and to get your bike wrenched on at the same time. They have an amazing outdoor patio and friendly service. Additionally, you can pick up a rental and local maps at Red Canyon Cycles.
PUEBLO: Pedro’s Point — 5 miles (Beginner)
This is another great family ride that ends at a spectacular view point, which also happens to be a perfect picnic spot. Lake Pueblo State Park is a gem in the rough and contains many miles of singletrack for all abilities. From Highway 50 at Pueblo West, take North Pueblo Boulevard to Thatcher Avenue. You can start the ride from inside the state park, which requires a fee, but this route is described from a legal parking lot located just outside the park boundary. Continue past the park entrance on Thatcher Avenue for approximately 1.5 miles to a parking area on the south side of the road. Carefully cross the road and go through a gate to the trail. Pedro’s Point Trail begins soon after. This double track trail takes you 2.5 miles out to the end of a peninsula with incredible views over the lake. If you want to include some singletrack in your day, there is a plethora of trails suited for beginner to intermediate riders that intersect Pedro’s Point at several junctions. One option is to take Pedro’s Point to the end then ride the Inner or Outer Limits Trail back, or vice versa. Each one offers around 4.5 miles of rolling, twisty singletrack.
Nick’s Bikes is located close by in Pueblo West. They offer a full range of bike rentals and accessories and also have a service center staffed with friendly mechanics.
COLORADO SPRINGS: Zook & Blackmer Loop – 4.5 miles (Beginner/Intermediate)
These two loops are located in Cheyenne Mountain State Park (fee required). To reach the park, take JL Ranch Heights Road off Highway 115. Start the ride from the southwest corner of the parking lot and go right on Zook Loop. This trail is mainly flat and wide, while traversing a large, pretty meadow with views of Cheyenne Mountain. It’s fairly popular with hikers, so be respectful and announce yourself when passing. After less than a half mile, hang a right onto the Blackmer Loop Trail. This one is generally best ridden in a counterclockwise direction. It features a shady pine forest with interesting rock features. Once at the highpoint, you can enjoy views overlooking Colorado Springs and a unique rock with a tree growing right from the top of it! From here, you’ll descend through the forest on a smooth trail to the intersection with the Zook Loop again. Turn right and take a break at the unique “Rock Garden” area. This cool, shady spot contains many weathered rocks on which to sit and enjoy a snack. Follow Zook Loop back to the car, being careful at the creek crossing, which may or may not be flowing.
Criterium Bicycles is the largest independent bike shop in Colorado Springs. Open since 1973, they have a large selection of rental bikes and accessories. The staff is friendly, knowledgeable, and they truly care about helping people enjoy the sport of cycling.
Pikes Peak Bike Tours offers opportunities for adventure without doing all of the planning. Have you ever dreamed of riding down Pikes Peak on a bike? Check! Want to do an overnight trip? Check! Interested in a night ride? Check! They can plan an adventure for every level.
Now that you’ve gained some ideas and hopefully some inspiration too, it’s time to dust off that bike sitting in the corner of your garage and go for a ride. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your local bike shop for advice. Most shops have friendly, helpful employees who are more than willing to answer questions and get you set up. As with any activity, go prepared. It is always a good idea to bring a map or a downloaded mountain bike app with GPS capability. Colorado is an amazing place — get out and have some fun!